Riverton, Wyoming – Santana Mendoza, the second teenage defendant in the September 2013 murder of a gay Native American was sentenced for manslaughter yesterday in the death of a gay Native American, and the victim’s mother is crying foul. Her son’s murder was a hate crime, Victoria Moss said, and the sentences the court handed down to the teens who killed him show the world that the life of a Native American gay man is worth less than if he were straight and white. County 10 reports that Ms. Moss declared that since this is National LGBTQ Pride Month, she would be honoring her son while gay people and allies celebrated Pride. “This Saturday,” she said, “I will be celebrating the pride I have for my gay son.”
David Ronald Moss Jr., 25, was bludgeoned to death by teenagers Santana Mendoza and John Potter on the Rails to Trails Pathway behind a Riverton trailer park on September 4, 2013. Moss’s companion, Aleeah Crispin, was beaten into brain damage by the teens during the same attack, leaving her unable to speak for weeks afterwards. Mendoza and Potter, 16 and 15 at the time of the brutal assault, were both tried as adults. Both initially pled not guilty to all charges. In April of this year, after a plea deal reducing the charge from second degree murder to manslaughter, Potter was sentenced, as reported by County 10. After the same plea deal was accepted by District Attorney Michael Bennett for Mendoza, his sentence was handed down by Ninth Circuit Judge Norman E. Young after a one-hour sentencing hearing at which Crispin herself testified. Mendoza’s sentence mirrors Potter’s sentence almost perfectly: 12 to 18 years for the murder of Moss, minus time served, and 8 to 10 years for the assault on Crispin, both sentences to run concurrently. The sentence also mandates that the youths share a restitution of $12,000 to be paid to the living victim and the families. Moss’s mother is convinced that her son’s sexual orientation and Native American heritage played into the judge’s decision to hand down a light sentence that would never have been tolerated by the white, straight community if the victim had been one of their own. Some say that the revelation of Moss’s sexual orientation came as a surprise to them.
Judge Young denies being influenced by the knowledge that Moss was gay. He told County 1o that he now believes neither of the youths “intended” to kill Moss, who succumbed to blunt force trauma to his head according to the Coroner’s report. What Judge Young does admit to considering was the age of the defendants. Both were born in 1997. He said that he had never sentenced anyone in his career as young as they.
The attack was swift, terrifying and brutal. Mendoza testified that he and Potter saw two friends eating fast food near the beginning of the pathway. The Daily Ranger reported that while Mendoza watched Moss and Crispin, Potter left to retrieve a ball bat and brass knuckles that they used in the attack on Moss and Crispin. The teens beat them in the face with the bat, and repeated kicked them. When they left, Mendoza testified, both victims were unconscious, and Moss was making a “snoring” sound. The next morning, two unresponsive bodies were found on the trail. Moss was dead. Crispin was beaten mute, and left with significant brain injuries.
Hate crime was never considered during the investigation. Instead, law enforcement and the District Attorney sought for other motives for the senseless crime.
Moss was an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, and proud of it. His obituary portrayed a young man who was devoted to family, especially to his niece, Morning Star, and liked by a wide circle of family and friends.
The accusation of David Moss’s mother still hangs in the air as the two youths serve out their sentences: What is the comparative worth of the life of a gay Native American? Where is the justice in any of this senselessness?
Lincoln, Nebraska – Two lesbians were attacked Thursday by a man wielding a crowbar for supposedly shaming his family. When the attack failed, he and his friend rammed the women’s car with a pickup truck, attempting to push the women’s vehicle into oncoming traffic. KLKN TV reports that Ahmed Tuma and his accomplice, Nathan Marks, both 20 years of age, took offense when Tuma’s sister announced she was a lesbian, and became engaged to her fiancée. Tuma allegedly believed his sister’s relationship with a woman shamed his family, enraging him to the point he enlisted Marks to accompany him on an ambush. Prior to the attack, Tuma had made death threats against his sister. Lincoln Police Department spokesperson Officer Katie Flood confirmed, “They were in fear for their lives, he had made some verbal threats to kill the sister.”
Gay Star News says that the lesbians had pulled their car near their home, and had just gotten out to enter the house at approximately 5 p.m. on Thursday when Tuma rushed them, brandishing a crowbar. The women escaped back to the safety of their car just as the brother swung the weapon. They frantically tried to start the car as Tuma hit the vehicle’s windows repeatedly, trying to smash them out. When the lesbians succeeded in starting their car, Tuma rushed back to Marks’s pickup, and the two men rammed their victims’ auto in an apparent attempt to push it into the traffic speeding by. The couple was able to get away from their assailants, and called police.
Police arrested Tuma for attempted 2nd degree assault, criminal mischief, two counts of terroristic threats and use of a weapon to commit a felony. All of the charges except use of a weapon carry a hate crime enhancement. Marks was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting a terroristic threat, and aiding and abetting the use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. Both men have been arraigned, and will stand trial for the hate crimes in a Lincoln court.
Hillsboro, Oregon – A bizarre anti-gay crime case at a busy highway street crossing has attracted national attention as Federal prosecutors issued hate crimes charges against a man whose homophobic rage was sparked by the sight of a pink poodle. The assailant, George Mason Jr., 22, was charged this week with a violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for attacking a gay man with a heavy bolt cutter and screaming anti-gay slurs during a peaceful, midday stroll with his boyfriend and their pink-dyed poodle on March 1. Multiple witnesses say Mason shouted slurs at the gay couple from his SUV, did a U turn, raced back to the intersection, and allegedly attacked David Beltier with his fists and the bolt cutter. Beltier sustained blows to the upper arm, and to the back of his head. The assault could very nearly have cost Beltier his life.
Portland, Oregon court documents record the hate crime in legal language, but preserve the horror of the assault, coming from a complete stranger: “(Mason) willfully caused bodily injury and, through the use of a dangerous weapon, attempted to cause bodily injury to (Beltier), who is gay, because of (Beltier’s) actual and perceived sexual orientation.” The Associated Press, in a story carried by the Columbus (IN) Republic, also reports that Mason faces Oregon state charges including second-degree intimidation, second-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, and reckless driving. The intimidation charge is a bias-motivation charge in the Oregon state code. Mason’s wife, Saraya Gardner, who was in Mason’s vehicle at the time of the attack, has also been charged in the case for obstructing justice.
In an interview in Komonews.com, Beltier and his partner, Jeremy Mark, recounted that they were crossing the street with their pink-dyed poodle, Beauty, when the attack occurred. Beauty, explained Beltier and Mark, had been harmlessly dyed pink with Kool-Aid for a bit of pre-Easter fun, and to match their two other pastel-dyed dogs. The sight of the pink poodle proved too much for Mason, who screamed profanities at the couple from his moving vehicle. The intersection was filled with witnesses who blared their horns in protest of the attacker. Beltier credits the witnesses with saving his life. “If I didn’t hear all the other people honking, all the people seeing what was going on, he could have probably severely hurt me, maybe even killed me right there and then,” he said. The New York Daily News reports Mark’s account of the slurs Mason hurled at his boyfriend. “[Mason] was saying, “Your poodle is a weird color and that’s just un-American” and “f— you, you f–s” and shouting,” Mark said.
Beltier then picked up the story for Komo News: “After that, [Mason] turns around, he goes back to his car, runs back to his car and brings out this long wrench-looking crowbar tool or something like that, and he comes back after me.” Mason then struck Beltier on the upper arm and in the back of the head. Beltier’s boyfriend was frantic with fear for his lover’s life. “I just couldn’t believe it,” said Mark. “I was shouting at the guy to stop. There’s no need for violence. There’s nothing to provoke him. … I was fearing for his life.”
As Mason raced away from the scene of the crime, witnesses tried to block his vehicle, and one witness took off after him, capturing Mason’s license plate number. The information led to the arrest of Mason and his wife, Gardner.
Though officials advised the gay couple to eliminate the bright pink color from his pet’s fur, Beltier and Mark remain adamant. They say that they did nothing wrong, and they are not going to let fear dictate their lives. They just allowed Beauty’s fur to grow out naturally over time.
New York City – Six teenagers have been charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime in the fatal March attack on an 18-year-old male perceived to be gay. 365 Gay reports that the youths attacked and stomped Anthony Collao of Bethpage on Long Island to death as he was leaving a birthday party on March 15 in Woodhaven, Queens. The suspects, none of whom are older than 18, crashed the party, breaking windows, shouting “homophobic remarks,” and scrawling anti-gay slurs and epithets on the wall with a red marker. Collao and his cousin, sensing trouble, tried to leave the home, but were chased outside where the assailants threw Collao against a car, and savagely beating and stomping him until he no longer moved. His cousin screamed for them to stop, saying that Collao was not gay and had a girlfriend, but the attackers continued pressing their assault with their fists, shod feet, and a metal pipe. Collao fell into an irreversible coma and died two days later at a Jamaica hospital when life support was removed from him. Four suspects — Alex Velez, 16, of the Bronx, Christopher Lozada and Luis Tabales, both 17 and from Queens, and Nolis Ogando, 18, also from Queens – were arrested soon after the attack. A fifth suspect, Calvin Pietri, 17, of Woodhaven, who allegedly bragged about the killing on Facebook, was arrested within a day of the attack. Jonathan Echevarria, 16, of Brooklyn was also arrested and charged. Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown told news reporters that each suspect has been charged with a 21-count indictment of murder as a hate crime. The charges were upgraded after new evidence in the case came to light. The suspicion that someone might be gay, or even an unsubstantiated accusation of it, as in this case, carries the potential of death. Homophobia and heterosexism are deadly to straights as well as gays. The defendants in this case could each face as much as 25 years for the crime if found guilty.