Today marks the 15th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr.

JamesByrdJr.

James Byrd Jr.

Today is the 15th anniversary of the murder of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper. Three men picked Byrd up in a bar and after they left, beat him, hooked him by a chain to the back of their pickup and dragged him to his death. Because of the horrific nature of the crime, the story received international attention.

After Byrd’s death, Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby Executive Director Dianne Hardy Garcia met with the Byrd family. She had been working almost a decade tracking hate crimes, attending the trials of those indicted on murder charges in bias cases and lobbying the Legislature to enact a hate-crime penalty-enhancement law.

Hardy Garcia explained to the Byrds that a hate crime bill would pass if it didn’t include sexual orientation. Byrd’s mother asked if gays and lesbians were targets of hate crimes. Hardy Garcia showed her the statistics.

“No family should have to go through what my family went through,” Mrs. Byrd told Hardy Garcia.

The Byrds became staunch allies of the LGBT community and insisted sexual orientation remain in the bill.

Despite the national attention the Byrd case brought to Texas, the Legislature blocked any attempt to pass a hate crime bill in 1999 as Gov. George W. Bush campaigned for president.

However, the 2001 Texas Legislature passed the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Law and Gov. Rick Perry signed it into law. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed an LGBT-inclusive federal hate crimes law, called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The three men involved in the murder were arrested. Lawrence Brewer was executed. John William King is on death row. Shawn Berry is serving a life sentence.

Fox 26 Houston talked to members of the Byrd family and discussed the background of the murderers on the 10th anniversary of Byrd’s death:

—  David Taffet

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.

—  Dallasvoice

San Antonio man beaten unconscious in apparent anti-gay hate crime

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From left, Aurelio Huerta-Gonzalez, Filiberto Huerta-Gonzalez and Juan Huerta-Gonzalez.

San Antonio police arrested three brothers over the weekend for the brutal beating of their gay neighbor.

Juan Huerta-Gonzalez, 35, Aurelio Huerta-Gonzalez, 33, and Filiberto Huerta-Gonzalez, 30, allegedly beat their neighbor, 48, while he was doing laundry at their apartment complex, San Antonio’s KENS-5 reports.

The victim told police one of the three men called him a derogatory name in Spanish before one of them punched him in the face. The others then allegedly held him down, beating him until he was unconscious. He then called police when he woke up.

Aurelio Huerta-Gonzalez allegedly told officers that he didn’t like the victim looking at them all the time and calling him and his brothers “baby” and “sweet thing” all the time. He also said a fourth man punched the victim first because of the way he was looking at him and the brothers pulled the man off of him.

But the victim was only able to identify the three brothers and not the other man.

The men were charged with assault and police are investigating it as a hate crime.

—  Dallasvoice

Seagoville inmate gets 6 years for hate crime after assaulting gay inmate

jailcellAn inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Seagoville has been sentenced to six additional years under a federal hate crime law for assaulting a fellow gay inmate.

John Hall, 27, an Aryan Brotherhood member, had 71 months added on to his sentence Thursday by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor after he pleaded guilty to violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act on Nov. 8. He will serve the added time consecutively with the sentence he is currently serving.

Hall punched, kicked and stomped on the inmate’s faces several times and used a dangerous weapon while calling him homophobic slurs on Dec. 20, 2011, because he believed he was gay or involved in a asexual relationship with another inmate, according to a White House press release.

Hall beat the inmate until he lost consciousness, fracturing his eye socket and causing multiple lacerations to his face. He also lost a tooth and fractured other teeth.

After an investigation by the Dallas FBI division, Hall pleaded guilty to the biased assault in November.

“This prosecution sends a clear message that this office, in partnership with attorneys in the department’s Civil Rights Division, will prioritize and aggressively prosecute hate crimes and others civil rights violations in North Texas,” said U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña of the Northern District of Texas.

 

—  Dallasvoice

Crime Stoppers offers $5K reward for info on suspect in Mesquite hate crime

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Sondra Scarber, after an attack in a playground in Mesquite in February left her jaw detached

The North Texas Crime Commission is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest in the Feb. 17 attack on Sondra Scarber in Mesquite, according to Crime Stoppers spokesman Mike Pappas.

Resource Center Dallas Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said he contacted the North Texas Crime Commission to make them aware of the severity of the attack.

Scarber was attacked in playground by a father after she asked his 10-year-old son to stop bullying her 4-year-old. The suspect yelled anti-gay epithets as he threw Scarber to the ground before kicking her in the head and stomping her face. She suffered a badly dislocated jaw. Scarber’s partner, Hillary Causey, was untouched when the man fled with his four children and a woman.

The suspect is described as a black male, standing 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds. He was wearing a royal blue T-shirt and jeans. He drove away in a silver, early 2000s Chevy Impala with paper temporary tags.

Anyone with information may call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 877-373-8477 or Mesquite police at 972-216-6759.

Mesquite police spokesman Mike Hedgpeth said sometimes the reward motivates a reluctant witness to talk.

“Some people are motivated by money,” he said.

Scarber cheered when she heard the news that a reward was being offered.

“I hope he gets caught,” she said.

She said she’s begun eating some solid food and is feeling stronger today than yesterday.

 

—  David Taffet

Mesquite police ask for help identifying suspect in attack on lesbian

scarber.hate

Mesquite police are asking for the public’s help in tracking down the suspect who brutally assaulted a lesbian in an apparent anti-gay hate crime on a playground at Seabourn Elementary School on Feb. 17.

Sondra Scarber suffered a dislocated jaw when she was attacked by the suspect after she tried to stop his children from bullying her partner’s 4-year-old son.

The suspect is a black male, standing 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighing 185 pounds. He was wearing a royal blue T-shirt and jeans. He was with a woman and four children. He drove away in a silver, early 2000s Chevy Impala with paper temporary tags.

Anyone with information should call Mesquite police at 972-216-6759.


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—  David Taffet

Friends, neighbors help paint fence vandalized in anti-gay hate crime

Everman

Friends and neighbors participated in a fence painting party in Everman to cover anti-gay graffiti that was painted on the fence at the home of Justin Ryan Hudgins and Ben Allen.

The property was vandalized on Feb. 26 a week after they were turned away from renting a catering hall because they are gay.

First, the graffiti that said “Burn FAG” was turned into Born FABulous. But then the wood fence was painted white.

The police chief and the fire chief and his wife also stopped by to show their support. The police chief assured the couple that the department is keeping an eye on the house.

About 20 friends and neighbors helped with the painting. Hudgins said additional people who were walking or biking stopped when they saw the group painting —  withe some having a hot dog and a drink and painting for five or 10 minutes.

Hudgins said he doesn’t think the graffiti was connected to the catering hall incident.

“That’s more scary to think of someone tracking me down,” he said.

Among the people who helped paint was Fairness Fort Worth Treasurer David Mack Henderson.

“These guys are amazing at turning something sour into something sweet,” said Henderson.

Henderson said a straight couple from Plano came with their son to teach him a lesson in standing up for people and doing the right thing.

For more photos from the fence painting, check out WFAA’s report. 

—  David Taffet

Gay couple denied reception facility finds anti-gay graffiti on their fence

Burn fagA gay couple from Everman refused a rental space for their wedding reception last week had their property vandalized last night. Ben Allen and Justin Ryan Hudgins found “Burn FAG” spray-painted in black across their fence.

The couple lives in Everman, a town in Tarrant County located southeast of I-35W and I-20, less than 10 miles from Downtown Fort Worth.

Allen said it happened sometime after 7 p.m. last night. Everman police were called and promised extra patrols in the neighborhood for the next month.

The couple has been together eight years and bought the house two years ago. They haven’t had trouble in the past. Hudgins’s mother lives four blocks up the street. The daughter of the town’s mayor lives on their block.

After police took the report, Allen said they covered the graffiti with a blanket because there’s an elementary school across the street.

Allen said after he posted a Dallas Voice article about All Occasion Party Place refusing to rent them its facility because they are a same-sex couple on his Facebook page, a relative of the family that owns the venue began writing homophobic rants on his page.

“Good for them!!! Take your ass to San Fransisco. With the rest of the Californicators!!!!” wrote Cody Smith Sr.

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“No I’m not a homosexual!! I’m not a pole smoking, queer!!!” he also posted on Allen’s page.

Allen said he was terrified when he saw the graffiti.

“I don’t know how people would have gotten our address,” he said.

In previous news accounts in Dallas Voice and elsewhere, they were described as a Fort Worth couple. But he said he didn’t plan to keep quiet about the attack or the bigotry of the owners of All Occasions Party Place.

Allen said the response from the Everman police was excellent and said it helped that the city had an openly gay officer. He said he hoped the police would look into any connection between the vandalism of their property and the facility.

After the couple marries at a resort near Cancun in April, they still plan to have a local reception. Same-sex marriage has been legal in the state of Quintana Roo where Cancun is located since 2011.

Allen was contacted by someone from an Arlington hotel who read about their story in Dallas Voice and is trying to put together an extremely affordable reception for them.

—  David Taffet

Houston lesbian’s motorcycle covered with animal feces, urine in hate crime

A message was painted by Christy Stewart’s bike that read, “fuck you move your dike bike now.”

Claudia Friedman and Christy Stewart arrived at their Houston apartment complex Saturday night and found Stewart’s motorcycle covered in animal feces and urine.

Someone had painted “Fuck you move your dike bike now” on the concrete surrounding the bike. The bike cover was destroyed, but the bike was unharmed.

Stewart said she and Friedman left their apartment in the late afternoon to meet up with friends and returned to find the bike around 8 p.m. After having lived at the apartment for three years without any incidents, the couple was shocked by the vandalism.

Stewart said they reported the vandalism to Houston police, who are investigating it as a hate crime, but without surveillance cameras in the parking garage, the perpetrator is not likely to be found.

However, she said the writing looks like a female’s handwriting and she and her partner have some ideas of who is responsible based on past dirty looks at the complex.

“Without witnesses, no confrontations with anyone in the past, the police officer said there’s nothing we can do,” Stewart said.

—  Dallasvoice

Richland Hills woman charged with anti-gay hate crime dies

Wanda Derby

Wanda Derby, the 72-year-old Richland Hills woman charged with assaulting her gay neighbor, has died.

Derby had a court hearing Monday, Jan. 14. Christopher McGregor, the Tarrant County assistant district attorney assigned to Derby’s case, said he received her death certificate late last week. He said she passed away Nov. 25, but it takes a while before they notify the courts.

“Based on that, we have dismissed the assault cases against her,” he said.

—  Dallasvoice