Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Native American Murder Sentence Decried as Too Light; Mother Indicts Judge and Wyoming Court

David Moss, 25, gay Arapaho beaten to death with a bat and brass knuckles by teenagers.

David Moss, 25, gay Arapaho beaten to death with a bat and brass knuckles by teenagers.

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?

June 26, 2014 - Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Native Americans, Northern Arapaho Tribe, Racism, women, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. […] Gay Native American Murder Sentence Decried as Too Light; Mother Indicts Judge and Wyoming Court « …. […]

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