Twenty-one-year-old Sean Little, 23-year-old Benjamin Eder and 23-year-old Kevin McAndrew are accused of attacking Daniel Hauff,33, on board a CTA Red Line El train on January 10.
Authorities say the victim was targeted after he tried to help another passenger who was being harassed.
Hauff, an openly gay man, says he was the target of a hate crime.
"They violated me and we don't have any right to touch anyone else for any reason. And so yes, I'm very angry at them and I hope they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Hauff.
That day, onboard the Red Line, Hauff says he saw the three men harassing another man. He tried to step in and help but the men, he says, turned on him and made anti-gay remarks. The beating spilled onto the platform at the Argyle stop.
"There is no excuse for harming someone else. We should respect one another and embrace our differences instead of making them a reason to be violent toward others," said Hauff.
The three defendants, McAndrew, Eder and Little, are from Evanston. Originally, they faced misdemeanor charges. But the investigation continued and the beating that sent Hauff to the emergency room turned into a felony hate crime and aggravated battery because of the evidence.
"A witness came forward with cell phone pictures and also with testimony to describe what happened in this situation," said Erik Newton, Hauff's attorney.
The defendants each posted a $10,000 bond Wednesday. As they left court, one man blocked our camera trying to protect Kevin McAndrew. The other defendants, Eder and Little, left without commenting.
Hauff and his attorney say it takes courage for people to step forward. But they are still hoping that other witnesses will talk about what happened that day, especially the man who Hauff tried to help.
The Cook County state's attorney says hate crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. A misdemeanor would have been one year in jail. Now, with a felony, that jumps to five years if convicted.
The defendants' next court date is March 17.