Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gay Bashing in North Texas Leads to Hate Crime Charge

Gay bashing victim Arron Keahey, 24, after teen assailant savagely beat him last Labor Day.

Gay bashing victim Arron Keahey, 24, after teen assailant savagely beat him last Labor Day.

Dallas, Texas – A Springtown man who lied about his encounter with a gay man via social media in September has been charged with a bias-motivated hate crime.  According to a press release by the Dallas Division of the FBI, Brice Johnson, 19, has been charged with “willfully causing bodily injury to a person because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation of that person in a federal criminal complaint.”  On September 2, 2013, 24-year-old gay man, Arron Keahey, connected to Johnson through the social app, MeetMe, being led to believe that Johnson was gay.  The FBI press release details how Johnson led on Keahey to lure him to his home: “During their communications, Johnson said that he was interested in engaging in sexual activity with A.K. He invited A.K. to his home, gave A.K. his cell phone number and address, and they exchanged text messages planning their sexual activity.”

As soon as Keahey arrived at Johnson’s home, the assailant beat Keahey savagely, bound his wrists with an electrical cord, and rolled him into the trunk of a car.  Johnson drove to a friends house with his injured victim bleeding in the trunk.  Upon learning that Johnson had bashed the gay man so severely, Johnson’s friends threatened to call the police themselves if Johnson did not rush Keahey to a hospital.  Johnson drove his victim to a hospital in Fort Worth where he was treated for ten full days for smashed facial bones, lost and broken teeth, and multiple skull fractures.  Johnson concocted a story that he had found Keahey wounded, and being such a Good Samaritan, took him to the Harris Methodist Hospital.  Officers investigating found evidence to the contrary on Johnson’s cell phone where he had recorded a gay slur to refer to Keahey’s contact number.  Johnson then changed his story to say that he was “pulling a prank” on Keahey by the use of the slur to refer to him because of his sexual orientation.  Keahey has sworn that he had never had any sort of sexual or physical contact with his attacker prior to the moment Johnson lashed out at him on the night of the crime.

At the time of the incident, North Texas news media and law officers were reluctant to say that the assault that nearly killed Keahey was a hate crime.  Only after an extensive investigation with the FBI who were called into the case because of the possible anti-gay violence did the Parker County Sheriff’s Department and the Springtown Police Department come to final agreement that Keahey had told the truth all along, and that he had indeed been the victim of a hate crime due to extreme animus against his sexual orientation.  Though it remains unsaid in the FBI press release, the U.S. Department of Justice was able to step into the case investigation because of the provisions of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in October of 2009.  Otherwise, like so many under-investigated attacks against LGBT people, this hate crime would have gone uncharged and unpunished.

Brice Johnson, 19, charged by FBI with bias-motivated hate crime.

Brice Johnson, 19, charged by FBI with bias-motivated hate crime.

According to a report by the Dallas Morning News, one of the major news outlets most reluctant to name anti-gay hate crimes as they demonstrated in this case, it was a Springtown Police Lieutenant, Officer Curtis Stone, who first suggested in his report that the Labor Day beating might be a “possible” hate crime.  WFAA-TV which covered the September attack and interviewed Keahey, spun the story to subtly suggest that the gay man’s use of the MeetMe app had led to the crime.  Such an intimation may be factually accurate, but does not take into account the use of social media daily by millions of heterosexual people to hook up with the reasonable assumption that they will be safe in doing so.  While there is always risk in meeting unknown people through web-based or phone-based media, no one at WFAA has issued a warning that straight men and women who fall victim to violence after using social media are somehow responsible for their own victimization–a suggestion that LGBT hate crimes victims are to blame for violence against them.  The WFAA story ends with Keahey agreeing that he had “learned a painful lesson.”

Johnson appeared in court for the first time on Thursday to be charged with a hate crime.  The statutory maximum penalty is a ten year sentence in a federal penitentiary, and a $250,000 fine.

It took five full months for the Department of Justice and the FBI to firm up the hate crime charge against Johnson that the Springtown Officer had first suggested.  No one in Springtown or Parker County, or North Texas for that matter, wants to have to admit that anti-gay hate crimes take place there.  But they do.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Dallas Morning News, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, MeetMe.com, Slurs and epithets, Social Media and Smartphone Apps, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, WFAA-TV | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Bashing in North Texas Leads to Hate Crime Charge

Gay Hero Defies Anti-Gay Smear Campaign; DOJ Called to Investigate

President Obama congratulates gay hero Daniel Hernandez for his role in saving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' life in 2011 [AP photo].

President Obama congratulates gay hero Daniel Hernandez for his role in saving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ life in 2011 [AP photo].

Tucson, Arizona – One of the heroes to emerge from the horrific 2011 mass shooting in which Congresswoman Gabriel (Gabby) Giffords was gravely wounded has been subjected to a vile, anti-gay smear campaign.  The smear campaign coincides with an effort to recall him from public office.  Daniel Hernandez Jr., openly gay congressional intern who helped save Giffords’ life at peril to his own, is standing up against the anonymous smear campaign, and is calling out its originators.

Hernandez was elected to a vacant seat on the Sunnyside Unified School System governing board in 2011.  Huffington Post reports that at least two scurrilous flyers attacking Hernandez’s sexual orientation and his position on gun control appeared at the same time the recall conflict broke out on the school board.  While other school board members are being targeted for recall, Hernandez is the only recall target whose sexuality and character are being smeared.

Right Wing Watch first called attention to the smear flyers which were passed out to constituents anonymously.   The caption surrounding a flyer photograph of Hernandez speaking at an Equality Forum reads: “Put a REAL Man on the Sunnyside Board. Daniel Hernandez is LGBT. We need someone who will support Sports and cares about our kids. We don’t need someone who hates our values. RECALL Daniel Hernandez TODAY.”  A second flyer attacks Hernandez’s position on guns, deeply ironic given the savage shooting that wounded Representative Giffords and killed several constituents at a Congressional town hall meeting.

The nasty, homophobic nature of the flyers is not news.  Tactics like these have been influencing votes and voters for decades in Arizona and around the nation.  What is newsworthy, however, is the forthright manner in which Hernandez, an openly gay man, is refusing to succumb to the smears.  According to LGBTQ Nation, Hernandez has called for his opponents in the recall effort to distance themselves totally from these anti-gay tactics, and denounce anyone who supports such underhanded politics.  Furthermore, in another unprecedented move, U.S. Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has asked the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the attacks on Hernandez’s sexual orientation as a bias-motivated hate crime.

Hernandez’s recall opponents are scrambling to distance themselves from the hate attacks against a bona fide national hero who happens to be openly gay.  The investigation as it proceeds should uncover whatever links may exist between the recall effort and homophobic intent.

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arizona, Character assassination, Daniel Hernandez, Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ, Politics, President Barack Obama, Slurs and epithets, Tucson Shooting Rampage, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Gay Hero Defies Anti-Gay Smear Campaign; DOJ Called to Investigate

Oregon’s “Pink Poodle” Gay Bashing Draws Federal Hate Crime Charges

Gay Bashing victim David Beltier (l), partner Jeremy Mark (r), and their poodle Beauty.

Gay Bashing victim David Beltier (l), partner Jeremy Mark (r), and their poodle Beauty.

Hillsboro, Oregon – A bizarre anti-gay crime case at a busy highway street crossing has attracted national attention as Federal prosecutors issued hate crimes charges against a man whose homophobic rage was sparked by the sight of a pink poodle.  The assailant, George Mason Jr., 22, was charged this week with a violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for attacking a gay man with a heavy bolt cutter and screaming anti-gay slurs during a peaceful, midday stroll with his boyfriend and their pink-dyed poodle on March 1.  Multiple witnesses say Mason shouted slurs at the gay couple from his SUV, did a U turn, raced back to the intersection, and allegedly attacked David Beltier with his fists and the bolt cutter. Beltier sustained blows to the upper arm, and to the back of his head.  The assault could very nearly have cost Beltier his life.

Portland, Oregon court documents record the hate crime in legal language, but preserve the horror of the assault, coming from a complete stranger: “(Mason) willfully caused bodily injury and, through the use of a dangerous weapon, attempted to cause bodily injury to (Beltier), who is gay, because of (Beltier’s) actual and perceived sexual orientation.”  The Associated Press, in a story carried by the Columbus (IN) Republic, also reports that Mason faces Oregon state charges including second-degree intimidation, second-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon, and reckless driving. The intimidation charge is a bias-motivation charge in the Oregon state code. Mason’s wife, Saraya Gardner, who was in Mason’s vehicle at the time of the attack, has also been charged in the case for obstructing justice.

George Mason Jr.  Alleged gay basher enraged by the sight of a pink poodle.

George Mason Jr. Alleged gay basher enraged by the sight of a pink poodle.

In an interview in Komonews.com, Beltier and his partner, Jeremy Mark, recounted that they were crossing the street with their pink-dyed poodle, Beauty, when the attack occurred.  Beauty, explained Beltier and Mark, had been harmlessly dyed pink with Kool-Aid for a bit of pre-Easter fun, and to match their two other pastel-dyed dogs. The sight of the pink poodle proved too much for Mason, who screamed profanities at the couple from his moving vehicle.  The intersection was filled with witnesses who blared their horns in protest of the attacker.  Beltier credits the witnesses with saving his life.  “If I didn’t hear all the other people honking, all the people seeing what was going on, he could have probably severely hurt me, maybe even killed me right there and then,” he said.  The New York Daily News reports Mark’s account of the slurs Mason hurled at his boyfriend. “[Mason] was saying, “Your poodle is a weird color and that’s just un-American” and “f— you, you f–s” and shouting,” Mark said.

Beltier then picked up the story for Komo News: “After that, [Mason] turns around, he goes back to his car, runs back to his car and brings out this long wrench-looking crowbar tool or something like that, and he comes back after me.”  Mason then struck Beltier on the upper arm and in the back of the head. Beltier’s boyfriend was frantic with fear for his lover’s life.  “I just couldn’t believe it,” said Mark. “I was shouting at the guy to stop. There’s no need for violence. There’s nothing to provoke him. … I was fearing for his life.”

As Mason raced away from the scene of the crime, witnesses tried to block his vehicle, and one witness took off after him, capturing Mason’s license plate number.  The information led to the arrest of Mason and his wife, Gardner.

Though officials advised the gay couple to eliminate the bright pink color from his pet’s fur, Beltier and Mark remain adamant.  They say that they did nothing wrong, and they are not going to let fear dictate their lives.  They just allowed Beauty’s fur to grow out naturally over time.

 

June 28, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bludgeoning, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Oregon, Pink poodle, Slurs and epithets, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Oregon’s “Pink Poodle” Gay Bashing Draws Federal Hate Crime Charges

Your Rights and Ours This Hallowe’en Season: A Special Comment

Dallas, Texas- In this unprecedented year of tragedy and hope, in the aftermath of the worst nature can do to many of our readers and supporters, the Unfinished Lives Project Team wishes your family and loved ones a Happy and Safe Hallowe’en.  So much is at stake in this election season.  Too many have lost too much to turn back now.  The stance of this blog and this human rights project has been and will remain to be full of hope:

  • For a better world than the LGBTQ community has ever known until now
  • For the long arc of justice to bend toward all marginalized people, especially those whose lives have been touched with violence
  • For the laws and protections afforded to us to be enforced swiftly, fully, and justly
  • For all LGBTQ people to follow to admonition of Harvey Milk, burst down our closet doors, and begin to fight for the values we believe in

We have found allies and leaders who have our best interests at heart.  We still believe in hope.  That is what we are sticking with this holiday season.

  • President Barack Obama has signed the Matthew Shepard-James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law
  • President Obama has fought by our side for the full Repeal and Implementation of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
  • President Obama has directed our Justice Department to defend DOMA no longer
  • President Obama has nominated two outstanding women to the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Kegan and Justice Sotomayor
  • President Obama vigorously supports the DREAM Act, allowing many LGBTQ Latinas/Latinos to live, work, and prosper in the United States–the only nation home they have ever known
  • Vice President Joe Biden has blazed the trail for Transgender Rights, declaring this “The Greatest Civil Rights Issue of Our Time”
  • Both President Obama and Vice President Biden have declared their public support for Marriage Equality
  • The President, therefore, deserves and has earned a second term

While we at Unfinished Lives respect choices to the contrary, to us the choice this election year could not be clearer.

Enjoy the day, then exercise your rights, and vote.  Again, friends, Happy Hallowe’en.   ~  The Unfinished Lives Project Team

October 31, 2012 Posted by | Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), Dream Act, GLBTQ, hate crimes prevention, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, President Barack Obama, Repeal of DADT, Special Comments, U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Your Rights and Ours This Hallowe’en Season: A Special Comment

Teen Lesbian Shootings Spark Urgent Calls From Advocacy Groups to Solve the Crime

L to R: Mary Chapa, 18, and Mollie Olgin, 19, gunned down in what many believe was an anti-lesbian hate crime in Coastal Texas.

Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. – The savage shooting of two Coastal Texas lesbian teens has drawn national attention from major human rights advocacy groups, adding pressure to local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice to bring a killer to justice.  On Saturday morning, the motionless bodies of Mollie Olgin, 19, and Mary Chapa, 18, were found in the tall grass of a popular bayside park in Portland, Texas, where an attacker left them sometime after midnight on Friday (for details, see coverage in Unfinished Lives Blog). Olgin died as a result of a gunshot to her head.  Chapa was rushed to a local hospital for emergency surgery, and remains in serious but stable condition. No suspect or suspects have been identified in the investigation so far. Local authorities have been slow to suggest a motive for the brutal attack. Many believe an anti-lesbian motive lies behind the brutality of the assault, however.  The couple had been in a love relationship for over five months at the time of the killing and assault, according to their friends and co-workers.

The Washington, D.C. based Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights and education group, and Equality Texas (EQ TX), based in Austin, are calling on local officials to find the killer and prosecute this case with all possible speed. In a joint statement issued today from Austin, spokespersons for these groups put their wishes in unmistakable terms.

Equality Texas issued the following statement after speaking with the Community Relations Service of the U.S. Department of Justice:

“Equality Texas joins with the Human Rights Campaign in urging a swift and thorough investigation of this crime. We applaud the Department of Justice Community Relations Service for quickly offering their assistance.  Community members are welcome to join a candlelight walk and vigil this Friday, June 29 at 6 p.m. at Violet Andrews Park, 305 Wildcat, Portland, TX 78374.”

The Human Rights Campaign has reached out to local law enforcement officials as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI. HRC President Chad Griffin released the following statement:

“I want to express my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this horrific crime. Two young lesbian women were shot and one lost her life. Regardless of the motivation behind this tragedy, we must send a strong message that violence against anyone is never acceptable. We have reached out to law enforcement officials at both the federal and local level, and hope to see a thorough investigation. These women, and all victims of violent crimes, deserve nothing less.”

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Equality Texas, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, Vigils, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Breaking: Alleged East Texas Gay Bashers Charged with Hate Crimes

Burke Burnett, gay bashing victim, shows bandaged burns and cuts (Advocate photo)

Paris, Texas – Three alleged gay bashers in the horrific Reno gay bashing case will face hate crimes enhancement charges, as reported by the Paris Times and the Dallas Voice. A Lamar County Grand Jury on Thursday indicted James Mitchell Lasater III, 31, of Paris, Micky Joe Smith, 25, of Brookston,and Daniel Shawn Martin, 33, of Paris with one count each of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts each of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. Additionally, Lasater and Smith were charged as repeat offenders. Because aggravated assault is classified as a second-degree felony offense, the alleged offenders were eligible under the Texas Hate Crimes statute for hate crimes enhancements, and that is exactly what the grand jury elected to do.  On October 30 in the early morning, 26-year-old Burke Burnett was savagely attacked by three suspects whom witnesses say were yelling anti-gay slurs as they beat Burnett senseless, stabbed and slashed his body with a broken beer bottle, and then heaved him bodily into a burning trash barrel. Burnett suffered stab wounds resulting in over 30 stitches, deep bruises and contusions, and second-degree burns over a good portion of his torso, legs, and arms.

The Dallas Voice broke the story with graphic photos of Burnett’s injuries embedded in the article, and the story took hold in national mainstream media.  Burnett has been interview around the nation, as horror and interest increased in the story. Burnett told the Dallas Voice he is pleased with the course of the investigation, the arrests, and now with the efforts of the Lamar County District Attorney.  WFAA Television reported Burnett came out when he was 15, and learned of the hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming student slain in Laramie in 1998.  “Matthew Shepard is one of the reasons I came out of the closet,” Burnett told WFAA. “I’m so glad my fate did not end up like his.” He has no doubt about why he was targeted for violence, since the trio knew his was gay.  As he sat in a chair at a private Halloween party in Reno, a small town near Paris, Texas, the men attacked him from behind. Burnett said, “I ended up getting stabbed, burned and beaten pretty badly and I’m convinced they were trying to kill me.”

Since few hate crime attacks against Texans are actually charged under the state hate crimes law, the decision of law enforcement and the grand jury to go forward with hate crimes charges against Burnett’s alleged bashers is significant.  Since “sexual preference” was included as a protected category in the state statute in 2001, better than 2500 hate crimes have been committed, by fewer than twelve have actually been charged as such. Now that the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act became federal law in 2009, allowing the Department of Justice and the FBI to involve themselves in investigating and prosecuting anti-LGBT hate crimes around the nation, Texas officials seem to have felt pressure to act more transparently and boldly on hate crimes cases in the Lone Star State.

November 11, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, FBI, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Slashing attacks, Slurs and epithets, stabbings, Texas, U.S. Justice Department, Wyoming | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NC Gay Couple Harassed for a Year, Then Burned Out of Home

WRAL photo and graphic

Clayton, NC – A gay couple anonymously hiding in a motel out of fear for their safety, were burned out of house and home on Friday. Neighbors say the gay men suffered at least three deliberate acts of anti-gay harassment for over a year – but the neighbors are too scared to identify themselves, either. So Johnston County law enforcement, working from a state arson statute that doesn’t allow for violence against gay men as a hate crime, have determined that the burnout was “just arson.” Like 9/11 was “just some plane crashes.”  Or like the murder of Ugandan gay activist David Kato was “just a robbery gone bad.”  North Carolina has not seen fit to include sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression as protected classes in its existing hate crimes laws. So, an act of blatant hate crime terror that holds a gay couple and their whole neighborhood in fear is playing with matches. That is all this deed will remain officially unless the U.S. Justice Department invokes the Matthew Shepard Act to rectify neglectful conduct by the Johnston County Sheriff’s Department. WRAL.com interviewed a frightened, anonymous neighbor, who is sure that the three incidents of harassment were related to anti-gay hatred: “A note with derogatory language was left in the mailbox, an anti-gay slur was written on the house with marker, and the tires of a car parked in the garage were slashed.” The gay men’s friend and neighbor continued, “I felt sick to my stomach. I felt so sorry for the two gentlemen. They lost everything. We do believe that this is a hate crime.” The couple was out of town when other residents in the Winston Pointe subdivision discovered the fire belching from the brick veneer home at 1:30 a.m. Friday and called the alarm in. Flames quickly engulfed the structure, gutting it and destroying all the couple’s possessions. The American Red Cross has stepped in to offer food, clothing, and insurance contacts to the victims. Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell says that the investigation has turned up no suspects yet. Bizzell acknowledged that he knew of two out of the three incidents of harassment against the gay men this past year, but he would not say which two.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Arson, gay men, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, North Carolina, Slurs and epithets, U.S. Justice Department, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-LGBT Junk Suit Fails Against Shepard Hate Crimes Law

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights Campaign Back Story reports that a suit brought against the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act failed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan.  The suit, put forward by Michigan pastors and the American Family Association of Michigan, challenged the constitutionality of the Shepard Act in February of this year.  Among its claims, the suit alleged that the Shepard Act forecloses on the free exercise of fundamental rights of those who “publicly oppose homosexual activism, the homosexual lifestyle, and the homosexual agenda.”  Further, the law suit argues that the Shepard Act creates “thought crimes” and “is an effort to eradicate religious beliefs opposing the homosexual agenda.”  The three Michigan pastors claimed that the law had chilled their rights under the First Amendment, the Tenth Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Commerce Clause.  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called upon the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the Shepard Act does not violate the rights of Americans, and was passed to protect LGBTQ people in this country from physical violence, not thought or speech.  The judge hearing the case agreed with Attorney General Holder, and dismissed the case as meritless on all counts on September 7.

September 8, 2010 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, gay men, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Legislation, Lesbian women, Matthew Shepard Act, Michigan, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, U.S. Justice Department, Washington, D.C. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-LGBT Junk Suit Fails Against Shepard Hate Crimes Law

Gay Bashing in Savannah “Not A Hate Crime”

Stanzel (l), Cronauer (r)

Savannah, GA – The Chatham County District Attorney will not charge two U.S. Marines who gay bashed a man in June with a hate crime.  EDGE reports that the Marines, Keil Cronauer, 22, and Christopher Stanzel, 23, will face misdemeanor battery charges in court on September 9.  On June 12, a gay man, Kieran Daly, was assaulted, cursed for being gay, and left in a state bad enough that his friends administered emergency CPR to jumpstart his pulse.  Cronauer accused Daly of “winking” at him, which the victim strongly denies.  Stanzel allegedly delivered the blow to the back of Daly’s head, giving him a bruise on his brain.  The blow is what the DA,  Alicia Johnson, is calling “a punch,” and she cannot bring herself to move the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony since the victim had no “sustained injuries.”  DA Johnson told the GA Voice that FBI agents had reviewed Daly’s medical records, and found “no merit” in categorizing the attack as a hate crime.  “I can’t speak on the specifics because this is pending litigation, but for a crime to be considered a felony [which a hate crime is considered to be] there has to be proof of a sustained injury,” Johnson said. If convicted of misdemeanor battery, the Marines would face no more than a year in jail and a fine of no more than $1200.  The state of Georgia has no statute protecting its LGBT residents from hate crimes.  The key to prosecuting the Marines was always the implementation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that President Obama signed into law last October.  The ruling of the FBI, coupled with the familiar reluctance of local law enforcement to prosecute anti-gay violence in Savannah, seems to have put the Marines out of the reach of justice for now.  Both Marines were rushed from the Chatham County jail to the custody of military police shortly after being arrested in June.  Georgia Equality and other allies of the LGBTQ community have rallied to protest this avoidance on the part of officers of the law charged to protect the community.  As the Voice reports, numbers of LGBT activists and allies met in Johnson Square in the historic district of Savannah, Ga., back on June 20 to express their outrage over the alleged beating and to call for Georgia to pass a state hate crimes law. Now, the Executive Director of Georgia Equality Jeff Graham is calling for the Justice Department to revisit the crime, in hopes that the attack will finally be ruled a hate crime.  “I’m very concerned this happened in the first place. But these misdemeanor charges are outrageous,” Graham said. “And then to turn [the Marines] over to the military police is a miscarriage of justice.”  The LGBTQ community in Savannah is questioning at what point can an attack on a person because of perceived sexual orientation be considered a hate crime.  Does it take two blows?  A maiming?  God forbid, a murder?

September 2, 2010 Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, FBI, gay men, gay panic defense, Georgia, harassment, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, U.S. Marines | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Terlingua Hate Rapists Still Unpunished

Boathouse Bar, Terlingua, Texas where two alleged rapists kidnapped their victim (Stephen Sprinkle photo)

Brewster County, Texas – Two alleged power rapists in Far West Texas, jailed since December 2009, have yet to face pre-trial proceedings in the abduction and repeated rape of a high school senior from Terlingua.  Terlingua, near the Mexico border and Big Bend National Park, is remote–80 miles from Alpine, and 330 miles from El Paso.  On the night of December 6-7, 2009, Daniel Martinez, 46, and Kristapher Buchanan, 27, allegedly abducted an 18 year old bisexual male at a bar and game room, stole the car he was living in, and traveled into the far desert to a shack in the Terlingua Ranch section of Brewster County where they brutally beat, demeaned and sexually assaulted their victim as they shouted anti-gay epithets.  The assailants torched the victim’s car, burning up all his worldly possessions.  As the young man tried to retrieve precious items, he was severely burned.  After a second round of brutal rape, the attackers sunk into a drunken stupor, allowing the victim to escape into the desert at about 2 AM.  He walked over three miles in the pitch dark through rough desert terrain wearing flip flops, pajama bottoms, and a tattered tee shirt in freezing temperature, finally making it to Highway 118 where a Sheriff’s Deputy found him and transported him to medical attention in Alpine.  The identity of the victim is protected under Texas law since he was the victim of a sexual assault, and the case against his alleged assailants is still in process.  Power-rape has been employed since time immemorial to subdue and shame victims.  Residents of the area believe the assailants have a pattern of such activity involving young victims, and reports suggest the pair have used alcohol and intimidation to harm at least one 15-year-old boy in the region, as well.  Although the case has the classic marks of an anti-gay hate crime, law enforcement has not filed charges under the Texas hate crimes law, named for James Byrd, Jr. as is the federal law now in force.  Harry Knox, Director of the Religion and Faith Program of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., and Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, professor at Brite Divinity School and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, traveled to Brewster County to carry out a “ministry of presence” to officials involved in the case.  Knox and Sprinkle arrived in Brewster County on July 7 and spent three days interviewing citizens and calling on authorities in order to communicate the interest of Texas and the nation in the hate crime, and in the welfare of the young victim.  Clarence Russeau, Community Education and Outreach Specialist with the Family Crisis Center of the Big Bend, Inc. of Alpine and Terlingua, hosted Knox and Sprinkle, arranged appointments in the region, and served as guide throughout the visit.  The trio visited the Alpine office of Texas State Representative Pete Gallego, 20 year veteran of the Texas Legislature, Jesse Gonzales, District Attorney in the case at his Fort Stockton office, President Ricardo Maestas of Sul Ross State University in Alpine, attorney for the victim, Jennie Fannin at her Alpine office, and the Terlingua branch of the Family Crisis Center where they met with Director Lovika De Koninck.  At each stop, Knox, Sprinkle and Russeau emphasized the need for the community to hold local school, law enforcement, and higher education officials to a high standard of accountability in the hate crime case.  Citizens of Terlingua told the visitors that the victim was well-known to them, and he has their full support as he recovers from his trauma. Over 200 residents of Terlingua protested the low bail assigned to the young victim’s alleged assailants, and sent a petition to the district attorney demanding the bail be raised.  Ms. De Koninck said that the young man would have a warm welcome when he returns to Terlingua. Citizens told the trio that the victim had been shunned by his family because of his sexual orientation, and though he had only his car to live in, he continued to support himself with a job at a local café, and faithfully attended school.  Initially, however, the superintendent of schools in Terlingua, Kathy Killingsworth, allegedly ordered the victim to leave school before he could graduate because she did not want his orientation or the crime perpetrated against him to be discussed in the schools she oversaw.  Due to pressure from the community, the superintendent, who is also a Brewster County Commissioner, apparently reconsidered her position, and will now allow the victim to complete requirements for his diploma, according to local reports.  No trial date has yet been set in the case, though the district attorney suggests that it will be before the end of the year.  Both the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department have been notified about the crime.  Knox and Sprinkle have pledged to monitor the situation from Dallas and Washington, and communicate with officials regularly to ensure care for the young hate crime victim and a speedy and just trial for the defendants in the case.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Bisexual persons, Brewster County Texas, Bullying in schools, FBI, gay men, gay teens, Hate Crimes, hate crimes prevention, Heterosexism and homophobia, Human Rights Campaign, Kidnapping and sexual assault, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, Legislation, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Politics, Protests and Demonstrations, rape, Social Justice Advocacy, Terlingua, Texas, U.S. Justice Department | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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