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An Australian man admitted to committing a hate crime against a gay American man 32 years after the murder

An Australian man admitted to committing a hate crime against a gay American man 32 years after the murder..  An Australian man pled guilty to murdering an US man 32 years ago in an anti-gay hate crime that was initially presumed by police to be a suicide.

The body of Scott Johnson, a 27-year-old mathematician from the US, was found at the bottom of a cliff in Sydney, Australia, in December 1988. Johnson’s family long contested the idea that his death was a suicide and his brother Steve Johnson worked for decades to find the people responsible.

Police charged 49-year-old Scott White with the murder in 2020 based on information from an informant, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News reported. White initially pleaded not guilty and denied committing the crime.

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But during a pre-trial hearing on Monday, White shouted out repeatedly in court that he was guilty, the Associated Press reported. His lawyers later tried to withdraw the guilty plea, but a New South Wales state Supreme Court judge denied their request. White faces a potential sentence of life in prison.

Scott Johnson, who was openly gay, was living in Canberra as a doctoral student at Australian National University at the time of his death. After the initial inquest in 1989 determined he died by suicide, a second inquest in 2012 was inconclusive.

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In a third inquest requested by his family, a coroner ruled he “fell from the cliff top as a result of actual or threatened violence by unidentified persons who attacked him because they perceived him to be homosexual,” the AP reported.

The inquest found that at the time of the murder there were many reports of gangs in Sydney specifically targeting and assaulting gay men, leading to deaths and robberies.

“[We’re] greatly relieved that the accused found it in his soul to confess and plead guilty and put an end to this, so I’m very happy about that,” Steve Johnson told ABC News.

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He said his brother was “brilliant, but more modest than he was brilliant, so you would never hear him say that.”

After police offered a reward of $1 million in 2018 for information concerning the murder, Steve Johnson doubled it, offering up a personal contribution of an additional $1 million, ABC News reported.

Police arrested White around two months later, saying the reward helped lead to the arrest, according to the AP.

 

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