Williamsburg, New York – A gang of Hasidic Jews, some identified as members of the Satmar Hasidic Shomrim (Safety Patrol), shouted homophobic and racial slurs as they brutally beat a gay black man in Williamsburg on December 1. The victim, 22-year-old Taj Patterson, suffered multiple injuries including a crushed eye socket, a torn retina, and cuts to his right knee and hip. This week, five hasidim were arrested for the attack by the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force. They have been charged with Gang Assault in the First Degree and a variety of other charges, though at this point a hate crimes charge has not been lodged, even considering the report of witnesses that a barrage of homophobic slurs accompanied the assault. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 25 years for each assailant proved guilty. Failed Messiah, a blog covering news in the Hasidic community since 2004, identified those arrested as Pinchas Braver, 20, Aharon Hollender, 28, Abraham Winkler, 39, Mayer Herskovic, 21, and Joseph Fried, 25. Two of the alleged assailants fled from the United States to Israel immediately following the incident, but were apprehended there.
The five suspects and a number of other hasidim who allegedly participated in the attack are all members of the Satmar Hasidic Jewish community, a large and influential ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect with pre-World War II roots in Hungary. According to A Life Apart: Hasidism in America, the Satmar Hasidim number at least 45,000 in Williamsburg today. The Shomrim is a volunteer neighborhood watch drawn from the Satmar community. Activists in Williamsburg quickly denied the involvement of the Shomrim in the attack, but according to the Brooklyn Paper, the denials left room to conclude that some of the attackers were indeed members of the watch group. An Orthodox rabbi who decried the attack did not mention the participation of the Shomrim in the December attack. Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg and North Brooklyn, said, “The bedrock of the Williamsburg community is tolerance for one and another. Any act of violence by any individual, against anyone, for whatever reason, is condemned in the strongest possible terms.”
EDGE on the Net reports that Patterson is a fashion student studying at the New York City College of Technology. While he says he does not remember much from the attack that occurred with swift savagery, he clearly recalls at least one of his assailants shouting, “Stay down, faggot, stay the fuck down,” as he kicked Patterson in the face. Since the horrific incident, Patterson has undergone surgery to repair his torn retina.
The true heroine of the whole bloody affair was the driver of Bus 57 who slammed on her brakes and stepped out of her bus snapping pictures of the assault with her cell phone, according to the New York Post. The NYPD say that the attacking gang fled the scene when they realized she was taking their pictures.
Lancaster, Ohio – A Central Ohio man charged with threatening to slice off his disabled brother’s genitals with a butcher knife for being gay, and repeatedly punching him to “beat the gay out of him,” has pleaded guilty to felonious assault and abduction. On Monday, Fairfield County Judge Chris A. Martin sentenced Lawrence L. Featheroff to 30 months in prison and 3 years subsequent probation for bashing, tormenting, threatening, and beating the younger brother he agreed to care for, because of loathing his brother’s “sexual thoughts about men.” Featheroff, 38, had taken charge of his disabled younger brother, Jason A. Meyers, 26 after reports of alleged abuse in a group home for developmentally disabled people. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Meyers is developmentally disabled, but relatively high-functioning.
Featheroff virtually imprisoned Meyers in a house where they lived with an uncle and aunt, and Featheroff’s girlfriend. He admitted to the charges back in January when police, following a tip that abuse might be going on in the house, found Meyers suffering from a concussion, multiple facial bruises including an injured eye socket, and a sprained ankle. The older brother, a convicted ex-con who had served time for domestic violence, said that his motive for the abuse was to intimidate his younger sibling into becoming heterosexual. Gay Star News reports that Detective Brian Lowe testified at the sentencing hearing that Featheroff claimed he “wanted to toughen him up to push the gay out of him and make him a normal person.”
Investigators uncovered a pattern of torture, physical and psychological abuse against the younger man by Featheroff, Featheroff’s girlfriend Jamie R. Smith, and Brent M. Disbennet. The trio routinely punched and kicked Meyers, limited him to one small meal a day, and forced him to run up and down a hill carrying a heavy wooden railroad tie. On at least one occasion, Featheroff held a butcher knife to Meyers’s genitals and swore that he would castrate him if he didn’t stop fantasizing sexually about men. Meyers was removed by officials to a safe location and is now living in adult foster care.
The brothers were part of a family of eight siblings by different fathers who were removed from their mother’s care for reports of neglect or abuse. The remaining siblings have banded together in a family group of their own. One of the other brothers is believed to have tipped off police about the abuse he feared was going on in his brother’s home. At the sentencing hearing, some of the siblings showed up to support Featheroff, and claimed that Meyers could be difficult to live with.
Smith, 40, has pleaded not guilty to complicity to commit felonious assault and abduction. Disbennet, 25, has admitted guilt for felonious assault. Their court dates are pending.
Hillsboro, Oregon – An Oregon mother was found guilty by a Washington County Circuit Court for the murder of her four-year-old-son she thought was gay. Gay Star News reports that it took a jury less than two hours yesterday to convict Jessica Dutro for the August 2012 beating death of her child, Zachary Dutro-Boggess. Dutro showed no emotion as the verdict was read. She was found guilty of murder and five counts of murder by abuse and one count of second-degree assault. The little boy’s intestines were torn in two places by the brutal beating his mother and her boyfriend, Brian Canady, inflicted on him, but the couple allowed the child to suffer for two days before calling 911 to get him some help. As the toxic contents of his bowels had leaked into his body, Dutro had searched the internet for sex online and anger management classes, according to Oregonlive.com. Zachary was dying as he was transported to a Portland Hospital where he was put on life-support until he died on August 16.
Brian Canady had pled guilty in a pre-arranged plea deal to testify against Dutro. He admitted to kicking Zachary. Canady will serve 12-and-a-half years in prison for first-degree manslaughter and second-degree assault.
The evidence against Dutro for the slaying of her young son was damning. Prosecutors shared Facebook messages with the court that detailed her loathing for gay people in general and her fear that her child was going to grow up to be one. In one message, she demanded that Canady “work on” Zachary for being gay. In another, after using a homophobic slur in reference to her child, she wrote, “He walks and talks like it. Ugh.”
Undoubtedly, the most damaging evidence against Dutro came from her own seven-year-old daughter. The little girl, speaking to a counselor, said (in reference her mother and her boyfriend, Canady), “They beat my brother up, and he died. I seen them.” Prosecutors presented evidence during the trial showing “systematic torture and abuse” used by the couple as “discipline” against Zachary, his sister, and his three-year-old brother. Zachary’s siblings were covered in bruises, and the three-year-old boy was found to have five cracked ribs.
Jessica Dutro’s sentencing has been scheduled for April 18.
Washington, D.C. – The long-awaited Harvey Milk commemorative postage stamp is now a reality, according to Linn’s Stamp News. A black-and-white photo image of Harvey Milk will be the central feature of this non-denominated U.S. Postage “Forever” Stamp. The stamp design includes the colors of the Rainbow Flag in six differently colored squares stacked vertically in the upper left corner. First day of issue is planned to be May 22, 2014, Harvey Milk Day, to celebrate the San Francisco gay politician, activist, and city supervisor. Cities likely to be chosen as first issue sites are Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California.
Milk, who is recognized throughout the world as a hero and martyr of the LGBTQ and human rights struggle, was a U.S. Navy veteran, and one of the earliest openly gay elected officials in the United States, winning a seat on the San Francisco Board of City Supervisors in 1977. Though gay rights was a major emphasis of his political career, Milk also championed affordable housing, city sanitation, expanded child care, and public transportation. He was shot to death in his City Hall office on November 27, 1978 by Dan White, his one-time colleague who blamed his actions on momentary insanity and disorientation from eating too many sugary desserts. White also shot and killed San Francisco Mayor George Moscone the same day. The appearance of this commemorative stamp marks the first time a gay hate crimes murder victim has been publicly honored in this way.
EDGE on the Net reports that The stamp, likely to be issued in a pane of 20, will be used to mail a one-ounce letter regardless of when the stamp is purchased or used and no matter how future prices fluctuate. The current value of the stamp is 49 cents.
According to SF Gate, the U.S. Postal Service selects only 20 persons per year to be honored with a commemorative stamp, out of the thousands nominated by people all over the globe, and vetted by a citizens’ advisory committee. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle in October 2013 at the announcement of the Postal Service’s decision to develop and issue the stamp, Milk’s nephew and co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk said, “We’re excited. We think this will represent my uncle’s message, which is hope and courage and authenticity, very well.”