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Charges: Man assaulted KSTP anchor Matt Belanger for perceived sexuality

Vennie Williams, 39, struck KSTP anchor Matt Belanger in the eye, according to charges, and told police he thought Belanger was gay.

Vennie Williams, 39, struck KSTP anchor Matt Belanger in the eye, according to charges, and told police he thought Belanger was gay. Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

The man who randomly threw something at KSTP anchor Matt Belanger's face last week told police he did so because he'd thought Belanger was gay, according to a criminal complaint.

Vennie Williams, 39, is facing one count of third-degree assault with substantial bodily harm and another for harassment with intent to injure, with the latter charge (a gross misdemeanor) tacked on because his alleged attack was inspired by bias against a perceived sexual orientation.

According to the charges against Williams, Belanger was walking on a lightrail platform in downtown Minneapolis last Tuesday morning when he was suddenly struck in the eye by something thrown from a short distance away. (Belanger guessed it was "a rock.") He sought treatment at Hennepin County Medical Center, and learned he'd received a corneal and ocular abrasion, "which could lead to permanent damage to his injured eye."

Belanger subsequently told cops he'd sustained a "traumatic hyphema" and "traumatic iritis," and was homebound while in recovery.

Police found Williams just a few blocks away, and Belanger positively identified him as his assailant. Placed in the back of a squad car, Williams allegedly started a "rant," swearing and speaking angrily. It was then that he told cops he "assaulted [Belanger] because he perceived that [he] was homosexual."

Williams is due to make his first court appearance this afternoon. The charge of third-degree assault carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine, as does the harassment charge. Williams has a lengthy criminal history in Minnesota, though the vast majority of his record consists of offenses related to driving or property crimes, such as theft. 

The address Williams gave police is for a transitional group home for men dealing with addiction, homelessness, or mental illness. 

Belanger posted a video to Facebook on Thursday updating his condition and thanking people for their support. Belanger, who sported an eyepatch over his left eye, said he is expecting to make a "full recovery," and is following doctors' advice to "stay home and take it easy, frankly."

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me since I was injured on my way to work this week. I'm doing my best to...

Posted by Matt Belanger on Thursday, May 14, 2020



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