National Briefs

Posted on 12 Jan 2006 at 6:50pm

New York Police arrest 4 after assault leaves gay man in critical condition

NEW YORK Four young men were arrested for luring a gay man to a remote location with an online promise of a sexual encounter, then attempting to rob him an incident that left the victim in critical condition after he ran into traffic to escape the attack, a police commander said Wednesday.

The four, who range in age from 16 to 20, were arrested late Tuesday, according to a police commander who spoke on condition of anonymity because the charges were still pending. Police had said they were investigating the Sunday attack as a possible bias incident, but it remained unclear whether the four would be charged with a bias crime.

Michael Sandy, 28, remained in critical condition after the confrontation spilled onto a parkway and he was hit by a vehicle as he tried to escape, the commander said. That vehicle fled the scene, and police were also searching for the driver.

The four attackers, who said they were heterosexual, made incriminating statements and indicated they had previously used the Internet to lure and attack gay men, the commander said.

The commander said one of the men had met Sandy on a street corner and convinced him to drive to an isolated parking lot in New York’s Brooklyn borough, where the other three were waiting. His car was later discovered at the former rest stop near Plumb Beach, New York, with the motor still running.

The seedy spot, just east of Sheepshead Bay, New York, is known as a gathering point for illicit drug use and sexual encounters, officials said.

Witnesses told police the dispute spilled onto the six-lane Belt Parkway and halted traffic as Sandy backed away from his assailants when they grabbed at him. A motorist who was forced to stop said Sandy was struck after breaking free and ending up in a lane where cars were still moving.

The four, who were not identified by police, were expected to be arraigned later Wednesday.

City of Minneapolis settles 2 of 3 lawsuits against lesbian fire chief

MINNEAPOLIS The city of Minnea-polis has settled two of three harassment lawsuits against Fire Chief Bonnie Bleskachek.

The City Council voted unanimously on Oct. 6 to compensate firefighters Jennifer Cornell and Kathleen Mullen, and promote them to battalion chief. Both women had claimed in lawsuits against the city and Bleskachek that the chief retaliated against them by preventing their promotions to battalion chief and throwing out the results of an advancement test.

Under the settlement, Cornell will receive $65,000 and Mullen, $29,000. A third lawsuit by firefighter Kristina Lemon that makes similar allegations is still in litigation.

Bleskachek’s lawyer, Jerry Burg, said his client threw out the test results because they were flawed not because Cornell and Mullen passed while Bleskachek’s partner failed, as alleged. Burg said he understands why the city settled but that he believed Bleskachek would have been cleared in court.

Bleskachek, who is openly gay, has been on paid administrative leave since March while the city conducts an internal investigation of her behavior. All three lawsuits alleged discrimination and sexual harassment on her part.

Baptist university withdraws request for dismissal of lawsuit challenging funding

FRANKFORT, Ky. A Baptist university has withdrawn a request for dismissal of a lawsuit that seeks to stop the state from funding its pharmacy school.

Attorney Mark Overstreet, who represents the University of the Cumberlands in southeastern Kentucky, said the motion was withdrawn because it would have left unresolved the larger issue of whether the state can fund religious schools.

The lawsuit was filed in April, arguing that the $10 million state appropriation for the school and $1 million for pharmacy scholarships is illegal under Kentucky’s constitution. The action came shortly after the university expelled a gay student who posted details of his dating life on a Web site.

Overstreet and Louisville attorney David Tachau, who represents the plaintiffs in the case, said they’re planning to ask a judge for summary judgment later this year or early next year.

The Williamsburg school is located in Republican Senate President David Williams’ district, and he has been an advocate for funding the program.

The case is pending in Franklin County Circuit Court.

Corzine promises not to try to ban gay marriage if elected

TRENTON, N.J. Gov. Jon Corzine won’t try to ban gay marriage if the New Jersey Supreme Court finds it’s constitutional, a spokesman said. A ruling is expected by Oct. 25 in a lawsuit filed by seven gay couples.

Gay marriage opponents prayed at the Statehouse on Oct. 5 for the court to uphold marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Jury deadlocked in trial of gay professor accused of killing lover

OLATHE, Kan. A Johnson County jury said Oct. 6 it was deadlocked over whether a college music professor killed his lover and then tried to make it look like a suicide.

David Lee Stagg, 58, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of William J. Jennings, 51.

Prosecutors said Stagg killed Jennings on April 24, 2004, after a two-year relationship because he felt Jennings was too controlling. Aware that Jennings had attempted suicide before, Stagg forged a note so investigators would think he had been successful, assistant district attorney Scott Toth said in closing arguments.

But Stagg, a music professor at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, had no reason to kill Jennings, defense attorney Tom Bass told jurors, and said police found no blood or other physical evidence linking Stagg to Jennings’ death.

During the two-week trial, Bass brought in two experts who said DNA found under Jennings’ fingernails came from someone other than Stagg.

Toth, however, noted that investigators had found evidence of a violent struggle throughout the house. He said finding Stagg innocent would require a “phantom third party” coming into Jennings’ home and killing him just after he had written a suicide note.

“This was a relationship in trouble,” he said. “This was a bad relationship.”

Bass noted that police weren’t able to find any trace of blood on Stagg or in his car or home.

Former narcotics agents plead guilty to violating gay men’s civil rights

JACKSON, Miss. Two former Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to committing civil rights violations in their use of force against two gay men.

Former MBN agents John F. Forman and Gregory H. Reynolds reached separate agreements to plead guilty to a single federal misdemeanor charge of depriving a person of his rights under the color of law, according to court documents.

They have not been sentenced. The maximum sentence they could face is one year in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Under terms of their plea deals, Forman and Reynolds agreed to resign from the bureau and not seek or accept any law enforcement position for 18 months after sentencing. Forman entered his plea Wednesday; Reynolds entered his plea on Sept. 25.

MBN Director Marshall Fisher on Oct. 8 said that the agents were never investigated or punished by their own agency for their actions.

“There was not an official internal investigation opened,” said Fisher, who was not director at the time of the incident in August 2004. “Why, I don’t know.
But at the time it occurred, there was not.” Fisher said he was not made aware of what may have occurred until after he became MBN director in June 2005.

George Phillips, who was MBN chief at the time, could not immediately be reached for comment. Phillips is now the commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, which oversees the MBN.

Reynolds and Forman are accused of using unnecessary force against James Buitt and Michael Mathis, who were patrons of Jack & Jill’s, a Jackson bar, on Aug. 29, 2004. The two agents and MBN Capt. Jim Ruble were conducting surveillance at the, looking for signs of illegal drug activity, according to court documents.

After a series of events that included Mathis urinating outside, his yelling obscenities at the MBN agents and the agents uttering anti-gay slurs, the agents pulled over a truck driven by Buitt and forcibly removed the two men from the vehicle, according to court documents.

Buitt, then 42, suffered a spiral fracture to his arm and a laceration to his face, according to court records. The men’s attorney, Robert Smith of Jackson, said Mathis, then 47, also was injured. In the plea agreements, the agents admitted using unnecessary force.

Buitt and Mathis have filed a federal civil lawsuit against the two agents, Ruble, the MBN and the Department of Public Safety. It is scheduled to go to trial in April, Smith said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 13, 2006.

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