San Marcos, CA – Authorities for the county, state, and federal governments launched a co-ordinated investigation last week into menacing postcards being sent to three gay Palomar College professors. Since mid-2008, 20 postcards threatening murder have been sent to the trio, with 1o of these targeting Dr. Fergal O’Doherty, an open and out gay man who teaches English at the San Marcos campus. O’Doherty said that FBI agents had contacted him on January 21, informing him that they are carrying out an investigation. Sending threats through the U.S. Mail is an automatic federal offense. O’Doherty told Morgan Cook, staff writer for the North County Times, that the cards sent to him have included images of sexual violence and death, the most disturbing of which showed skeletons engaged in sex acts with a repetitive caption reading “I’m glad I’m not dead” 10 times. The tenth caption omitted the word “dead.” One of the most recent cards Professor O’Doherty received shows a collage of pop culture images, a Nazi swastika, and a drawing of Elvis Presley sporting devil’s horns. The caption on this postcard reads, “I want to go to Hell like Elvis.” Authorities have not yet determined that these cards constitute a hate crime, but colleagues on the Palomar College campus are not waiting for such a determination. They have founded a group to raise awareness of hate crimes and combat them before they are acted out, called the Palomar College Committee to Combat Hate. Members of the group are committed to the human rights of LGBT people on the campus. O’Doherty says that since he is one of the few openly homosexual professors at the 30,000 student community college, located 30 miles north of San Diego, his sexual orientation is probably the magnet for the hate mail. From the variety of academic and pop culture icons incorporated into the cards, some as eminent as singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen and author Ernest Hemingway, but also including relatively obscure philosophers, O’Doherty speculates that the person creating them is intelligent, well-read, and dangerous. “[The card-creator] mentions works by writers and philosophers that aren’t even assigned in undergrad classes,” he told the North County Times. While this is not the first time O’Doherty and other gay faculty have been harassed for their sexual orientation, this is the first time officials have taken the threat seriously. Even then, when the postcards started appearing, campus police refused to act, apparently believing that they were written by a harmless crank. With over 13,000 documented violent crimes perpetrated against LGBT people throughout the nation in the decade prior to the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October 2009, and spiking numbers of anti-LGBT hate crimes in California where Proposition 8 and Marriage Equality are such hotly contested issues, the decision to launch an investigation is more than prudent on the part of law enforcement. Prevention is possible only when the menace is taken seriously. That is exactly what Professor O’Doherty knows to be true, as he shows his most recent death threat by mail to the press.
Buffalo, NY – From prosecution witness to defendant, all in one day. That’s how it went down when Buffalo Police arrested Susanna Deanna Glover of Tonawanda last week, charging her with stabbing a lesbian in the eye on New Year’s Eve outside a popular gay bar. Glover, 21, was taken into custody just hours after testifying against a man who shot her boyfriend to death right before her eyes in April 2009. Glover’s testimony helped jurors convict Jerome Thagard, 17, of the murder of Glover’s lover, Stephen Northrup, who was 31 at the time of his death. After her boyfriend’s murder, Glover moved to Florida where she now lives, returning to Buffalo for the express purpose of testifying against Thagard. The verdict in the Northrup case was handed down Monday evening. By that time, Glover was under arrest for the stabbing, which law enforcement authorities are calling a hate crime. The attack on Lindsay C. Harmon, 29, along with the murder of Christopher Rudow, a 32-year-old gay man, has rocked the Buffalo LGBT community in recent weeks. Glover allegedly attacked Lindsay Harmon outside Roxy’s, an LGBT nightclub, stabbing her in the left eye while yelling homophobic slurs. A grand jury will have to make the determination whether the charges against Glover for the attack warrant a hate crime designation, based on their judgment of Glover’s motivation for the attack. According to WIVB News 4, Glover attempted to hide her face from cameras as she was hustled into a city courtroom to face a judge. Harmon also attended the proceeding to get the first glimpse of her attacker since New Year’s, white bandaging prominent on her right eye. Some vision is returning to Harmon, according to her father, Michael Harmon, who told reporters for News 4 that his daughter still had a long way to go before full health would be restored to her. “It’s gonna be a long time and some more surgery,” he said. Glover has retained her own attorney, so the trial has been pushed back to later in February.
Huntsville, TX – Jon Christopher Buice, serving a 45-year sentence for the murder of gay banker Paul Broussard, was denied parole for the fifth time in a mid-December decision to keep the confessed killer behind bars. Buice, now 33, is the last of the so-called “Woodlands 10” still incarcerated for the notorious anti-gay killing which took place on July 4, 1991 in the Montrose section of Houston. Broussard, 27, a gentle, fun-loving gay man who specialized in setting up retirement accounts for clients of Bank of America, was attacked by the gang outside Heaven, a popular gay nightclub. In a letter sent to Gabi Clayton, founder of FUAH, Families United Against Hate, Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, recalled the details of the fatal assault on her son: “[Paul] and two of his friends were walking to their car in Montrose when they were attacked by ten men. These ten men, members of the gang that came to be known in and around Harris County as ‘the gay bashers’ drove from the Woodlands into Houston for the sole purpose of harassing gays. Paul was thrown to the ground, kicked, hit in the face, ribs, chest and groin. The four men who did this wore steel toed boots and had boards with nails driven into them. While Paul was lying on the ground moaning and in a great deal of pain, Jon Buice stabbed him in the chest with his buck knife, going left to right. He also stabbed Paul in the abdomen, going front to back and toe to head. The depth of penetration was five and one half inches to the inferior vena cava and small intestine. This information is from the autopsy report. There is no doubt in my mind that Buice meant to kill Paul.” The other assailants were given lighter sentences, and have all subsequently been released from prison. Supporters of Buice argue that he has maintained a spotless prison record, earning two college degrees during his incarceration. They also believe that Buice has demonstrated good faith toward the Houston LGBT community, asking their forgiveness for his role in Broussard’s brutal murder. Nancy Rodriguez isn’t buying stories of Buice’s rehabilitation. She says she is committed to making her son’s killer serve 27 years of his sentence–one year for every year of Paul’s life. She told the Houston Press that the only remorse she sees in Buice after all these years is the Johnny-come-lately kind, in contrast to the response of other members of the gang. “Others seemed sorry, and said so right away, and it did mean something,” she said. Rodriguez is campaigning for a full five-year set aside before Buice can be considered for parole again, in order to break the cycle of annual hearings he has been granted for the past few years. “All I can say is, I’ll be back next year,” Rodriguez said when contacted by the Conroe Courier about the board’s recent denial of Buice’s request for release.
Bloomington, IN – After a long silence, the Provost of Indiana University at Bloomington issued an official statement January 11 on the suspected hate killing of black gay professor, Dr. Don Belton, whose body was found stabbed multiple times in the kitchen of his home on December 27. Critics of the university administration suggested that stony silence about the circumstances of Dr. Belton’s murder was damaging his reputation in an already sensationalized media atmosphere. An ex-Marine, Michael J. Griffin, 25, has confessed to the crime as revenge for two sexual assaults allegedly perpetrated on him by the 53-year-old African American professor at a Christmas party. Friends and colleagues of Dr. Belton are working diligently to overthrow this suspicious “gay panic” motive on the grounds that Dr. Belton was never the sort of man to assault anyone. Griffin is being held without bail in the Monroe County jail awaiting trial. Dr. Belton’s murder is part of an emerging pattern of hate killings of black gay academics in the United States. Dr. Lindon Barrett, 46-year-old professor of English and African American Studies at the University of California – Irvine, was strangled to death in 2008. Dr. Barrett’s alleged killer, Marlon Martinez, 22, was to stand trial in early 2010 for the murder, but was found dead in his Los Angeles County jail cell on Christmas Day. The Long Beach Press Telegram reports that the cause of Martinez’s death is as yet undetermined. The statement of the provost of IUB is printed here in full:
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,
As the campus begins the new semester, we must acknowledge a terrible loss. Some of you may just now be returning to campus after the holidays, and I am very sad to inform you that the Indiana University community lost a dear colleague during the semester break.
Don Belton, a faculty member in the English Department, was slain at his home in Bloomington on December 27. (An arrest has been made in the case.)
In his relatively brief time at IUB, Professor Belton earned the admiration and affection of his colleagues and students.
He was a gifted writer and a highly-valued member of the faculty of our distinguished Creative Writing Program, in the Department of English. He was very well liked and very well-respected. His death is a loss not just to his family and friends, and our academic community, but also to the extended world of arts and letters and to all who value the humanistic traditions. His absence will be profoundly felt.
The murder of Professor Belton has evoked strong emotions throughout the community and indeed the nation. I trust that all members of our community will exhibit tolerance, compassion, and respect in the wake of the loss of a valued
colleague. Let us also show respect for one another and for the many and varied ways in which we express our grief over such a tragedy.
A memorial service to celebrate the life of Professor Belton will take place on Friday January 15, at 5 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Fee Lane in Bloomington.
Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Professor Belton’s family, friends, and colleagues.
Provost and Executive Vice President
Buffalo, NY – Amidst a spate of recent anti-LGBT assaults in the Buffalo area, a 29-year-old lesbian was stabbed in the face and the eye by a woman shouting anti-gay slurs. Lindsay C. Harmon was leaving a club on New Year’s about 2 a.m. when a woman assailed her and her friends with anti-gay slurs, and stabbed her in the right eye. No one has been arrested for the crime. While local law enforcement has not designated the case as a hate crime assault, Harmon has no doubt as to the reason she was targeted. She is gay. The Buffalo News reports that Harmon had never feared for herself or her friends until the attack, which authorities are calling “unusually severe.” Harmon and her friends were leaving a New Year’s celebration at Roxy’s, a popular downtown nightclub, when a group of men and two women began shouting at them. The exchange of words let to a confrontation. Harmon related to SheWired.com, “I just remember saying, “What did you say?’ It’s just crazy to me. I’d never think anyone would say that in the main gay area of Buffalo. I’ve been going to Roxy’s for like 10 years.” Then Harmon says she tried to break up the argument when a young woman in her late teens or early 20s stabbed her in the eye. “Let’s go home,” I said. “Let’s get out of here,” Harmon recalled. “I was walking away, and she [the attacker] came behind me, and I got nailed. I thought I’d been punched, and I fell. I just sat there waiting for her to kick me or something.” Her friends started to go after the assailant, but hesitated when one of them shouted warned that the attacker had a knife. At that moment, Harmon began crying out that she was blind in her right eye. Police are searching for two women who fled the scene after Harmon was stabbed. Following three hours of surgery, she has only recovered the ability to see shadows with her injured eye. No one knows whether she will ever be able to see normally with it again. According to Jay Tokasz of the Buffalo News, Harmon has stitches in her eyelid, cheek and arm and has to take three kinds of eye-drop medications every two hours. “I sleep as much as I possibly can,” she said in a phone interview, “because my eye gets really sore.” The story of the brutal assault on an innocent lesbian has resonated far beyond the Buffalo metro area. As of this writing, more than 17,000 Facebook members have joined a support group for Harmon online. A former resident of Buffalo, an anonymous insurance broker, was so deeply touched by Harmon’s plight that he put up a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the attacker. Harmon says she intends to write in response to every comment on her Facebook page. “I never thought it would get this big out into the world,” she said.