Final suspect in Arlington graffiti hate crime sentenced to 3 years probation

Daniel Sibley

Daniel Sibley

The last of five teen suspects was sentenced this morning for a graffiti spree in June 2012 in Arlington that included anti-gay slurs spray-painted on a lesbian couple’s SUV.

Daniel Damian Sibley, 19, was sentenced to three years probation for the state jail felony charge causing $1,500 to $20,000 in damage. Sibley is the last of the five teens to be sentenced after he pleaded guilty in March instead of taking his case to trial.

Sibley, who has a prior record, received the harshest sentence of the four adults involved. His sentence is not deferred adjudication, so his arrest and sentencing will remain on his record.

He was ordered to complete 120 hours of community service at AIDS Outreach Center or a similar organization, as well as an intensive outpatient alcohol and drug rehabilitation program. Sibley has a case pending for possession of marijuana.

—  Anna Waugh

BREAKING: Zedler withdraws LGBT resource center amendment

State Rep. Bill Zedler

State Rep. Bill Zedler

Arlington state Rep. Bill Zedler withdrew his amendment that would defund LGBT resource centers at state universities when it hit the House floor tonight amid cheers from the gallery.

Matthew Posey, Zedler’s legislative director, told Dallas Voice Thursday afternoon that it’d be “pulled down.” He declined to comment on the decision to remove the amendment.

News of the amendment that stated LGBT and gender centers caused high-risk behavior and the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases created an uproar among LGBT advocates.

Petitions and letters opposing the amendment were sent to lawmakers this week.

Daniel Williams, field organizer with Equality Texas, said the organization had been preparing for the amendment for the past year after a similar one from the previous session was filed, which was withdrawn after pressure to stall the appropriations bill.

“Because of Equality Texas’ outreach, there was massive public outcry about the amendment,” he said. “Zedler was under tremendous pressure to remove it.”

Three other amendments that would have some impact on the LGBT community were considered.

An amendment filed by state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, was adopted and will allot grant money to school districts for suicide prevention, mental health and substance abuse programs.

State Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, withdrew his amendment that would collect data on the number of LGBT people under the age of 24 who seek mental health services.

An amendment by state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, was tabled. The measure would require school districts to make reports based on alleged discriminatory incidents based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and other categories.

Amendments are still being debated on the floor. Watch here.

—  Anna Waugh

Measure targets campus LGBT centers, says they lead to ‘high-risk’ behavior

State Rep. Bill Zedler

State Rep. Bill Zedler

An amendment to the Texas Legislature’s general appropriations bill, SB1, would defund gender and LGBT resource centers on the basis that they encourage risky sexual behavior.

State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, filed the amendment to cut state funding from universities that have “Gender and Sexuality Centers and Related Student Center[s].” The amendment argues that “to support, promote, or encourage any behavior that would lead to high risk behavior for AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis B, or any sexually transmitted disease.”

A representative from Zedler’s office did not return calls seeking comment.

An amendment to defund and prevent universities from housing LGBT resource centers on campus last session was filed by former state Rep. Wayne Christian. He eventually withdrew the amendment after Democrats threatened to derail the bill it was attached to.

Daniel Williams, field organizer for Equality Texas, said that while the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M and the University of Houston have dedicated offices for their LGBT resources centers, the amendment could also affect the LGBT program at the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as women’s centers at several universities.

In related news, the Texas A&M Student Senate may vote this week on a measure that would allow students to opt out of funding the GLBT Resource Center with their activity fees if they have religious objections.

Williams said Zedler’s reasoning for filing amendment on the grounds that centers would encourage unsafe sexual behavior is unfounded and hopes the LGBT community contacts representatives to stop the amendment from moving forward. (CLICK HERE TO FIND YOUR STATE REPRESENTATIVE)

“If the community mobilizes and lets the 150 members of the Texas House know that this amendment is hurtful and represents antiquated stereotypes that belong in a bygone era, we can beat it,” he said.

The amendment could be voted on as early as Thursday.

Equality Texas has endorsed eight budget amendments from lawmakers that would collect data on LGBT bullying and suicide risk, as well as reinstate Planned Parenthood in the Women’s Heath Program and study the cost of litigation the Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office has spent defending laws that include anti-gay bias.

See the amendments below.

—  Anna Waugh

2 teens sentenced to 3 years probation in Arlington anti-gay graffiti case

Morgen Aubuchon and Seth Hatcher

Two teens were sentenced in Fort Worth on Friday for their involvement in an Arlington graffiti spree in June that included in anti-gay slurs spray-painted on a lesbian couple’s SUV.

Morgen Rae Aubuchon, 18, and Seth Stephen Hatcher, 19, pleaded guilty to the state jail felony charge causing $1,500 to $20,000 in damage and were sentenced to three years deferred adjudication with 120 hours of community service at Samaritan House, AIDS Outreach Center or another organization approved by the court.

They must complete a minimum of 20 hours of community service a month. They are also jointly responsible for $6,441 in restitution to the owners of the damaged property.

David Mack Henderson, Fairness Fort Worth treasurer who attended the sentencing, said 371th District Court Judge Mollee Westfall informed the teens that if they violate their probation, they face six months to two years in jail.

If the teens complete their probation without any violations, they won’t have a conviction on their records, but an arrest record will remain unless expunged.

—  Anna Waugh

Dwight McKissic: The anti-Christ is gay; Obama’s support for marriage equality worse than Katrina

Dwight McKissic

At its annual meeting in New Orleans, the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday passed a resolution opposing same-sex marriage and declaring that marriage equality is not a civil rights issue. According to the Associated Press, the resolution was co-authored by the Rev. Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

“It’s important to sound the alarm again, because the culture is changing,” McKissic said of the resolution, adding that it’s “an unfair comparison” for gays to equate marriage equality with civil rights.

“They’re equating their sin with my skin,” McKissic told the AP.

The AP story goes on to suggest that while opposing marriage equality, with acceptance of gays growing in America, the SBC at the same time wants to distance itself from more hateful anti-gay rhetoric. For example, the SBC has long since ended its boycott of Disney over Gay Days, and the resolution approved Wednesday includes a statement that the SBC stands against “any form or gay-bashing, whether disrespectful attitudes, hateful rhetoric, or hate-incited actions.”

But if the SBC is truly trying to temper its anti-gay teachings, it has chosen the wrong spokesperson in McKissic. That’s because McKissic statement rhyming “sin” and “skin” — which is not new but will undoubtedly be repeated by anti-gay SBC pastors all over the country — pales in comparison to some of his other recent anti-gay rhetoric.

—  John Wright

Arlington PD says Grand Prairie penis grafitti not linked to its case that included anti-gay slurs

After reviewing the evidence of two vandalism sprees this week in Arlington and Grand Prairie, police don’t believe they are related.

The first spree occurred early Sunday morning with 10 residences in the 1100 block of Crowley Road defaced with hateful words and crude images, Arlington police spokeswoman Tiara Richard said. The words “faggot” and “queers” were also spray-painted on a lesbian couple’s car. While Richard said it “looks like a hate crime,” police aren’t calling it a hate crime yet until they complete their investigation and identify a motive.

Then on Tuesday, Grand Prairie received 10 reports from residents in the 900 block of Furlong Drive and 2700 block of Triple Crown Lane. Many of the images were penises, GD detective Lyle Gensler said. Because the Arlington incidents had just occurred and penises were used in both cases, he said police thought they could be linked and would compare the images.

Richard told Instant Tea Friday that “based on the evidence, it does not appear that these cases are connected.”

Gensler said it was most likely teenagers who committed the Grand Prairie vandalism, but Arlington PD hasn’t elaborated on the leads it is pursuing.

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for updates.

—  Anna Waugh

Penis paintings link vandalism in Grand Prairie to spree in Arlington that included anti-gay slurs

Grand Prairie police are working with Arlington police to determine whether the same vandals are responsible for spray-painted penises that appeared on homes and cars in both of the cities recently.

Detective Lyle Gensler with Grand Prairie police said 10 residences had defaced homes and cars featuring vulgar images spray-painted between 2-6 a.m. Tuesday in the 900 block of Furlong Drive and 2700 block of Triple Crown Lane.

Gensler said several of the images were penises, which were also used in defacing 10 residences in the 1100 block of Crowley Road in Arlington over the weekend, during which anti-gay slurs were also spray-painted on a lesbian couple’s SUV.

Gensler said no biased words targeting race, religion or sexual orientation were used in the Grand Prairie incidents.

Investigators have been in contact with Arlington police and are looking into the same leads, he said.

“We actually are going to compare the two based on the way they were drawn,” he said.

As for the culprits, Gensler said it is most likely teenagers that are responsible for the vandalism.

Arlington police spokesman Tiara Richard said Tuesday morning that although the incident involving the lesbian couple “looks like a hate crime,” it’s too soon to say that definitively.

It’s up to the district attorney’s office to decide whether to prosecute cases as hate crimes in Texas. However, law enforcement agencies do classify cases as hate crimes for the purpose of reporting them to the FBI each year.

But Richard said the determination about whether to report the incident as a hate crime to the FBI won’t be made until the investigation is complete. She took issue with a headline on Instant Tea from Monday which indicated police weren’t “investigating” the incident as a hate crime. Rather, Richard said, Arlington police simply aren’t calling it a hate crime — at least not yet. The headline has since been changed.

“When it comes to criminal investigations, we let the investigation tell us what something is,” Richard said. “We don’t make determinations on the front end of what something is.

“It looks like a hate crime,” Richard added. “It looks like this couple was targeted because of their sexual orientation, and that’s a big element of the investigative process, and that’s part of what we’ll look into. However, until an investigation is complete … they’re not going to call it something that we may in the investigation find that it’s not.”

—  Anna Waugh

PHOTO: Vandals spray-paint anti-gay epithets on lesbian couple’s SUV in Arlington

Vandals spray-painted anti-gay epithets on a lesbian couple’s vehicle and on other vehicles in the same block in Arlington on Saturday in an apparent hate crime, according to David Mack Henderson of Fairness Fort Worth:

Many of you may have seen the enclosed photo circulating online today. Fairness Fort Worth would like to update our community on what actually occurred and also what steps have been taken since. Yesterday, a lesbian couple in Arlington, TX, discovered their car had been vandalized with large spray-painted anti-gay epithets. Sadly, they weren’t alone. Other cars of non-LGBT residents on the same block were also vandalized with sexually derogatory language.

The same-sex couple is grateful for community support and wants you to know that the Arlington Police Department responded in a timely and professional manner. Further, Acting Police Chief Will Johnson has indicated he is willing to engage in dialogue with FFW to assure continued cooperation. The APD also has at its disposal other law enforcement resources that may prove helpful regarding this particular crime.

If there is a silver lining for the same-sex couple – it’s that they are very encouraged by the support of their neighbors on the block who abhor what all of the victims are going through as much as the LGBT Community does. FFW will update you further as circumstances warrant.

Fairness Fort Worth President Thomas Anable added this in an email:

FFW is in contact with Arlington police and victims through local representatives. The victims were contacted by Arlington police at the initiation of the police department and were not the only victims on the street who received sexually oriented vandalism. The other victims were not members of the LGBT community.  The LGBT victims are currently satisfied with the timely and professional response of the police. The neighborhood has been extremely supportive of the victims.  FFW will reach out to Arlington police and put them in touch with the DOJ to assist in reviewing their hate crimes policies and procedures, but all is progressing in a very acceptable manner.

A spokeswoman for Arlington police couldn’t immediately be reached Monday morning. Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more.

—  John Wright

Arlington man sentenced to 14 months for hate crime arson at mosque

Henry Clay Glaspell

U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means this week sentenced Henry Clay Glaspell, 34, of Arlington, to 14 months in prison after Gaspell pleaded guilty to a hate crime charge in connection with an arson fire at the children’s playground at the Dar El-Eman Islamic Education Center in Arlington in July 2010, according to this report from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Means ordered Glaspell, who has been free on bond, to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on Nov. 21.

Glaspell also admitted that he had stolen and damaged some of the mosque’s property, that he had thrown used cat litter at the mosque’s front door and that he had shouted racial and ethnic slurs at people at the mosque on several occasions. Glaspell said his actions were motivated by hatred for people of Arabic or Middle Eastern descent.

Texas legislators passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act, which allows enhanced penalties to be assessed to those convicted of hate crimes. But while hate crimes are frequently reported and labeled as such by law enforcement, prosecutors rarely take hate crimes charges to court for fear that it would be too hard to prove a perpetrator’s bias-based intent to a jury.

—  admin

ELECTION: Hightower says voters want change

Chris HIghtower

Early vote totals up in runoff; gay candidate says anti-gay tactics ‘falling on deaf ears’

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

ARLINGTON — Conventional wisdom says that turnout in a runoff election will be lower than in the general election. But if early vote numbers are any indication, voters in Arlington’s District 5 are defying conventional wisdom.

And Chris Hightower thinks that’s a good sign.

Hightower is the gay man challenging incumbent Lana Wolff for the District 5 seat on Arlington’s City Council. Hightower came out on top of the five-candidate heap in the May 14 general election, with 39 percent of the vote. Wolff, first elected to the council in 2003, earned a place in the runoff with 35 percent of the vote.

In the May 14 general election, District 5 voters cast 1,179 early ballots, including mail-in ballots. Of those early votes, 42 percent went to Hightower, compared to 34 percent to Wolff.

Early voting for the runoff ended Tuesday, June 14, with a total of 1,196 ballots, including mail-in ballots, cast, Hightower said.

Hightower, who if he is elected would be Arlington’s first openly gay council member, said this week that he has concentrated his runoff campaign efforts on keeping his supporters motivated and on getting them back out to the polls for a second time. And he said he thinks the high early vote turnout means he has accomplished his goal.

“We feel good,” Hightower said Wednesday, June 15. “I think the early vote shows we’ve got a lot of motivated voters out there.”

Hightower said that there are a number of “hot-button” issues drawing voters back to the poll, including the city’s thoroughfare development plan and a hike and bike plan now under consideration.

But, he added, he thinks voters’ desire for new representation is the biggest draw.

“It’s been awhile since we had any real change at city hall, and the voters are ready for it now,” Hightower said.

Although none of the other four candidates in the general election tried to make an issue of Hightower’s sexual orientation, the candidate did find himself the target of anti-gay campaigning by at least one Arlington resident.

“It happened in the general election campaign, and it continued into the runoff,” Hightower said. “I guess that kind of thing is probably typical of politics in general. But we’re just keeping our head down and keeping on talking about the real issues, the things the voters care about. And I think [the anti-gay tactics] are falling on deaf ears.

“The personal attacks just aren’t getting it any more,” he continued. “Voters in municipal elections are smart. They are concerned about the real issues, things like good streets, cutting down on crime and keeping the city safe, creating and keeping good neighbors. Those kinds of personal attacks just aren’t getting any traction with the voters.”

Hightower added, “People care about the issues. People are ready for a change, and we have given them something to vote for.”

Polls in Arlington will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

—  John Wright