Where crimes happened in Oak Lawn in January

Nancy Weinberger, leader of the Oak Lawn Stakeholders crime watch group, sent out these handy-dandy maps today (click to enlarge) showing where offenses took place in January 2012. Weinberger said Chief Malik Aziz, who’s over DPD’s Northwest Division, will be the crime watch group’s featured speaker during its regular meeting next week, at noon Wednesday at the Oak Lawn Library Branch.

—  John Wright

Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas

Lawrence

John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90′s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

—  admin

Iconic LGBT activist Ray Hill files for Texas House seat

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

Long time Houston LGBT activist Ray Hill filed paperwork this week to run for the 147th Texas House seat against incumbent Garnet Coleman, D – Houston. The iconic (and iconoclastic) Hill said that he and Coleman agree on many issues but that he had “some issues  that aren’t on the table in Austin.”

Specifically Hill has concerns with the legislature’s approach to criminal justice issues. “The Texas legislature is a serial world class red-necking competition,” says Hill. “What they are doing on criminal justice is wrong and it doesn’t work… we need a serious rethink.”

Coleman has a strong history of supporting LGBT legislation. For the last three sessions he has attempted to pass anti-bullying legislation that would require school districts to report instances of bullying using an enumerated list of motivating characteristics that include both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, he has also filed legislation to remove the the crime of “homosexual conduct” from the Texas penal code (a law that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), to equalize age of consent laws in Texas and to add gender identity and expression to the state’s hate crime law. In the 82nd legislature earlier this year Coleman authored seven pieces of legislation designed to create greater equality for LGBT people, including the first ever filing of legislation to standardize change of gender marker procedures for the transgender community and the first effort to repeal the state’s constitutional prohibition against marriage equality.

Hill recognizes Coleman’s historic contributions, “The incumbent and I agree on a lot of issues,” says Hill, “but we don’t tell young gay people ‘if you work real hard and go to school and do your best you can grow up to have straight friends in Austin who like you.’ No, we tell them ‘if you work hard they can grow up to be Mayor of Houston, or City Supervisor of San Francisco.’”

When asked why the community would be better served by him than Coleman, a 20 year legislative veteran, Hill replies “I understand how government works. A freshman legislator can’t do anything more than irritate, but that’s about all any member of the minority party can do. On that level the incumbent and I are on the same level… I think we need somebody obnoxious [in the legislature] who’s going to purposefully rub the cat hair the wrong direction.”

Since being elected to the legislature for the first time in 1992 Coleman has been unopposed in 5 of his 9 primary reelection bids. No primary challenger to Coleman has pulled more than 21% of the vote.

—  admin

Putting our children at risk

David Webb
The Rare Reporter

Child sexual abuse a concern for everyone, especially LGBT parents

Most people would probably agree there is no resource that a society cherishes more than its children. So it is hard to fathom how sexual predators manage with such apparent ease to carry out horrendous, undetected assaults on children practically under the noses of their families and others who are charged with their protection.

As horrific as the crime of child sexual abuse is, there are no firm estimates of its prevalence because it often goes undetected and is seriously underreported, according to agencies that study child abuse.

Less than 100,000 crimes of sexual abuse are reported each year because children fear telling anyone, and adults who become aware of the activity are often reluctant to contact law enforcement agencies, even though there is usually a legal requirement to do so.

With so many LGBT households now raising children, it is obviously vital that all parents be aware of the tactics used by sexual predators to seduce children without arousing the suspicion of their families, and aware of the symptoms victims of child sexual abuse exhibit.

The critical need for sustained intervention into child sexual abuse recently gained national attention following a grand jury’s indictment of retired Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of child sex abuse involving eight victims over a 15-year period. The victims reportedly came into contact with the now 67-year-old, married Sandusky in connection with the Second Mile, a children’s charity the former football coach founded.

Although Sandusky denied, this week in an NBC interview, engaging in any type of sexual activity with the pre-pubescent boys, he acknowledged showering and “horsing around” with them after exercise. He also admitted hugging young boys and putting his hand on their legs when they sat next to him.

His admissions shocked viewers and confirmed in many minds what was already suspected — Sandusky is most likely a pedophile that has taken advantage of young boys with the unwitting complicity of their families.

It is a devastating scandal that will likely rival the one that rocked the Catholic Church a decade ago when it became known that untold numbers of Catholic Church priests sexually abused young boys and violated the trust of their families.

If the charges against Sandusky are true, the accounts by the victims portray a classic pattern of enticement and betrayal practiced by the former football coach in his pursuit of the young boys. Likewise, the lack of action by those who knew about Sandusky’s alleged criminal activity parallel what often happens when the abuser commands power and respect in a community.

Much of the difficulty in combating child sexual abuse can be attributed to its relative youth in terms of public awareness about the crime. The first studies on the molestation of children began in the 1920s, and the first estimate of the prevalence of the crime was reported in 1948.

In 1974 the National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect was founded, and the Child Abuse and Treatment Act was created. Since then, awareness about the problem has grown dramatically, and much more is known about deterring the crime and assisting victims of it.

Children’s advocates have identified “red flags” to help parents and others protect children from sexual predators. They warn parents to be wary of someone who wants to spend more time with their children than they do, who attempts to be alone with a child, who frequently seeks physical closeness to a child such as hugging or touching, who is overly interested in the sexuality of a child, who seems to prefer the company of children to people their own age, who lacks boundaries, who regularly offers to babysit,who often gives presents or  money to children, who frequently walks in on children in bathrooms or locker rooms, who frequents parks where children gather, who makes inappropriate comments about a child’s appearance or who likes to photograph children.

Signs of possible sexual abuse in children include a fear of people, places or activities, reluctance to undress, disturbed sleep, mood swings, excessive crying, fear of being touched, loss of appetite, a drastic change in school performance, bizarre themes in drawing, sexually acting out on other children, advanced sexual knowledge, use of new words for private body parts and a reversion to old behavior such as bedwetting or thumb sucking.

Aside from the moral responsibility to protect children and other weaker members of society that all people share, it is essential to intervene in child sexual abuse because of the long-lasting psychological damage it usually causes. The problems can include feelings of worthlessness, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and distorted views of sexuality.

Also, victims of child sexual abuse tend to become sexual predators as adults, making it a crime that begets more crime.

The Sandusky scandal will undoubtedly lead to devastating repercussions for Penn State, for the Second Mile charity with which the former football coach is no longer affiliated and for law enforcement and university officials who became aware of concerns about the former football coach’s activities and failed to act on them.

But the real tragedy — if the allegations are true — will be the lasting impact upon the victims.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.        

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 18, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

BREAKING: Pedestrian critically injured by hit-and-run driver on Cedar Springs strip

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post stated that the pedestrian was struck in the lighted crosswalk at 3900 Cedar Springs Road, at the intersection of westbound Reagan Street. According to police, the pedestrian was actually struck in the non-lighted crosswalk at 3850 Cedar Springs Road, which is at the intersection of eastbound Reagan Street.

A pedestrian crossing Cedar Springs Road was critically injured Thursday night when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver near the crosswalk at 3850 Cedar Springs Road, at the intersection of Reagan Street eastbound. There is only a painted crosswalk on the street and no traffic signals or lights at the intersection, near Thai Lotus Restaurant and the Drama Room.

Wayne Earl Priest, 55, who lives in the 2800 block of Reagan Street, was crossing Cedar Springs Road eastbound shortly after 9 p.m., according to a police report. A witness saw Priest “walking outside of the northern portion of the crosswalk by about 2 feet and then stop in the left lane near the double yellow lines.”

The witness said the suspect’s vehicle exited a private drive to the north and began traveling southbound on Cedar Springs, the report states. The front left side of the suspect’s vehicle struck the left side of Priest. The impact was so severe that it caused Priest’s shoe to fly off and strike the witness’ vehicle. Another witness told police he was “not totally certain” whether Priest was in the crosswalk at the time of the collision.

Priest was taken to Parkland hospital in critical condition. The suspect who struck Priest failed to stop and render aid or leave his information. A description of the suspect’s vehicle was not available.

UPDATE:

Lt. Scott Bratcher of the Dallas Police Department’s Traffic Division said the suspect’s vehicle is described only as a maroon four-door.

“Right now we’re looking for anybody who’s seen anything or knows anything to call our Vehicle Crimes Unit,” Bratcher said Friday afternoon. “That’s usually how we end up solving these things.”

The number for DPD’s Vehicle Crimes Unit is 214-670-5817.

Bratcher said he had no update on Priest’s condition.

—  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

Trio robbed at gunpoint in Office Depot parking lot early Sunday after visiting Cedar Springs

The parking lot of Office Depot on Oak Lawn Avenue — a popular place for Cedar Springs club-goers to park after hours — has also become a hotspot for criminal activity.

In the latest incident, three people from East Texas were robbed at gunpoint and carjacked early Sunday in the lot at 2929 Oak Lawn Ave., near the intersection of Dickason Avenue.

According to police reports, it was at least the fourth aggravated robbery in the Office Depot parking lot in the last three months. Reports show there have also been numerous vehicle break-ins and other offenses reported during the same time period.

“We’ve definitely had a problem at that location,” said Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer.

In the latest case, the three victims had returned to their vehicle at about 3 a.m. Sunday when the two suspects pulled up behind them in a white Dodge Avenger, according to reports. The suspects, described as two black males wearing hooded sweatshirts, got out, pointed handguns at two of the victims who were standing in the parking lot and said, “Get on the ground, give me your money.”

—  John Wright

Oak Lawn is now officially lit up

Jared Pearce

Back in July we told you that the Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats had finally convinced the city to install 45 new streetlights in the Oak Lawn area, in response to the group’s Light Up Oak Lawn safety campaign.

This morning, DSYD President Jared Pearce informs Instant Tea that he’s received word from the city that all of the new streetlights have now been installed.

“We are excited that, after much time was spent evaluating the need, conducting resarch, auditing the neighborhood and working with our elected leaders and city officials, we are able to finally see the results of what DSYD started a year and a half ago and, most importantly, a safer community in which we can all live and play,” Pearce said.

—  John Wright

Victim says robbery suspect asked directions to JR.’s, but police call report ‘very shaky’

Earlier we reported that undercover officers working the area of Douglas and Congress in Oak Lawn ended up capturing a murder suspect last week. Laura Martin, LGBT liaison officer for the Dallas Police Department, told us plainclothes officers have been assigned to the area regularly in response to “issues with robberies.” And, according to police reports, another aggravated robbery took place two nights later and two blocks away — at Congress and Throckmorton. However, a police spokesman on Tuesday questioned the validity of the report, saying the victim waited 19 hours to file it and only did so because he needed it for his lost phone.

The victim, a 20-year-old Latin male, told police that he and a friend were walking from their parked vehicle toward the nightclubs on Cedar Springs in the 2800 block of Throckmorton at about 12:45 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24. That’s when the two suspects approached and asked for directions to JR.’s. The suspects said they were visiting from New Orleans and hinted that they were performers of some type, according to a police report.

As they crossed Congress on Throckmorton, one of the suspects pushed the victim into a secluded area off the sidewalk, pointed a handgun at him and stated: “You know what this is. Give me everything in your pockets.” The victim handed over his cell phone and wallet, and the suspect reached into his back pocket and removed some cash. The victim told police he believed the other suspect was robbing his friend at the same time.

Sr. Cpl. Kevin Janse, a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department, said Tuesday afternoon there have been no arrests in the case. Asked whether the victim’s friend ever contacted police, Janse said: “No, his whole story was very shaky. He waited 19 hours to call us only after his cell phone company said he needed a report for his lost phone. The witness was never heard from.”

—  John Wright

Drunken driver jumps curb on Cedar Springs and strikes hot dog vendor, breaking his leg

A Cedar Springs Road hot dog vendor suffered a broken leg early Saturday when he was struck by a drunken driver whose vehicle jumped a curb near Reagan Street, according to Dallas police.

The driver, 27-year-old Thomas David Morgan, was arrested and charged with intoxication assault, a third-degree felony.

Morgan, driving a silver 2004 Pontiac Grand Am, was eastbound on Reagan Street approaching Cedar Springs at about 12:30 a.m., according to a police report. He turned when it was unsafe, veered to the left and jumped the curb. His vehicle collided with a metal post, the hot dog stand and the vendor.

Morgan told police he fell asleep at the light before turning left into the hot dog vendor, but the report notes that there are no signal lights at the intersection. An officer at the scene determined that Morgan was under the influence of alcohol.

One witness heard the vehicle coming and jumped out of the way, while two others saw Morgan approaching and ran, the police report states.

The hot dog vendor was taken to Parkland to be treated for a broken left fibula.

—  John Wright