Tag Archives: gay-bashing

What happens when gay bashing is not a hate crime

Last April, police say, a Marshall University football player saw two men kissing on a West Virginia street, hopped out of the passenger seat of a car, shouted homophobic slurs and attacked the men, punching them in the face.

Those charges against Steward Butler may sound like a textbook hate crime case. But, a year later, the former running no longer faces charges of violating the men’s civil rights.

That’s partly because West Virginia, like 19 other states, does not have a hate crime law that protects people targeted specifically because of their sexual orientation, according to the Human Rights Campaign. And while the U.S. Justice Department is still weighing its options in the case, some observers say it may not fit the federal definition of a hate crime, if only for technical reasons.

In a decision this month, Cabell County Circuit Court Judge Paul Farrell said West Virginia civil rights law protects people based on sex, but not sexual orientation, and ruled to drop the hate crime charges against Butler in 60 days, giving prosecutors time to appeal. Many other states specifically mention sexual orientation in listing the categories that elevate violence or threats of violence to a hate crime. West Virginia lawmakers had plenty of chances to follow suit but didn’t, Farrell wrote.

The ruling leaves two options for West Virginia prosecutors: hope for a favorable upcoming appeal with the state Supreme Court, or — if they lose — lobby for changes to state law with a Legislature that typically hasn’t added LGBT protections.

“I don’t know whether there’s really been an incident to highlight it until now,” said Cabell County Prosecutor Sean “Corky” Hammers. “We now have an incident where two men were battered and their rights were violated, and I think that even if we don’t win at the Supreme Court, we definitely put the spotlight on the statute that says, ‘hey, it should be interpreted to cover sexual orientation.’”

Butler — who was kicked off the Marshall football team after the attack, and did not graduate, according to school spokeswoman Ginny Painter — pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony civil rights violations and two counts of misdemeanor battery in June 2015 over in the incident in Huntington, an industrial city along the Ohio River that’s home to the university.

If convicted of violating the state’s civil rights law, Butler would have faced up to 10 years in prison, but with those charges dropped, he faces a maximum of two years on the misdemeanor counts.

So far, no federal charges have been brought under the U.S. hate crime law.

“(Federal prosecutors) certainly have not come knocking on my door at all to say, ‘Hey can we take a look at this case?”” Hammers said. The case remains open, according to an email from the office of U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson, but officials there declined to comment further.

The applicable federal law — called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act — makes it illegal to physically harm someone based on race, religion, national origin, gender or sexual orientation, among other characteristics.

Butler’s case could fall under that law, but establishing federal jurisdiction might be tricky, said Seth Marnin of the Anti-Defamation League, which advocates for a variety of civil rights.

The federal law requires that the crime “affected interstate or foreign commerce or occurred within federal special maritime and territorial jurisdiction.” So, some connection often has to be drawn across state lines — for instance, in a shooting, if a gun was manufactured in another state.

That’s more difficult when a crime is committed with someone’s fists, as in the West Virginia case, Marnin said.

But Indiana University law professor Jeannine Bell said the federal law was crafted for this exactly type of case: “federal action for crimes that wouldn’t be prosecutable at the state level.”

Hammers has announced plans to appeal the decision to drop the state hate crime charges, giving justices another look at the case. The state Supreme Court declined to answer a previous question by Farrell about whether sexual orientation was covered under the category of “sex” in the state law.

Hammers has argued that sexual orientation should be covered under the category of sex, questioning, for instance: If one of the two men had been a woman, would the attack have happened?

In that vein, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has interpreted existing sex discrimination provisions to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender applicants and employees against employment bias.

But Butler’s attorney, Raymond Nolan, said in an interview he’s confident the law is as the circuit court judge ruled. “Had the Legislature intended to include sexual orientation in the ‘hate crime’ statute, they would have done so,” he said.

The law, which passed in 1987 and hasn’t been amended, protects residents against violence or the threat of violence base on their “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation or sex.” Attempts to add LGBT protections have had little success, whether under Democrats, or the more recently installed Republican legislative leadership.

Jury acquits 2 in alleged gay bashing in Rice Lake

“I heard his head hit the pavement.” Krista Kathrine said she was getting out of her car at about 5:30 a.m. March 17, 2013, when Rien L. Hendricks hit her brother in the head with a piece of wood and he tumbled to the parking lot pavement outside a Rice Lake restaurant.

Kathrine, who testified on Feb. 11 during the trial of Hendricks and wife Shannon R. Hendricks, said she heard “a lot of awful noises.”

And she saw Rien Hendricks running toward a vehicle where Shannon Hendricks waited in the driver’s seat.

“I ran after him,” Kathrine said. “I grabbed his sweatshirt and I looked him in the eye and asked, ‘What the hell are you doing?’”

Hendricks, she said, got into his vehicle and his wife drove away.

Kathrine and Phares, who was bleeding from the head, made their way to the nearby Perkins Family Restaurant, where emergency officials were called on 911.

Phares later recalled that Hendricks shouted, “Fucking faggot, I’m going to kill you” before striking him with the 2 x 4.

But 11 months after the attack, on Feb. 12, a jury in Barron County found Rien and Shannon Hendricks not guilty of substantial battery with the intention of inflicting bodily harm. If convicted on the felony charges, they would have faced a $10,000 fine and a prison sentence of three and a half years.

Phares, after learning of the trial outcome, said, “I feel like I didn’t get a fair trial.” He was critical of the way the legal proceedings played out and also of the police department investigation.

“They tried to make it look like it was my fault,” he said of the way the trial went and indicating he wants to pursue a civil rights complaint with the Justice Department.

Phares testified for about two hours on Feb. 11. “I got a little sarcastic on the stand. But I am the victim. And I called them out. This was a hate crime, and I said that,” he said.

Before the early morning encounter in the parking lot last spring, Phares and Kathrine had been at a party at the Hendricks home, where the brother and sister said they were treated rudely.

There was agreement by both sides at the trial that an incident occurred in the parking lot by Perkins — but not on the details. The prosecution alleged that Rien Hendricks hit Phares hard enough with the wood to knock the man to the ground. The defense suggested that Hendricks poked at Phares, who threw himself to the ground.

Phares did end up in the hospital, with head and facial abrasions and multiple fractures and a doctor testified on the gay man’s behalf at the trial.

Phares said he was still recovering from is injuries when he was informed from the management at the Applebee’s in Rice Lake that he shouldn’t return to his job due to negative publicity surrounding the incident.

Phares eventually did go back to work at the restaurant after Greg Flynn, CEO of Apple American Group franchise, intervened on his behalf.

Still, his experience at Applebee’s — where Shannon Hendricks remained on the job for months after the incident and where he faced anti-gay harassment — left Phares troubled. He resigned in late July 2013 and has since pursued a discrimination complaint against Applebee’s with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

He also left Wisconsin for Portland, Ore., where he’s looking for work.

“I wanted to get away — from Rice Lake and from Applebee’s,” he said.

2 standing trial, charged in gay bashing in Rice Lake

UPDATE: On Feb. 12, the two defendants were acquitted. More to come.

Two people accused in the brutal beating of a gay man in Rice Lake last spring went on trial today (Feb. 11).

Rien L. Hendricks of Rice Lake is charged with substantial battery with the intention of inflicting bodily harm, a felony.

Shannon R. Hendricks also is charged with substantial battery with the intention of inflicting bodily harm.

The two were arrested following an attack on March 17, 2013, in Rice Lake that sent Timothy Phares to the hospital suffering head and facial abrasions, as well as multiple fractures.

Phares had worked with Shannon Hendricks at Applebee’s restaurant.

According to Wisconsin Gazette archives, Rien Hendricks, Shannon’s husband, allegedly struck Phares in the head with a 2×4 in the parking lot of another local restaurant on March 17, 2013.

Rien Hendricks was apprehended shortly after the attack on the battery charge.

Shannon Hendricks, who allegedly drove her husband to the scene of the assault, witnessed it and drove him away, was charged with battery on June 3, 2013.

The defendants face fines of $10,000 and three and a half years in prison if convicted.

Phares has said that when Rien Hendricks attacked him, he shouted, “Fucking faggot, I’m going to kill you.”

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Applebee’s kept Shannon Hendricks in her position at the restaurant and defended her continued employment: “This very unfortunate personal situation involving two of our franchisee’s employees occurred during their free time and entirely away from the restaurant. The husband of one employee has been charged by policy with felony assault. The police have informed us that this individual’s wife, who works at the restaurant, has not been charged and is not a subject in the investigation.”

At the same time, the restaurant asked Phares — who said he endured anti-gay harassment at Applebee’s — not to return to work because of all the negative publicity.

Phares subsequently returned to his job after Greg Flynn, CEO of Apple American Group Franchise, intervened. He later resigned. And Shannon Hendricks also eventually left the restaurant.

Two days were set aside for the trial in Barron County.

Records indicate that the defendants were in court earlier this month but no plea agreements were reached. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Phares said when he arrived to the courthouse in Barron this morning, he saw that the defendants have two witnesses for the trial. The prosecution has at least eight witnesses, including medical experts and patrons of the local restaurant.

Phares also said he wanted to make a statement to the judge if there is a sentencing phase of the trial. Although the defendants are not charged with bias, he said what happened to him was a hate crime.

Phares was one of the first to testify in the trial.

5 arrested for luring gay man into beating

Gresham, Ore., police say five young people were arrested for beating and robbing a man they lured into a park under the pretense that he would meet another man for sex.

Police called it “a targeted attack based on his sexual orientation.” They suspect there have been other attacks, and victims were unwilling to report them.

Police got a report early Feb. 15 of masked people with guns punching and kicking a man at Vance Park.

He was described as a 24-year-old Clackamas man, but not named. His wallet and cellphone were stolen. He had minor injuries

Police said the robbers fled, but were later arrested and charged with robbery, intimidation and assault. Four are juveniles, three boys and a girl. A fifth was identified as 19-year-old Justin Simms of Gresham.

Reno police chief hires investigator for sex harassment case

The chief of police in Reno, Nev., has called in an independent investigator to look into internal allegations of officer misconduct and claims of corruption that emerged in a series of departmental probes and sent one veteran sergeant packing.

Sgt. James Stegmaier retired last month after Chief Steven Pitts recommended the 23-year member of the force be fired for allegedly pointing his loaded handgun at two fellow officers at police headquarters.

Stegmaier’s lawyer, Ken McKenna, says his client was targeted in retaliation for reporting corruption and misconduct within the Reno Police Department.

McKenna said in a statement this week that the misconduct included sexual harassment, “gay bashing” and command officers having sex while on duty.

“It is so blatant retaliation for whistle-blowing,” McKenna said. “It’s such an attempt to discredit him.”

Pitts told the Reno Gazette-Journal he launched four separate internal probes since June looking into those and other claims. He said he also recently hired a nationally recognized independent investigator to assist.

“There’s an allegation in (McKenna’s statement) about me that said when Pitts hears about this heads are going to roll,” Pitts said. “You’re damn right they are, and that’s exactly what we did … There will be accountability.”

The investigator, Ronald Glensor, is a former assistant Reno police chief considered an expert in community policing, Reno’s Chief Deputy Civil Attorney Tracy Chase said Thursday.

Glensor, who served on the Reno force from 1981-2009, has written  books on police supervision and problem solving, and consulted for more than 700 law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

Chase said Glensor has begun his work, but she could not discuss any other details and did not know how long the internal investigation could last.

Stegmaier, 50, received a medal of meritorious service at a shooting inside a Reno Walmart in 2010. He retired last month rather than appeal his recommended firing and risk loss of some benefits, McKenna said.

The gun pointing incident was investigated by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant District Attorney John Helzer confirmed he is reviewing the case, but has declined further comment.

McKenna said Stegmaier was simply practicing a “quick draw” technique when the two officers walked into the office. Pitts said his interviews with officers disputed that.

While many of Stegmaier’s allegations are broad, he identified some of his former colleagues by their positions – accusing his supervisor of sexual harassment, a deputy police chief of asking him to lie to internal affairs investigators and a member of the internal affairs team of sending a pornographic video to his cellphone.

He said several members of the department engaged in “gay bashing on a regular basis.”

“The whole thing just kind of went sideways, and Jim’s intent from the beginning was to never disclose any of this publicly and just to get an investigation (into the gun pointing incident) that was fair and unbiased,” McKenna told the Gazette-Journal.

Reno Deputy City Attorney Jack Campbell said Stegmaier tried to use the allegations against his colleagues as leverage in an attempt to get his job back.

“The only time he complained about this – quote, alleged corruption, unquote – is when he attempted to manipulate this department and otherwise avoid the discipline that was recommended to him, and it didn’t work,” Campbell said.

Campbell said the vast majority of claims made by Stegmaier are “untrue” and a “misrepresentation of what’s happened so far” based on evidence he’s reviewed from the ongoing internal affairs investigations.

Tourist speaks out about robbery, brutal hate attack in St. Lucia

A robbery and assault on three gay American tourists at their vacation cottage has St. Lucia officials scrambling to assure visitors that the southern Caribbean island is safe and welcoming.

Tourism Minister Allen Chastanet issued an apology March 14 to three men from Atlanta after masked bandits broke into their mountain rental home. One victim said the gunmen made slurs against gays, white people and Americans during the March 2 assault.

The tiny, tourism-dependent Caribbean country is typically peaceful and a safe place for all kinds of travelers, Chastanet said.

He said the attack was “unacceptable behavior and our destination will not tolerate it.”

Police announced they have arrested two suspects in the assault and are looking for three more.

This former British territory is not known as a risky place for gays, particularly compared with other, socially conservative Caribbean islands where many gays are not open about their sexuality.

Nonetheless, a victim who detailed his account of the robbery on Facebook, said he believes the attack was “partly a gay bashing.”

Michael Baker said he and his companion, Nick Smith, were showering when they heard their friend Todd Wiggins scream in another part of the home. When Baker stepped out of the bathroom, he saw masked men beating Wiggins.

Baker said the armed bandits ultimately beat all three and tied them up.

“They began to tell us that they hated white people. They hated (gays),” Baker wrote. “They told us they had been watching us, and they hated us, and wanted us off the island. They said they would kill us if we did not leave.”

After the attackers left, the men freed themselves, hiked down the mountain and were helped by some tourists, Baker said.

Police said the robbers took about $1,800 in cash and some personal items. They said one of the men was treated for minor injuries at a hospital, and they all left St. Lucia soon after.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Baker said two laptops were stolen, a watch and several thousand dollars. He also said he and Wiggins were treated at a hospital for their wounds.

“I have suffered a concussion, and both Todd and I had several stitches at the St. Lucia hospital,” he said. “We have not been notified by any St. Lucian authorities about arrests made. Additionally, our items, to the best of our knowledge, have not been returned.”

Wiggins said he is frustrated with how the assault has been portrayed.

“I feel that the gay media rushed to declare this a hate crime and the St. Lucian police and government officials rushed to dismiss the possibility that any part of the incident was a hate crime,” he said in an e-mail.

Ultimately, Baker said he and his friends will struggle with memories of the assault.

“I don’t know the full motivation that drove these five men, but I do know that I can feel pity for them,” he said.

From the Associated Press

Sweet Ambrosius | Singer’s new video tackles gay bashing

R&B singer Marsha Ambrosius tackles gay-bashing, suicide and homophobia in the urban community in her latest music video.

Her song “Far Away” was written after a close friend attempted suicide.

“Because they’re in such a bad place in their lives, there’s nothing you can do to help someone if they can’t help themselves,” she said.

In the clip, a man seen with Ambrosius appears to be her boyfriend. They walk in a park, say hello to a group of men and to a woman and her children. Later, the video shows the man kissing another man. When the men return to the same park, now holding hands, the mother pulls her kids away. And when Ambrosius’ friend is alone, he’s assaulted while the American flag stands tall in the background. The clip concludes with the man lying on his couch; a suicide letter and dozens of pills are visible.

Ambrosius says the video will speak for those who don’t have a voice.

“I lost a friend and I’ve had friends that have attempted suicide. There are people that don’t have a voice to speak out and show what is happening and what can happen, so I just wanted people to see the honesty in it and be aware,” she said.

The 33-year-old singer, first introduced as one-half of the Grammy-nominated, British soul duo Floetry, says she has a strong gay following – and needs to support it.

“I go to my shows and my audience is predominantly gay. … I’ve been approached by many who’ve said my music has influenced them and we’ll speak about experiences that they’ve had. It’s just only right that I give that voice back,” she said.

Ambrosius co-wrote Michael Jackson’s 2002 hit song “Butterflies” and has collaborated with rappers like Nas, Busta Rhymes and Game. The clip was directed by Ambrosius’ manager, Julius Erving III, and is the second single from her solo debut, “Late Nights and Early Mornings,” due out Feb. 22. Ambrosius says what she offers is honesty, when other recording artists hold back.

“I think many musicians separate themselves from what they’re actually going through in real life for fear of being judged for, you know, what their political views are (and) what they feel personally about things that are going on in the real world,” she said. “Music for me is personal and that’s the only way I know how to approach it.”

Man charged with punching gay man during bar fight

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A south Florida man has been charged with beating a man during a bar fight because he was gay.

John Richard Shannon was out with friends in West Palm Beach last month when he started arguing with another man he accused of being gay. According to the police report, Shannon used several homophobic slurs and told the victim that a cast on his arm was because he had beaten up another gay.

When the victim defended himself Shannon began screaming until he was kicked out. Police said he sneaked back in the bar and punched the man in the face with his cast.

On Thursday, Shannon admitted he punched the man and may have uttered the homophobic slur.

He is charged with aggravated battery, with the enhanced upgrade of “evidencing prejudice while committing offense.”

Two decades later, justice is served in gay-bashing death

The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that a man who brutally murdered a gay man almost 20 years ago was finally sentenced to 17 years in jail. He is expected to serve 11 years 6 months of his sentence.

The attacker, Paul Darcy Armstrong, picked up the victim, Felipe Flores, at an Oxford Street bar on September 2, 1991 according to SMH. Flores’ body was found less than half an hour later in an area known as Lover’s Lane.

The beating death of the man, Felipe Flores, was “savage and sustained,” Justice Buddin is quoted as saying the article. His wounds were detailed by SYM and included broken ribs and nose and cuts and injuries to his genitalsm, a boot mark stomped into his face, his liver almost split in two and more.

Read the full story here: More than 11 years jail for gay killing.

Notre Dame student paper apologizes for cartoon

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The independent student newspaper for the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s College has published a staff editorial apologizing for a cartoon that made a joke about violence against gays.

The editorial Friday says The Observer newspaper created an “egregious” error in judgment when it published the cartoon Wednesday.

The newspaper also ran an apology from the cartoon’s writers. They say the cartoon was meant to address intolerance of homosexuality on the Catholic university’s campus but was offensive.

The cartoon depicts a conversation that says the “easiest way to turn a fruit into a vegetable” is with “a baseball bat.”

Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins issued a statement condemning the cartoon.

Assistant managing editor Aaron Steiner says an internal review is under way.