Buice to remain in prison after parole board reverses decision

Man convicted of 1991 gay-bashing murder of Paul Broussard won’t be up for parole again until next year

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor

The Texas Pardons and Parole Board this week reversed its earlier decision to release convicted gay basher Jon Buice from prison.

Buice, convicted of the 1991 murder of Paul Broussard in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood, was originally sentenced in May 1992 to 45 years in prison, and has served 19 years of that sentence.
He was one of 10 young men from The Woodlands, a northern suburb of Houston, convicted in the killing and is the only one of the 10 still in prison.

The parole board on July 1 this year had approved Buice for release on Oct. 1. Andy Kahan, victims’ advocate for the city of Houston, said Tuesday that the board reversed its decision based on “new information that had not been introduced in his [Buice’s] previous four or five parole hearings. Also the Harris County district attorney weighed in on the case, and that had not been previously done.”

Kahan said he was “not at liberty to divulge” the nature of that new information. But he did say that the information “had nothing at all to do” with allegations that Buice had engaged in an illicit affair with a female prison chaplain while in prison in Huntsville in 2010.

While Texas Department of Corrections officials would not confirm that Buice and the chaplain had engaged in a sexual relationship, the chaplain was disciplined and later fired. Buice also received disciplinary action and was moved to a different prison.

Rissie Owens, presiding officer of the parole board, confirmed in a press release that the reversal was based on new information.

Buice will remain in prison for at least one more year before his request for parole can be reconsidered.

Broussard’s mother, Nancy Rodriguez, speaking by phone Tuesday from her home in Georgia, said she was notified of the decision that morning when Houston’s victims’ services office called her.

She has traveled to Texas each time any of the men convicted in connection with her son’s murder has gone to trial or had a parole hearing, and she said she will be back next year when Buice’s parole request is reconsidered.

“I will start getting ready for the next one [parole hearing] as soon as I get the letter saying he’s up for parole again, maybe in March or April of next year,” Rodriguez said. “I just don’t feel he has changed. He’s never shown any remorse. … My son did not deserve to die that way; nobody deserves that. I am concerned he [Buice] will go out and do something else to someone else.”

According to testimony during the trials, Buice and the nine other young men — all but one of whom were teenagers — had been drinking and doing drugs when they went to Montrose, the city’s gay neighborhood, on the night of July 3, 1991. When they saw Broussard and two other men walking home from one of the area’s gay nightclubs, the youths began to shout insults at them.

The 10 youths then got out of their vehicles and attacked the three gay men. The other two men managed to escape and run away, but Broussard was cornered by the gang. He was punched, kicked with steel-toed boots, hit with a nail-studded board and stabbed three times.

The Harris County Medical Examiner determined that it was the stab wounds — which Buice admitted in court that he had inflicted — that killed Broussard.

Ray Hill of Houston, an advocate on gay rights and prisoners rights, was one of the activists who organized rallies and protest in the days following Broussard’s murder, intending to focus public attention on the anti-gay hate aspects of the killing and prompt authorities to investigate thoroughly.

In the years since, however, Hill has become friends with Buice and is one of his most vocal supporters in his efforts to get parole. Hill said this week he is “very disappointed” in the parole board’s decision.

He described Buice as a “model prisoner” who has earned two bachelor’s degrees and hours toward a master’s degree while behind bars, and he said he believes it was “political interference” that prompted the parole board to reverse its decision.

State Sen. John Whitmire and state Rep. Garnet Coleman, Houston Democrats, both spoke out against Buice’s parole, sending letters to and calling the parole board. Hill said this week that the legislators’ actions were unethical and that he intends to file a complaint against them both.

But Kahan, who has worked with Rodriguez on the case for the last 19 years, said that Hill is wrong. “Frankly, he’s made Nancy’s [Rodriguez’s] life a living hell,” Kahan said of Hill.

“Nancy has always maintained that Jon Buice should serve a minimum of 27 years behind bars, because that’s how long Paul [Broussard] lived,” Kahan said. “If he [Buice] had not taken out his knife and stabbed Paul, Paul would have been injured but he would still be alive. That’s what it all boils down to. He took Paul Broussard’s life, and the only recourse we have to punish him for that is to keep him in prison.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

School district blames Asher Brown’s suicide on problems at home, not anti-gay bullying

The Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District on Friday released preliminary findings from its investigation into the suicide of Asher Brown, the gay 13-year-old whose parents say he was “bullied to death.” Once again, the district is denying that it ever received any complaints about bullying from Asher’s parents. Instead, the district’s findings insinuate that problems at home led to Asher’s suicide. Here are the district’s findings, according to KHOU.com:

• Upon enrollment, his mother reported his personal history, which included post-traumatic stress disorder. • Asher had established relationships and accessed both his sixth-and seventh-grade counselors.

• His recent academic progress report reflected all A’s in his classes and his class conduct was excellent.

• Prior to Asher Brown’s death, the parents made no contact with the school regarding concerns of bullying.

• Although the campus did not receive concerns from the family regarding bullying, his mother contacted his counselor approximately two weeks prior to his death requesting assistance from school staff members in monitoring Asher’s behavior due to a significant emotional struggle within the family. Asher’s counselor alerted all his teachers and assistant principal of their family’s situation.

• The following week, an assistant principal followed up with Asher’s mother by phone.

• District administrators have been unable to substantiate specific instances of alleged bullying of Asher; however, some student information indicates a perception that Asher was mistreated by classmates, but those concerns were not reported.

As it turns out, Cy-Fair ISD spokeswoman Kelli Durham is married to an assistant principal at Asher’s school — a possible conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos says she is “very concerned” about whether bullying led to Asher’s suicide. Lykos’ office is looking into whether there were instances of “egregious conduct” before his death.

Services for Asher were set for 10 a.m. Saturday, and those attending were encouraged to wear shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops, which his family said is how he would have wanted it.

—  John Wright

Harris County prosecutors want to know what led to the suicide of gay 13-year-old Asher Brown

This just in from The Associated Press:

HOUSTON — Prosecutors said Friday they will look into what led to the suicide of a 13-year-old Houston boy whose parents say was relentlessly bullied at his middle school for two years because of his religion and sexual orientation.

Asher Brown’s parents, who claim school officials ignored their pleas for help, said they hope “justice will be served” by the investigation by the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

“Once they find out what’s been hidden, we would want the people responsible to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Brown’s stepfather, David Truong.

Read the full story here.

—  John Wright