Norfolk, Virginia – With little or no privacy, and nowhere to escape from his anti-gay torment, a sailor targeted for harassment aboard nuclear submarine USS Florida (SSBN/SSGN – 728), became the center of a homophobic hazing case that has created a public relations nightmare for the U.S. Navy. The Associated Press revealed that the Navy released its report in March detailing months of anti-gay taunts against the unnamed submariner–leading to the dismissal of the Chief of the Boat, the submarine’s top non-commissioned officer. Master Chief Machinist’s Mate Charles Berry was fired by Captain Stephen Gillespie “for dereliction of duty” related to his failure to report and advise the commanding officer of the boat on issues arising among enlisted men.
The targeted sailor whose identity and sexual orientation have not be released in the investigative report, suffered incessant anti-gay jokes, was subjected to anti-gay epithets and nicknames, and was the victim of an alleged attempted rape at knife point by a man while the Florida was in a foreign port of call–Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. Prior the the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the sailor was constantly taunted to “come out of the closet” as a gay man and jeered at for having a Filipino boyfriend, the ethnicity of the attempted rapist. He was labeled “Brokeback” for the famous gay-themed motion picture, Brokeback Mountain. The Navy report said that the sailor endured the harassment because he thought it would cease at some point. After eight months of constant homophobic harassment in 2011, the sailor finally passed along a note for help, saying that the combination of the attempted rape, the hounding, and the constant pressure put on him by crew members was driving him to suicide, or to an act of violence against his tormentors.
The Navy report says that sailors who participated in the hazing did not appreciate the psychological harm their actions caused their shipmate. The report also states that Chief Berry did not participate in the anti-gay hazing of the sailor, but did not report what was going on to his superior officers, either. As background to the embarrassing revelations of anti-gay abuse, the report also detailed that the Florida had developed a whole culture of heterosexist and homophobic prejudice, and detailed a number of examples.
In response, the Navy ordered training and counseling up and down the line to prevent anything like this from happening again. Besides the chief of the boat, several junior crew members who participated in the anti-gay harassment have also faced disciplinary actions, including loss of rank and pay. In its March 30 statement to the public, the Navy said: “The Navy’s standards for personal behavior are very high and it demands that sailors are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. When individuals fall short of this standard of professionalism and personal behavior, the Navy will take swift and decisive action to stop undesirable behavior, protect victims and hold accountable those who do not meet its standards.”
This week, Vice Admiral John Richardson who commands the Norfolk-based submarine force, issued a blog post in response to the scandal this incident had created in the submarine service in which he focuses attention on the importance of character in Navy life. “A violation by one seems to be a violation against all,” the admiral wrote.
The USS Florida, an Ohio-class nuclear submarine homeported at Naval Submarine Base King’s Bay, Georgia, participated in action against Libyan forces loyal to Col. Muammar Gaddafi in March 2011 by launching scores of Tomahawk missiles, the only one of the four Ohio-class SSGNs available to serve in Operation Odyssey Dawn. Apparently, the senseless anti-gay torment of the sailor in question was going full tilt during the period of combat operations.
Corpus Christi, Texas – A gay university student says he was captured, beaten for hours, raped, and would surely have died if he had not escaped his assailants through a window. Keire Gartica, 25, a Texas A&M Corpus Christi Political Science student, was found naked and bleeding from multiple wounds on Thursday after his harrowing escape. The police took him to a hospital where he was treated and released. Gartica says his attackers, two Hispanic men in their 20s or 30s, held him hostage and repeatedly assaulted him, calling him racial and homophobic slurs, after he came by their house on Elizabeth Street to repay a $5 debt he owed them.
KRIS TV News reports that police are treating the investigation as a simple assault until the District Attorney makes a determination on hate crimes charges. Gartica, in the meanwhile, has left Corpus Christi for his home in another locale to recover from his wounds. According to his Facebook page, authorities are “dragging their feet,” and police have not yet interviewed him about the heinous hate crime which took place almost a week ago. On Sunday, Gartica posted: “I was the victim of a heinous hate crime that has rendered me a shell of myself. Action ten news in Corpus is covering the story and I conducted an extended interview that airs tonight at ten. There is also footage of me immediately after my escape thursday night on the action ten site… the people responsible for this will be held accountable and brought to justice.”
The attack was prolonged and brutal. Gartica told KZTV 10 reporters that he was forced to clean the house naked by his assailants, who beat him with a belt buckle, glass cups, a frying pan, a pistol, and their fists while he complied in fear of his life. At one point, an attacker threw bleach in his eyes, blinding him. The men debased him racially, and violated him sexually with a variety of items. Gartica is certain he would not be alive today if he had not taken a chance and jumped out of a window.
Now Gartica, shaken by his ordeal, has lost his sense of security. He says he will not feel safe again until his attackers are apprehended and are behind bars. As he said in a telephone interview for Six News, “I don’t feel right at all. It’s hard to fathom that this actually happened. It doesn’t seem like this actually happened.” Though Gartica is appreciative of the outpouring of support for him by friends and classmates all over the state of Texas, he posted on his Facebook page,“It has been almost a week. I just feel powerless.”
Brewster County, Texas – An alleged rapist and kidnapper of a gender non-conforming 18-year-old boy was quietly released on bail in Big Bend Country before the Christmas holidays. The Unfinished Lives Project has learned that Daniel Martinez, 46 at the time of the alleged kidnapping and rape of a Terlingua teen in December 2009, was granted release on bail by Alpine Judge and Justice of the Peace Jerry Sotello on December 20, 2010. According to the report of Clarence Russeau, an educator and community organizer in Alpine, the accused rapist was granted bail of $20,000 for each of three counts: kidnapping, aggravated assault, and arson. The victim was not notified by the court, the justice of the peace, or District Attorney Jesse Gonzales Jr. that Martinez had been released from jail, and he only found out the news in the first week of January from counselors associated with the Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend. According to most recent reports, the second accused assailant, Kristopher Buchanan, 27 at the time of the rapes, is still being held in jail pending court action, though his name appears nowhere on a docket. As Unfinished Lives has reported, the young victim who was kidnapped from the Boat House Bar, was allegedly spirited out to a remote desert residence by Martinez and Buchanan, where his car was torched and he was repeatedly raped by the pair until he escaped three miles on foot through rugged terrain wearing no more than pajama bottoms, a torn tee-shirt, and flip-flops with no socks in freezing temperatures. Sources in Alpine say that the deteriorating health of Martinez was given as an excuse for the release. Martinez reportedly has suffered two heart attacks in jail since his arrest, and one source said that Martinez’s short life expectancy prompted the leniency of officers of the court. Martinez has been ordered to appear before the court monthly to establish that he has not absconded, but the proximity of Brewster County to the U.S.-Mexico border casts doubt on the wisdom of the decision to let an untried defendant go. The porous border around Terlingua has become an issue of national concern in recent years, and surreptitious travel back and forth across the Rio Grande in the desolate Big Bend country is a regular occurrence. Close observers of District Attorney Gonzales and the local courts have voiced concerns about Buchanan’s situation, as well. Buchanan’s name has been dropped from the January court docket. In the recent past, DA Gonzales has surprised plaintiffs and the public by making sudden plea bargain deals with defendants whose names, like Buchanan’s, had been dropped from the docket of the court. Since Buchanan faces three charges courts in two other counties, Terlingua citizens fear that he may be seconded to those jurisdictions in a sort of judicial shell game, postponing a trial in Brewster County for months and years to come. The inside game being played by court officials and law enforcement in Brewster County and the 83rd Judicial District of Texas seems to have unreasonably stalled justice for a young man who has suffered sexual assault, kidnapping, and destruction of his property, all because he was perceived to be gay. Does the safety and security of gender non-conforming youth mean anything to officers of the court in the largest county in Texas? Does it take a hate crime murder to motivate the legal system in Deep South Texas to take sexual assault against minors seriously? Where is justice, a right to a speedy trial, and the rule of law in Big Bend country? It is hard for us in the Unfinished Lives Project Team to see any sufficient rationale for denying Martinez and Buchanan their day in court for so long, and for leaving a youth harmed so grievously in limbo for well over a year.
New York City, New York – Members of the Latin King Goonies, a street gang based in the Bronx, went on the attack last week to brutalize men they perceived to be gay, including a 17-year-old allegedly sodomized with the wooden handle of the toilet plunger. The New York Daily News reports that seven members of the Goonies were arrested, ranging in ages from 16- to 23-years-old. At least two other gang members are being sought by police in connection with the homophobic series of crimes. “These suspects employed terrible, wolf-pack odds of nine against one, odds which revealed them as predators whose crimes were as cowardly as they were despicable,” Ray Kelly, Police Commissioner for New York City told reporters for the News. Throughout the attacks, the suspects shouted homophobic slurs at their victims. According to The Advocate, the suspects allegedly ran amok after learning that one of their new gang initiates, a 17-year-old, was a gay. They kidnapped and tortured a 30-year-old man believed to be the lover of the Goonies pledge, sadistically forcing the youth to burn his friend with lit cigarettes. The victim was also beaten with a chain, forced to chug large amounts of an alcohol-laced energy drink called Four Loko, and then was sodomized with a small baseball bat. A second 17-year-old male was kidnapped and sodomized with a wooden toilet plunger handle while the others were forced to watch. The Daily News report says that the gang topped off the day by beating and robbing a fourth man. Led by 23-year-old Ildefonso (Cheto) Mendez, the seven were transported to the 41st Precinct station, where they are being held pending arraignment. Besides Mendez, those arrested were David Rivera, 21; Nelson Falu, 18; Steven Carballo, 17; Denis Peitars, 17; Bryan Almonte, 17; and Brian Cepeda, 16. Still being sought, they said, are Elmer Confessor, 23; and Ruddy Vargas-Perez, 22. The suspects are charged with sodomy, abduction, imprisonment, menacing, assault, and robbery–all categorized as hate crimes. Reaction the anti-gay rampage has been swift. New York authorities are especially sensitive to anti-gay bias crimes in the wake of a recent bashing incident involving two young men who assaulted a gay man in the toilet of the historic Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, the birthplace of the Gay Rights Movement in America. Numbers of anti-LGBTQ hate crimes are on the rise in New York according to The Daily News. As of Monday, this year’s total has reached 44 as compared with 41 at this same time a year ago. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., said, “Bronxites will not tolerate any form of bigotry in our borough,” and New York City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn demanded action against gay bashers throughout the five boroughs.”These attacks are appalling and are even more despicable because the victims were clearly targeted in acts of hate simply because they are gay,” she said. Police Commissioner Kelly told reporters that this latest attack had nothing to do with a gang initiation. This one was about pure hatred of homosexuals. One 17-year-old victim, Kelly said, was “thrown into a wall, made to strip naked, hit in the head with a beer can, cut with a box cutter and sodomized with the wooden handle of a plunger.” According to the New York Times City Blog, the tortures took place over several hours at 1910 Osbourne Place, a Goonies safe house often surrounded by as many as ten pit bull attack dogs. Residents of Morris Heights called the site, “the Goonies House,” and told investigators that the gang used it to throw parties, have sex, and as a staging ground for their attacks on a series of victims in recent months. Commissioner Kelly told the press that the attackers worked hard to clean up after their bloody work. The suspects pulled up linoleum, ripped out rugs, and repainted the torture chamber where the crimes took place. One detective told the Commissioner that the house was “The cleanest crime scene I’ve ever seen,” quote unquote. “Lots of bleach and paint were used to cover the blood shed by their tortured prey. They even poured bleach down the drains,” Kelly said. Still, the investigators were able to find significant amounts of evidence, including blood and human hair. “They could clean,” said Commissioner Kelly, “but they couldn’t hide.”
Brewster County, TX – Two men have been arrested and charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 19-year-old man in Terlingua, Texas on Sunday, December 6 in what is unfolding into a possible anti-gay hate crime story. While the sexual orientation of the victim remains officially undisclosed, local sources allege that the teenager is gay. Daniel Martinez, 46, has been charged with sexual assault and is being held on $35,000 bond. Kristopher Buchanan, 27, is being held on outstanding warrants from other counties. The suspects are expected to face additional charges. Pink News summarizes reports from Texas saying that the victim ,whose name has not been released by law enforcement, was abducted outside a bar in Terlingua, a town on the Texas-Mexico Border, and driven in his own car to a remote area in southern Brewster County. The Big Bend Gazette reports that the youth was sexually assaulted by the pair before his car was set afire. He was forced into a private residence where his attackers sexually assaulted him again. He managed to escape, running three miles across the desert to a highway where a Brewster County Sheriff’s Deputy spotted him and took him to a hospital for treatment. Officials say that the victim is currently recovering in an undisclosed location. Law enforcement has been tight-lipped about the crime, but both local and LGBT press have speculated that the assault was an anti-gay hate crime. Some have gone so far as to equate the attack with the fatal pistol-whipping of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard. When questioned about the investigation, Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson told reporters that the case is being treated as a kidnapping, sexual assault and auto arson. “Everybody’s in jail,” said Dodson. “That’s the best part.” A rally was held last night in support of the victim.