Attorneys call charges against Scott Griggs ‘trumped up’

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Philip Kingston addresses rally outside Dallas City Hall

More than 100 people gathered at City Hall Plaza in downtown Dallas today (Saturday, May 2) to support Dallas City Councilman Scott Griggs who was charged on Friday with coercion by an elected official, a third degree felony that carries a punishment of 2 to 10 years in the state pen. Attorneys and supporters called the charges “ridiculous” and “trumped-up.”

Among the elected officials at City Hall to support Griggs were Councilmen Philip Kingston and Adam Medrano, former City Councilwoman Angela Hunt and County School Board member Omar Narvaez and County School Board President Larry Duncan. Griggs was not in attendance because he can’t speak about the case.

Griggs’ attorneys said Griggs passed a lie detector test this morning with “high” flying colors.

Griggs was asked if he ever threatened physical harm, if he ever said, “I’ll break your fucking fingers,” or if he received certain papers before a 1 p.m. deadline. He answered “No” to each question and the lie detector agreed he was telling the truth. His attorneys said that evidence and more will be turned over to District Attorney Susan Hawk this week and they will ask her to dismiss the case.

Larry Friedman, one of Griggs’ attorneys, said it was unprecedented for the mayor, police chief and city manager to each release a statement  about the allegations even before any charges were filed. He called the investigation “one-sided” and said he was told the charges were going to be misdemeanor, but the police chief told the press they would be felony.

Friedman said “the powers that be” were trying to silence Griggs on the toll road issue in the final week before the election. Griggs is running unopposed, but the mayor has an opponent and a number of races across south Dallas and East Dallas will be decided on the issue of the toll road.

Griggs is accused of yelling at the assistant city secretary, who apparently didn’t remember that he yelled at her for eight days. Two other witnesses still don’t remember him using threatening language. Only the assistant city secretary seems to remember being threatened.

Kingston and others at the rally said they have never heard the mild-mannered Griggs use “the f word” or ever use abusive or threatening language. Signs at the rally called Griggs “dedicated to integrity, transparency and anti-corruption.” Chants of “Stand with Scott” erupted through the event.

“The charges are a laugher,” Kingston said, “except the stakes are too high. I’m not laughing.”

Hunt said Griggs is being charged because he exposed the dangers of fracking, has stopped the toll road and is an opponent to the status quo.

More on this story on Monday, along with some of the emails Griggs demanded be released including those that showed the “Dream Team” design for the Trinity floodplain, recently passed by the City Council, has serious flaws.

—  David Taffet

See? You can be a more embarrassingly stupid governor than Rick Perry

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Greg Abbott pandering in fro0nt of the 11 Commandments monument at the state Capitol

The U.S. military is conducting regular military exercises in South Texas. That, of course, led to the conspiracy theorists gathering at town hall meetings and worrying that Obama was invading Texas and confiscating our guns. The exercise is dubbed “Jade Helm 15.”

Rather than ignore the people wearing tin foil hats, Gov. Greg Abbott is making a name for himself nationally by addressing the controversy and protecting the state from being overrun by putting the Texas State Guard on standby.

Progress Texas ran five headlines, including a plea from the newspaper that endorsed him, The Dallas Morning News: “Please don’t feed the conspiracy theorists, Gov. Abbott.”

Well, since Progress Texas ran its piece, the story has caught on across the country.

“U.S. military says it isn’t invading Texas, but Gov. Greg Abbott isn’t taking any chances,” reads the headline in The Birmingham News. Embarrassing when an Alabama newspaper is making fun of Texas.

Wait, it gets better. By the time Abbott gets through with his term, we won’t be able to proudly proclaim, “Thank God for Mississippi.”

Here’s a quote I got from Abbott about how he’s protecting the state (It’s embarrassingly from the Biloxi Sun-Herald. Yes, even Mississippi is in on the fun, but who can blame them?):

“It is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed,” Abbott wrote. “By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.”

Daily Beast headline: Texas Guv Surrenders to Conspiracy Nuts

Salon: Right-wing lunatics think the military is planning to invade Texas

Dallas Morning News: Ex-GOP lawmaker blisters Abbott for ‘pandering to idiots’ over military exercise

Wait, you endorsed him, right?

Well, Abbott has set the tone. It should be a fun four years covering him and his antics. You ever think you’d be saying these words? “Remember the good old days when Rick Perry was governor?”

—  David Taffet

Dallas Voice signed amicus brief

Editor’s note: This is a repost because Facebook glitch blocked our earlier post.

amicus briefEven though the hearing is over and an expected two month wait has begun, I just learned Dallas Voice signed an amicus brief to Obergefell v. Ohio, the marriage equality case.

The brief was signed by 379 business across the country. Dallas Voice is the only LGBT publication among the signers.

Major North Texas-based businesses on the list are American Airlines, AT&T and Kimberley-Clark. No, ExxonMobil, surprisingly, isn’t there.

Several other small businesses from the area are also among the signers including Law Office of Lorie L. Burch PC, David Mack Henderson Income Tax Preparation, Steve Graves Insurance Agency, Stonewall Behavioral Health and Uptown Physicians Group.

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce are two of several local LGBT chambers to sign.

No Texas sports franchises are includes. The New England Patriots is the only professional sports team listed.

The brief’s theme is business benefits from diversity.

“To reap the rewards of diversity, employers need to be able to recruit and retain top talent, in part though equitable and competitive benefits packages,” the brief states.

“Employees in same-sex relationships receive varying, if any, access to the rights, benefits and privileges that different-sex couples enjoy,” it says.

The brief concludes, “marriage discrimination injures amici’s [signers] businesses.

—  David Taffet

VIDEO: Resource Center breaks ground

In case you missed the Resource Center groundbreaking ceremony, Lambda Weekly video guru William “Doc” Dockery caught it on video. The new building will be at 5714 Cedar Springs Road, adjacent to Cathedral of Hope.

—  David Taffet

Dallas Voice signed amicus brief

amicus briefEven though the hearing is over and an expected two month wait has begun, I just learned Dallas Voice signed an amicus brief to Obergefell v. Ohio, the marriage equality case.

The brief was signed by 379 business across the country. Dallas Voice is the only LGBT publication among the signers.

Major North Texas-based businesses on the list are American Airlines, AT&T and Kimberley-Clark. No, ExxonMobil, surprisingly, isn’t there.

Several other small businesses from the area are also among the signers including Law Office of Lorie L. Burch PC, David Mack Henderson Income Tax Preparation, Steve Graves Insurance Agency, Stonewall Behavioral Health and Uptown Physicians Group.

The North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce are two of several local LGBT chambers to sign.

No Texas sports franchises are includes. The New England Patriots is the only professional sports team listed.

The brief’s theme is business benefits from diversity.

“To reap the rewards of diversity, employers need to be able to recruit and retain top talent, in part though equitable and competitive benefits packages,” the brief states.

“Employees in same-sex relationships receive varying, if any, access to the rights, benefits and privileges that different-sex couples enjoy,” it says.

The brief concludes, “marriage discrimination injures amici’s [signers] businesses.”

—  David Taffet

Phariss and Holmes get Capitol flag

Mark Phariss, left, and Vic Holmes

Mark Phariss, left, and Vic Holmes

How cool is this.

Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes, the Texas marriage equality plaintiffs from Plano, met with Tyler Moran, an aide to Sen. Harry Reid.  Phariss asked Moran if they could get the flag that would fly over the Capitol today, the day of the SCOTUS hearing.

Each day different flags are flown over the Capitol and they’re given to people to commemorate special events.

Phariss and Holmes just got word they’re getting the flag.

They’re flying back to Dallas tonight and they’ll be our guests on Lambda Weekly at 1 p.m. on Sunday on 89.3 KNON-fm.

—  David Taffet

Local attorney comments on Supreme Court hearing he attended

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Steve Rudner outside the U.S. Supreme Court

Steve Rudner, a local attorney and president of the Equality Texas Foundation board, was in the Supreme Court this morning (Tuesday, April 28) during oral arguments on marriage equality. He was admitted as a Supreme Court bar member, rather than having to stand in line as a member of the general public.

Rudner said watching Justice Anthony Kennedy was fascinating. Kennedy, who wrote the Windsor v. U.S. and Lawrence v. Texas opinions for the court, is widely expected to write the decision in this case as well.

Kennedy began his questioning by asking about changing the constitutional definition of marriage as a right two people have. He was worried about how fast change is made in social issues in the country.

Rudner said his believes the turning point was when Kennedy said the amount of time between Brown v. Board of Education case and Loving v. Virginia was the same amount of time as between Lawrence and this case. He said he thinks Kennedy answered his own question and he believes the right amount of time has passed.

Chief Justice Roberts may vote along with the majority, Rudner said, although the chief justice didn’t ask enough questions for Rudner to get a good sense of where he stood.

He thought one of the best comments was made by Justice Kagan who said the court defines constitutional rights and doesn’t decide who gets to exercise those rights.

Rudner said he despite the protesters outside the court, about 90 percent of those at the court building favored same-sex marriage and as many as 95 percent inside the court were on the side of equality.

—  David Taffet

The Turtle Creek Chorale is back and better than ever

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TCC Artistic Director Sean Baugh (photo H Henley)

Have you ever walked out of a Turtle Creek Chorale concert grinning from ear to ear and singing? Saturday night’s performance had people out of their seats cheering one of the best shows the group has ever performed.

And that’s wasn’t just me saying it. That was one person after another I heard after the show at City Performance Hall on Saturday.

The audience at Saturday night’s Britten, Beatles & Bond was clapping along from the opening Beatles number and not just cheering but giving standing ovations throughout the evening.

The reception was well deserved.

This was Artistic Director Sean Baugh’s first concert since being named permanently to the position. He’s been acting artistic director since last summer. This was also acting Executive Director Bruce Jaster’s first concert since taking the position earlier this year. May the two have a long and continued successful tenure together. They’re obviously the right combination the chorale needed.

Jaster, a former singer and board member, was at ease dressed as Sgt. Pepper — I think he was more Dr Pepper — and Baugh has gotten better and better with each concert he’s conducted this season. He’s made that stage his own in less a full season on stage. All the fun the audience remembers from a Tim Seelig concert is back and Baugh’s breadth of music knowledge is apparent from the minute he picks up his baton through his final bow.

If you’ve ever been a Turtle Creek Chorale fan but have stayed away lately, it’s time to give the Chorale another look. There’s another concert this weekend called Musica de Mayo at 7:30 p.m. on May 2 the Latino Cultural Center.

Featuring small ensembles and soloists from the chorale, the Hotchkiss Elementary School Choir and Mi Diva Loca, the sizzling music celebrates Latino culture and heritage just in time for Cinco de Mayo. The evening honors Sheriff Lupe Valdez. Tickets are $25-35 and available online.

Turtle-ly 80s on June 12-14 celebrates the chorale’s founding decade of teased hair, baggy pants and more and is a chance to sing along with those 150 or more fabulous voices. Tickets for that performance are available here.

—  David Taffet

Two ways to help with Nepal disaster relief

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Shannon Shepard, left, in Haiti in 2011 building houses with Habitat for Humanity

Over the weekend, an earthquake hit Nepal and at least 3,600 are believed dead at this time.

Here’s a way to help.

Shannon “Shep” Shepard is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. He’s done a number of local builds in the U.S. and spent time in Haiti after their earthquake on a build with Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter. When he lived in Dallas, Shep was a member of Congregation Beth El Binah, a volunteer at Ranch Hand Rescue and a producer of Robert Camina’s film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge as well as his upcoming Upstairs Inferno.

Shep works for Microsoft and was transferred several years ago from the Irving office to Seattle. His fundraising page indicates he’s still raising the $5,000 to participate in this build. He told me this morning he’s already paid for his trip and anything raised now will go directly to Habitat for Humanity to help with immediate needs.

His trip is scheduled for Nov. 1 when there will still be a need for housing. Recovery from a devastating disaster takes years. Obviously, with the current situation, the need for housing has suddenly grown exponentially. I can think of no other organization better prepared to provide housing than Habitat for Humanity.

Shep has been working on raising money for this build for over a year. I know him personally, and I know that he funds the cost of his trips himself. His volunteer work helps give people their lives back.

By the way, he’d hate this kind of coverage, which is why I’m not telling him I’m making this appeal until after it’s out there.

Here’s another suggestion for donating to Nepal disaster relief:

An LGBT organization that will get your money directly to those doing relief work is The Rainbow Fund. Founded in 2000, Rainbow World Fund is the world’s first and only all-volunteer, LGBT-based humanitarian aid organization. All money donated to The Rainbow Fund goes directly toward relief work and no money toward administrative costs.

—  David Taffet