Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Ball Bat Attackers Immune from Hate Crimes Charges?: Authorities Backpedal on Anti-Gay Violence

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Dallas, TX – What does a midnight assault on two Dallas gay men Friday have in common with a December 2008 fatal attack on two Latinos mistaken as gay in Brooklyn, New York?  Two things: first, both attacks were carried out by homophobes yelling anti-gay slurs as they swung baseball bats at the heads of their victims; and second, police in both cases classified neither assault as an anti-hate crime. What gives? What does it take to get officers of the law to prosecute hate crimes under existing hate crime statutes? While Dallas and Brooklyn are 1370 miles distant from each other and worlds apart culturally, they both have law enforcement resistant to investigate crimes against gay men as bias-motivated.  The 2008 Brooklyn murder of José Sucuzhañay serves as an eerily familiar backdrop to the current Dallas attack on Kyle Steven Wear and his friend Alex. Like Dallasites Kyle and Alex, the Ecuadoran immigrant brothers José and Romel were walking together down the street in the wee hours of the night.  The Brooklyn crime was carried out by two assailants swinging a broken beer bottle and an aluminum baseball bat, yelling anti-gay and anti-hispanic epithets.  Trials in the Sucuzhañay case are proceeding right now in Brooklyn, where Hakim Scott has just been convicted of first-degree manslaughter, and his accomplice, Keith Phoenix, awaits an new court date since the New York judge dismissed all hate crimes charges and declared a mistrial because of a juror in the first Phoenix trial who refused to participate any further.  The Brooklyn ball bat attack left José lingering five days in a coma from a broken skull before he died.  The consensus of the supporters of Sucuzhañay family, outraged city officials, and the metropolitan New York media is that this ugly, brutal attack took place because Scott and Phoenix targeted two Hispanic men whom they mistook for gay because they didn’t like the way they looked.  Wear and his friend Alex (last name still unreleased) were much more fortunate.  As they walked along in the southwestern part of the Cedar Springs gay entertainment district in Dallas, “the gayborhood,” headed for the bars, four assailants only identified as Latinos wearing white tee-shirts, blindsided the pair shouting “Faggots, give us your fucking wallets!” according to WFAA News. Wear told WFAA on camera that he was knocked unconscious and his jaw was broken by one of the attackers swinging a ball bat.  His friend, Alex, reported that he feared for his life as the homophobes forced him to the ground.  The Dallas Police are refusing to classify the case as a hate crime, contending instead that the motive was to rob the gay men.  But Alex isn’t buying it.  He told Jonathan Betz of WFAA, “I still feel like that was why we were targeted in the first place, because we are gay. It was like it was funny to them.”  John Wright of the Dallas Voice is outraged that the authorities have resisted investigating the Dallas ball bat assault as an anti-gay bias crime.  In a May 16 post for the Dallas Voice blog, Instant Tea, he writes, “Despite the fact that the suspects yelled anti-gay slurs as they beat the victims with baseball bats, Dallas police have not classified the incident as a hate crime, which is an outrage.”  Wright points out that Jimmy Lee Dean was nearly beaten and stomped to death in the same general neighborhood by two homophobic attackers in July 2008.  Wright then shows that regardless of the refusal of Dallas law authorities to enforce Texas hate crimes law, federal hate crimes protections should kick in.  The James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 classifies a hate crime as motivated in whole or in part by anti-LGBT bias. One major determining criterion of an anti-gay hate crime for the FBI is the use of epithets as the perpetrators carried out the crime.  Anti-LGBT hate crimes are like the rest of life: seldom pure and simple.  Other motives often accompany hate violence against gays, lesbians, and transgender persons: robbery, drugs, racism and sexism, to name a few.  But homophobia and heterosexism, like a sinister bass line in a libretto, thread throughout all anti-LGBT hate crimes cases, targeting people who are assumed to be inferior, impure, and abominable because of their perceived sexuality.  In Dallas and in Brooklyn, it seems baseball bats and anti-gay epithets are not enough to launch hate crimes prosecutions.  Are anti-gay sluggers simply immune in Texas and New York? Again we ask, What does it take to get officers of the law to prosecute hate crimes under existing hate crime statutes? It takes an outcry from LGBT people and their allies so that law enforcement will not be permitted to backpedal on hate crimes against members of the sexual minority without a stink being raised to high heaven. If police and prosecutors are unfamiliar with what LGBT bias crimes are, they are responsible to educate themselves. If they are being intentionally obstructionist, then the mayor and the city council need to replace them with officials who will carry out the law.

May 17, 2010 - Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Bludgeoning, Brooklyn, Ecuador, FBI, gay men, Hate Crimes, Latino and Latina Americans, Latinos, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Matthew Shepard Act, Mistaken as LGBT, New York, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stomping and Kicking Violence, Texas, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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