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Finding justice online
When a man felt like he could not get justice, his friends turned to Reddit. They listened.
When a man, savagely beaten by a metal baseball bat, wanted justice, he turned to the police and prosecutors. Frustrated by their slow reaction, he turned to the media. When journalists ignored him, his friend took up his case with their online community.
The story began at 3:30 a.m. June 6. That’s when 23-year-old student Thassio Mendes ran into a man outside a party who “hated him” he said, for supposedly flirting with the man’s girlfriend.
Mendes asked a friend for a ride to his car. That’s when the man, Andrew De Vaul Duran, 29, allegedly attacked Mendes with a metal baseball bat.
Mendes suffered a skull fracture, two broken arms, and a brain bleed.
De Vaul Duran was arrested and charged with aggravated battery and his bail was set for $20,000. The charges were later changed to attempted murder with a weapon, which would probably have resulted in a higher bail amount. But Duran posted the $20,000 and was released with a tracking device for home arrest.
Out of work and school because of his injuries, hammered with medical bills, and frustrated by the slow movement of the legal process, Mendes and his friends tried to turn to local media to get out his story.
But in a city overwhelmed with the Casey Anthony trial, reporter after reporter, official after offical told them over and over: They simply had no time.
So Domingo Polanco, Mendes’ friend did the next logical thing: He turned to social news site Reddit, where he’d seen the community rally around causes time and again.
The post, with pictures of Mendes’ battered and bruised body, as well as him holding a drawing of the Reddit alien, got popular — fast. It drew 714 comments and 2,514 upvotes.
Advice and donations began pouring in.
Many, including redditor gujupike, suggested opening a civil trial.
“If you can find a lawyer that will take the case on contingency it won’t cost you anything up front and you can sue the guy for intentional torts of assault, battery etc.” gujupike said.
Many others offered to donate to help (Mendes is facing about $300,000 in medical bills and his insurance will cover at most 60 percent, Polanco said).
“I never donate to random things I know little about but I did here,” wrote redditor Siggy778.
The website they created for Mendes, which includes a donation page, has drawn an average about 4,500 views a day since the post ran on Reddit.
Polanco said he put up the post simply to draw attention to the case and maybe get some legal advice. The donations were never planned — but certainly much appreciated.
“This is all new to us,” Polanco go said in a phone interview with The Daily Dot. “We don’t have any legal expertise. We’re just trying to do the best we can.”
As for Mendes, he never lost consciousness during the attack. He suffers from nightmares and is afraid of going to public places. But the reaction from Reddit is helping, he said.
“It’s awesome to see how people really care about others,” Mendes said in an interview with the Daily Dot. “There’s people in this world that can do so much damage to one person and, on the other side, so many people willing to help you.”
For more information, and to help, visit thassiomendes.weorlando.com.
Kevin Morris is a veteran web reporter and editor who specializes in longform journalism. He led the Daily Dot’s esports vertical and, following its acquisition by GAMURS in late 2016, launched Dot Esports, where he serves as the site’s editor-in-chief.