LGBT advocates want bigger turnout from community, longer sentence for suspect who allegedly kicked, stomped Jimmy Lee Dean’s head
It was Jonathan Gunter who threw the first punch, but it was Bobby Singleton who kicked and stomped Jimmy Lee Dean’s head as he laid unconscious in the street just a block from the Cedar Springs strip in July 2008, according to witness testimony during Gunter’s trial in March.
Gunter, 33, was convicted of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 30 years in prison for the attack, called one of the most brutal anti-gay hate crimes Dallas has seen in recent memory.
Now, LGBT advocates, including the lone eyewitness to Dean’s attack, say they’re hoping Singleton will receive an even longer sentence. Singleton, 30, is scheduled to stand trial beginning Monday on the same charge, a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison.
"He’s not going to get less than 30 years, that’s for damn sure," said Michael Robinson, who witnessed the crime.
Robinson was walking alongside Dean on Dickason Avenue, between Reagan and Throckmorton streets, immediately prior the attack. He noted that Singleton also allegedly tried to flee from nightclub security guards following the attack, and boasted about the crime after being taken into custody near the scene.
"He should get double the sentence Jonathan Gunter did," Robinson said.
Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Marshall McCollum, the lead prosecutor for both cases, confirmed this week that he likely will request more prison time for Singleton, but he wouldn’t say how much.
McCollum said he felt there was a 95 percent chance the trial will proceed as scheduled on Monday. He expects it to last about three days.
Singleton’s attorney, Edwin King, didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.
In addition to a more severe punishment for Singleton, Robinson and others are hoping for a bigger turnout from the LGBT community during the trial. Only a handful of people from the LGBT community attended Gunter’s trial, despite Robinson’s efforts to publicize the case.
Robinson said Dean has fallen on hard times in recent months and feels like the LGBT community has abandoned him. Dean couldn’t be reached for comment.
Dean, 43, was hospitalized for 10 days after the attack and has undergone multiple reconstructive surgeries since then. However, the surgeries were unsuccessful in restoring his sense of smell or repairing some of the facial deformities he sustained, Dean testified during Gunter’s trial.
Robinson said Dean and his roommate were evicted from their apartment recently and have been living on the streets.
"We need to support him," Robinson said.
He added that a large turnout would also send a message that the LGBT community believes Dean’s attack was an anti-gay hate crime.
Gunter and Singleton, both from Garland, were charged with aggravated robbery because they were found in possession of a Zippo lighter and a set of keys belonging to Dean.
Gunter and Singleton yelled anti-gay epithets during the attack, and police said the suspects admitted targeting Dean because they thought it would be easier to rob a gay man.
Dallas police classified the case as an anti-gay hate crime for FBI reporting purposes. But the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office chose not to seek a hate crime enhancement because it wouldn’t result in a longer prison sentence but could increase their burden of proof.
Under Texas law, a hate crime enhancement doesn’t result in a longer prison sentence if the charge is already a first-degree felony.
LGBT activist Latisha McDaniel, co-founder of Equality March Texas, noted this week that more than 50 people had signed up to attend Singleton’s trial on a Facebook group she created called, "Justice for Jimmy." McDaniel said she was working to possibly have buttons made for people to wear in the courtroom.
"It’s to support Jimmy, but also to show the people sitting in the courtroom that there is a large GLBT community that is not happy about what happened over in Oak Lawn," McDaniel said.
Singleton’s trial will be in the 194th District Court, on the seventh floor of the Frank Crowley Courts Building, at 133 N. Industrial Blvd.
McDaniel said she’s encouraging people to attend beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday, when testimony is expected to start following jury selection on Monday.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 21, 2009.
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