Charges dropped against gay man who claims he was fleeing hate crime

Justin York’s arm a few days after the Oct. 6 incident at Southwest Auto Tow. He said he suffered a concussion and a dislocated jaw.

Dallas police have dropped charges against a gay man who was arrested for robbery after fleeing what he alleged was an anti-gay hate crime.

Justin York was arrested Oct. 6 after he ran his vehicle into a metal gate trying to leave Southwest Auto Tow. York told Instant Tea he was trying to run from being assaulted by two men at the towing company.

Police arrested York for robbery and later changed the charges to criminal mischief because the company dropped the assault charges.

York told Instant Tea that all of the charges have now been dropped because the company’s insurance is paying for the damage to the gate.

However, York said he still plans to file a police report and press charges against the two men at the towing company, who he said assaulted him and called him anti-gay slurs, prompting him to run to his car and drive through the gate.

—  Anna Waugh

Gay Dallas man arrested for robbery says he was fleeing hate crime

Justin York’s arm a few days after the incident at Southwest Auto Tow. He said he suffered a concussion and a dislocated jaw.

A Dallas gay man claims he was the victim of a hate crime while trying to retrieve his items from a towing company on Oct. 6.

Justin York said he was moving into an apartment when his car and his friend’s car were towed in the early hours of Saturday, Oct. 6. He said his landlord hadn’t processed their vehicle information yet, so the towing was a misunderstanding.

York and his friend went to Southwest Auto Tow, at 11211 Goodnight Lane, to get items out of their cars around 5 a.m. He said he didn’t want to pay $200 to get his car back since it was towed because of a mistake by his landlord.

York said he turned on his car for heat because of the chilly weather that weekend. A few minutes later, he said he saw two men at the company pick up his friend’s car with a wrecker while the friend was still inside and begin to swing the car from side to side. York said he left his car running and ran toward the men to stop them.

He said they then punched him in the head and his friend ran off. He said one of the men sat on him while the other kicked him repeatedly and yelled anti-gay slurs and comments about gay sex. He fought back to protect himself.

“I may be gay, but I’m still a man no matter how feminine I am, so I fought back,” he said. “I literally started whooping his ass with my purse.”

—  Anna Waugh

Study shows high rate of discrimination against transgender people in Texas

Mara Keisling

Transgender Texans generally face even higher levels of discrimination than transgender people nationwide, according to a state-level breakout from a national study conducted last year.

Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas released the state-level figures Tuesday from the study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality. The full national study is available online, and results from the Texas study are below. The national study included 266 Texas respondents.

In Texas, transgender people faced higher rates of harassment and assault in school. Nationally, 78 percent reported being harassed, but in Texas 85 percent faced harassment. Physical assault was also higher in the state at 46 percent compared to 35 percent nationally. Sexual assault in school was comparable at 12 percent nationally and 9 percent in Texas.

Texas doesn’t have LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination or anti-bullying laws. The state’s hate crimes law covers gays and lesbians but not transgender people.

Equality Texas called the rates of workplace discrimination in the state “alarming.” Chuck Smith, Equality Texas interim executive director, said the report graphically demonstrates the discrimination faced by transgender Texans.

“In our state, where the right of self-determination is so valued, it is unconscionable that anyone would be denied the ability to earn a living, to live where they choose or to be educated,” Smith said. “Equality Texas calls on the members of the Texas Legislature to join us in working to ensure that all Texans are given the ability to live as their authentic selves.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said some states have made a lot of progress toward ensuring safety, jobs and homes for transgender people. But she said “this research points out persistent gaps in the fair and equal treatment of transgender people.”

According to the report:

—  David Taffet

Bartender suffers fractured eye socket in attack outside Rainbow Lounge

Adam Granados

A bartender at the Rainbow Lounge said he was attacked in the parking lot of the Fort Worth gay bar early Monday.

Adam Granados said he’d just gotten off work and was in the parking lot at about 1:15 a.m. when he was attacked from behind.

“Someone hit me in the back of the head and knocked me down,” Granados said. “When I got up, he hit me in the face.”

Granados, who suffered severe cuts and a hairline fracture to his eye socket, said he doesn’t know if the incident was a hate crime, a simple assault or an attempted robbery. He doesn’t remember the assailant saying anything. Since the attack occurred at the end of Fort Worth’s gay Pride weekend, and he was wearing a Pride T-shirt outside a gay bar, he said he may have been targeted for his sexual orientation.

Fort Worth police spokeswoman Sharon Neal said the incident isn’t being investigated as a hate crime because no epithets were spoken and no evidence such as spray-painted slurs was left, although she said hate may have been the motive. No suspects or witnesses have come forward.

On Saturday, two protesters were arrested at the Pride parade in downtown Fort Worth. No other incidents related to Pride were reported.

Granados said the attacker tried to grab his phone but didn’t get it. He doesn’t know whether the suspect was trying to steal the phone or prevent him from calling for help. The attacker fled by car as Granados made it back inside the bar.

Someone in the Rainbow Lounge called 911. Granados filed a police report and was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital.

A CT scan revealed a hairline fracture under his eye socket. He needed two stitches on the corner of his eye and three under his eye. He also suffered scrapes and bruises. Today, he said, he has been able to open his eye slightly.

Anyone with information about the incident should contact the Fort Worth Police Department at 817-335-4222.

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Surveillance video of Austin hate crime during Pride weekend

The man pictured in the center with a baseball cap and glasses is the attacker Austin police are still trying to identify.

Austin police released surveillance footage this morning of an assault on two gay men during Austin Pride weekend on Sept. 21.

The video shows Nick Soret ordering pizza when a man speaks to him, then knocks his pizza out of his hands. His friend, Andrew Oppleman, intervene and the suspect begins punching Oppleman. Oppleman lost six teeth and suffered a fractured jaw in the attack.

The video was obtained from the pizza truck owner.

The video shows another man who walks up with the attacker. Police arrested Jin Yung Park, 31, that night for public intoxication, but since the incident, he has moved and hasn’t returned police phone calls, Austin’s KVUE reports.

The attacker is described as an Asian male in his late 20s or early 30s and is about 6 feet tall with a muscular build.

Police are still looking for witnesses and are investigating the incident as an anti-gay hate crime.

“It’s crucial. The high-quality security video shows the assault as plain as day,” APD Cpl. Anthony Hipolito told KVUE. “You can see it even though it is dark outside. The assault was clear. You can see who this guy is.”

GetEQUAL TX is planning a March Against Hate event tomorrow morning where participants will march to the state Capitol and hear from victims of hate crimes, including Oppleman.

Watch the video below.

—  Anna Waugh

Teens won’t face hate crime prosecution for anti-gay graffiti in Arlington

Four teens who were arrested in June for a graffiti spree in an Arlington neighborhood and painted anti-gay remarks on a lesbian couple’s SUV won’t be prosecuted for a hate crime.

Daniel Sibley, 18, John Austin Cartwright, 17, Seth Stephen Hatcher, 18, and Morgen Rae Aubuchon, 18, were indicted Sept. 25 for a state jail felony of graffiti causing $1,500 to $20,000 in damage. The fifth person believed to be involved was a 16-year-old girl. She will undergo a process for juveniles.

Kim Lovering and her partner’s vehicles had “queer and faggot” spray-painted on them alongside a decal showing two moms with a child and pet, shown above.

Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Betty Arvin, who is the prosecutor for the four adult cases, said the incident of anti-gay graffiti could have been separated and charged as a misdemeanor. But the DA’s office instead chose to combine the cases — which include 13 individual incidents involving public signs, garage doors and vehicles — to obtain a state jail felony charge.

“We felt like we would have more flexibility and more options if we aggregated the cases so that’s what we did,” Ardin said. “But for a hate crime you’ve got to prove that the people involved specifically targeted a person or their property due to together their sexual orientation or their race, and we suspect it but we can’t prove that. Well, we certainly can’t prove it on all 13. … We can’t prove it on all of them and keep it a felony.”

The punishment for a state jail felony is 180 days to two years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. Ardin said if bias could have been proven in all the cases, the hate crime enhancement would have made the cases a third-degree felony and, if convicted, the teens could’ve faced two to 10 years behind bars in addition to the fine.

The four indicted have court dates scheduled for Oct. 24, but Ardin said their cases are still being processed so she is unsure when a trial date will be set.

—  Anna Waugh

Rally for victim of anti-gay hate crime in Austin rescheduled for this weekend

A forecast of heavy rain and flooding in Austin this past weekend forced GetEQUAL TX to postpone a March Against Hate event for a victim of an anti-gay hate crime.

The event has been moved to Saturday, Oct. 6. Those who attend will still meet at Austin City Hall at 11:45 a.m. and march to the Capitol at noon, followed by remarks by several speakers.

Among those speakers will be Andrew Oppleman, a gay man who attended Austin Pride with a friend and was beaten when he tried to protect his friend from the attacker.

Speakers may be added to the schedule because of the changed date. Check here for updates.

—  Anna Waugh

72-year-old woman faces hate crime enhancement for choking gay neighbor

Wanda Derby

A Richland Hills woman has been indicted for the assault of her gay neighbor after she allegedly beat and choked him with her cane while screaming “faggot” back in March.

Wanda Jena Derby, 72, became upset when her adult son began moving in with neighbor Lloyd Guerrero and his family on March 28, Richland Hills police Detective Tye Bell said previously. She allegedly approached Guerrero and beat him with her cane, yelling “faggot” and trying to choke him.

Bell said Derby told police she was afraid Guerrero would give her son AIDS because he was gay.

Guerrero suffered bruises to his body and neck but was treated at the scene by police.

Derby was initially charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony, but was indicted Sept. 14 on a charge of assault causing bodily injury, a Class-A misdemeanor.

Christopher McGregor, the assistant district attorney assigned to the case, said Derby’s case was presented to the grand jury as a felony, but they returned it as a misdemeanor indictment.

McGregor said the language in the indictment was used to try to convince a jury that the assault was a hate crime, which could increase Derby’s sentence.

According to the indictment, Derby caused bodily injury to Guerrero “by hitting him with a cane or by hitting him with her hand, or by pinning his neck to a wall with a cane.”

The indictment also states that Derby “intentionally selected Lloyd Guerrero as the victim of the offense” because of her “bias or prejudice against a person or a group, namely: Homosexuals.”

Texas’ hate crimes statute doesn’t allow a misdemeanor to be enhanced to a felony, but would require a minimum of 180 days in jail. Punishment for a Class A misdemeanor is up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, according to the Texas Penal Code.

Derby faces another misdemeanor assault charge for allegedly striking Guerrero’s mother when she tried to intervene in the attack. A pre-trial conference for both cases is scheduled for Oct. 31.

Guerrero told Instant Tea that he’s healed emotionally since the March assault and no longer harbors angry feelings toward Derby. He and his family moved out of the apartment complex within a week of the attack, he said.

He said 180 days in jail as a minimum punishment if Derby is convicted is a good thing, and he agrees that amount of time is enough for justice to be served and Derby to learn her lesson.

“Even though she did something terrible, people make mistakes. It’s not something she should ever be happy about,” he said. “I’m to the point where I can forgive her.”

Guerrero is focusing on getting his Project: Blue Voice organization classified as a nonprofit. He started the group after his hate crime attack to share the stories of others who have been attacked for being who they are. He said he’s already planning to visit schools in the coming months to start a dialogue about hate and bullying.

—  Anna Waugh

Austin rally for anti-gay hate crime victim planned for Saturday

GetEQUAL TX is holding a March Against Hate event in Austin on Saturday for one of the victims of an anti-gay hate crime last Friday.

Andrew Oppleman was ordering pizza at a food truck during Austin Pride with friend Nick Soret when a man began asking Soret if he was looking at him. The man became enraged and attacked Soret, so Oppleman stepped in.

Oppleman was hit so hard six of his teeth were knocked out and it was believed he would need oral surgery for his fractured jaw. Austin police are investigating it as a possible hate crime.

Oppleman will talk about his experience at the event, which begins at 11:45 a.m. Saturday at Republic State Park. Attendees will then march to the Capitol at noon and listen to speeches at 12:30 p.m.

Other speakers include Michael Diviesti of GetEQUAL TX, Chuck Smith of Equality Texas, Paul Huddleston of Austin Pride, Sami-Di Williams of Grrlz Will Be Boiz, as well as victims and community members.

Oppleman’s story, as told in the press release announcing the event, is below:

My name is Andrew Oppleman and this is my story…

Little did I know, last Friday night Sept 22th 2012, I’d be changed forever.

I was in town for Austin Pride. It was one of my many trips to enjoy all that Austin has to offer; great entertainment, outdoor recreation and most of all the people; laid back and easy going. My welcome started like this…My buddy Nick Soret was ordering pizza at 4th and Colorado at about midnight as I just arrived from a 3 hour drive from Houston. As I waited for Nick to grab his pizza and leave, another patron started screaming at Nick “What are you looking at?” over and over again. As he grabbed Nick’s hot pizza and threw it on Nick’s face, arm and body the man proceeded to start punching him. I immediately tried to quell the suspects rage and told the man to “STOP HITTING MY FRIEND!” With that he turned around and pushed me down into the construction on the street. I got up and as I turned back to the Pizza Truck I was immediately met with the amazing force of his fist hitting me square in the mouth. I then saw the man wildly punching Nick’s skull, and body as Nick fell to the ground in a fetal position trying to protect his face and head. As quickly as it started the suspect ran away, while his friend who is an Austin local just stood there and laughed as blood gushed from my mouth. I then spent 8 hours at Brackenridge Hospital. In the end Nick sustained a black eye, a busted and bruised lip and additional bruises on his body. I left Austin with a busted lip and 6 missing teeth.

I invite you to join us and the rest of the Austin community this Saturday at 11:45am at Republic Square Park to raise awareness and March Against Hate to the Capitol. Spread the word to take Austin back!

 

—  Anna Waugh

Possible hate crime casts shadow over Austin’s Pride weekend

Two gay men were attacked Friday night as Austin’s Pride celebrations were under way, leading them to believe they were targeted for being gay.

Nick Soret and a friend were on 4th Street getting pizza at a food truck when a man to them started asking them what they were looking at.

Soret told Austin’s KVUE when he picked up his pizza, the man beat him with it, burning him.

The man then punched his friend in the face when he tried to intervene, and attacked Soret, cutting his lip and bruising his arm before leaving the area.

His friend has a fractured jaw and will likely need surgery.

Soret said he thinks they were attacked because he and his friend are gay.

“He thought I was checking him out or he thought I was looking at him and so for that, he knocked all my friend’s teeth out, he punched me in the face,” Soret told KVUE.

Austin police are investigating the attack. The pizza trailer had a surveillance camera on it, so police expect to find the man soon.

“It was done just out of meaness and I think prejudice. It was unprovoked. We did not provoke him, we did not engage him. We didn’t do anything,” Soret said.

News of the attack spread through Austin over the weekend and cast a shadow on the Pride festivities. Soret, who has lived in Austin for 20 years, said his sense of security is now gone.

Watch KVUE’s report below.

—  Anna Waugh