NEWORLEANS- A 20-year-old man was convicted of a hate crime in a FrenchQuarter beating earlier this year, a spokesman for District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's office said Wednesday.

According to Christopher Bowman, the DA's office secured the conviction of 20-year-old Jamie Hebert for the beating of a man in February.

Bowman said the victim and his companion were walking and holding hands in the 700 block of Rampart Street when someone in a group of people that included the suspect shouted a vulgar comment at the couple.

Bowman said the victim responded that it was easy to make comments from across the street and that's when Hebert came at the victim and struck him in the face, causing four fractures to his eye socket and knocking him unconscious.

The DA's office said it was believed to be the first conviction under the hate crime statute for Cannizzaro.

'While we do not regularly prosecute cases under the Hate Crimes statute, the facts of this case truly called for it,'said Cannizzaro. 'This defendant approached and attacked this victim based on nothing more than his sexual orientation. As such, he constituted not only a threat to this particular victim but the entire homosexual community in this city. Accordingly, the enhanced punishment was appropriate.'

Criminal District Court Judge Julian Parker sentenced the defendant to two years on the battery charge and three years on the Hate Crime charge and ran the sentences consecutive to each other. The judge suspended the sentence but imposed a three-year period of probation on the defendant.

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