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

Appeals court rejects ‘homophobic panic’ claim

Lawyers for Robert Van Hook, convicted of murdering gay man in 1985, told court psychological reports could have supported his claims of mental disease

Van-Hook.Robert

Robert Van-Hook

LISA CORNWELL  |  Associated Press
editor@dallasvoice.com

CINCINNATI — A federal appeals court on Tuesday, Oct. 4 upheld an Ohio man’s death penalty for killing a man he met in a gay bar in 1985, rejecting claims that prosecutors violated his rights by not providing psychological reports showing he may have been motivated by “homophobic panic.”

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed a lower court’s ruling upholding the death penalty for Robert Van Hook, 51. The panel also rejected claims of ineffective counsel.

Van Hook’s attorney, Keith Yeazel, said Tuesday that he will either appeal to the full 6th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court after he has a chance to review the ruling.

The Supreme Court in November 2009 reversed an earlier decision by the 6th Circuit panel that had found ineffective trial counsel, and the panel said Tuesday that it was bound by the high court’s decision.

Van Hook’s latest appeal argued that the psychological reports showing he may have been motivated by “homophobic panic,” or rejection of his homosexual urges, rather than robbery, could have been used to support his claim of mental disease. The reports also would have been used to counter the murder element of “specific intent to cause the death of another person” and the aggravated robbery factor contributing to the death penalty, the appeal stated.

Van Hook claimed temporary insanity, but never denied strangling and then stabbing David Self to death at his Cincinnati apartment.

Prosecutors said he lured Self to the apartment with the intention of robbing him. He then mutilated Self’s body with a kitchen knife, hiding the murder weapon in the corpse before fleeing to Florida, where he was arrested and confessed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Woman pleads guilty in case of videotaped beating of trans woman at McDonald’s

Teona Brown, 19, has pled guilty Thursday, Aug. 4, to first degree assault charges and a hate crime charge in connection with the beating of transgender woman Chrissy Polis last April in Towson,

Chrissy Polis

Md. The attack was captured on video by a McDonald’s employee — who filmed the assault rather than step in and try to stop it — last April. The video went viral online and was used, along with new footage from a surveillance camera, in court hearings this week. CBS Baltimore has this report on the plea.

Conviction on a first degree assault charge carries a maximum sentence of 25 years, and a hate crime conviction could add another 10 years. Because Brown pled guilty to the attack, prosecutors are recommending that the judge sentence her to five years in prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for next month.

Polis was present in court on Thursday, but told reporters she was nervous about being there and had no comment. “I just want to lay low and keep my life as normal as possible,” she said.

A second person charged in the attack was 14 at the time and has been charged with assault as a juvenile. Because she is a minor, her identity has not been released.

Below is a video of a news report aired on the Washington, D.C., Fox news program when the attack happened. It includes video of the attack and, as State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said this week, “The severity of the beating is much easier to understand when you see a video. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. Well, a video’s worth a million.”

—  admin

Jurors felt youth prison official was guilty but were swayed by ex-cop, lack of physical evidence

John Paul Hernandez

The Associated Press has an interesting follow-up about the trial of John Paul Hernandez, who was acquitted of charges that he sexually molested five inmates at the West Texas youth prison where he served as principal.

Basically, according to the AP, many jurors felt Hernandez was guilty, but they were persuaded by an ex-cop who raised questions about whether prosecutors had proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt, given that there was no physical evidence:

Nancy Gray told The Associated Press that the officer “did a lot of talking” about reasonable doubt to the eight who believed John Paul Hernandez was guilty when deliberations started.

“A lot of people changed their minds because he kept saying, pressing the point, that he had to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Gray, who was the last to agree to the not guilty verdicts. “I was the holdout, all the way through. It was hard. That’s why it was very emotional for me.” …

Gray said jurors “absolutely” would have thought differently had there been physical evidence. Prosecutors presented no DNA, no fingerprints and no hair samples to back up the former inmates’ stories, though the jury believed each man had testified truthfully about having been abused by Hernandez.

Gray said deliberations grew testy at times and she unloaded her sentiments on the other jurors.

She said she told them: “‘You know this bastard is guilty’ and I was bawling. These boys are going to live with this the rest of their lives. Maybe they’ve done some bad things, but they didn’t deserve what happened to them.”

The Odessa American reports that nine of the 12 jurors initially wanted to convict Hernandez. And the AP says the verdict left one of Hernandez’s alleged victims stunned:

“I can’t believe this happened,” the young man, now 26, said in an e-mailed statement through his attorney. “What Mr. Hernandez did to me ruined my life. I told the jury the truth, and now I’ll never be able to get over what happened. When I broke the law, I went to TYC. When he broke the law, there was no consequence.”

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Ex-Texas prison official acquitted of charges he sexually abused young male inmates

John Paul Hernandez

John Paul Hernandez, the former Texas youth prison official whose trial we told you about last week, was acquitted of all charges late Monday. The Austin American-Statesman reports:

John Paul Hernandez was found not guilty on 14 counts alleging he molested five boys in 2004 and 2005 after a jury deliberated for six hours, following two weeks of testimony. Prosecutors declined to comment.

A second defendant accused of molesting boys at the West Texas State School in Pyote, former assistant superintendent Ray Brookins, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison last year.

“Six years I’ve been waiting to hear those words,” Hernandez was quoted by The Associated Press in a story filed early this morning. “I’ve already served a six-year punishment and finally a weight has been lifted.”

—  John Wright

Ex-principal of TX youth prison denies he gave inmates blow jobs, promised them birthday cake

John Paul Hernandez

The former principal of a West Texas juvenile prison testified Thursday that five male inmates who accuse him of sexual abuse made up the allegations in a possible attempt to get released from the facility.

John Paul Hernandez, 45, is on trial for 11 counts of abusing the inmates, including sexual assault. Hernandez’s former assistant at the West Texas State School in Pyote, Ray Brookins, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on similar charges last year. The abuse scandal led to an overhaul of the Texas Youth Commission.

Hernandez and Brookins allegedly gave the young male inmates candy and promised them birthday cake in exchange for abusing them. In some cases, the inmates were threatened with retaliation if they didn’t go along. Hernandez and Brookins would summon the inmates from their dorms late at night and take them to ball fields and darkened classrooms to carry out the abuse, according to a 2005 report by the Texas Rangers.

When authorities searched Brookins’ state-owned house at the school, they found a 16-year-old living there along with hundreds of pornographic videos, magazines and various sex toys.

All five of the inmates testified against Hernandez this week during his trial. Prosecutors are continuing their cross-examination of Hernandez today.

—  John Wright

Charges dismissed in raid of gay bathhouse

JOHN WRIGHT  |  Online Editor
wright@dallasvoice.com

Charges have been dismissed against most of the 11 men arrested for engaging in sex acts during a Dallas Police Department raid of The Club Dallas in October.

The Dallas County District Attorney’s Office confirmed this week that it dismissed charges against at least six of the men earlier this month. Defense attorneys for the men said they expected charges to be dismissed against the others soon.

DA  Craig Watkins didn’t elaborate on why his office chose not to prosecute the cases, citing the fact that charges against at least one of the men had not yet been dismissed.

“Due to the fact that these cases are so closely related, commenting on the dismissed cases would affect the prosecution of the pending case,” Watkins said in a statement.

David Hill, a defense attorney who represents nine of the 11 men, said charges were dismissed over questions about whether The Club Dallas is defined as a public place under Texas law. Seven of the men were charged with public lewdness, three were charged with indecent exposure, and one was charged with interfering with police.

“The issue relates to whether it’s a public versus private location, so you can imagine that the decisions and the conversations I had with them [prosecutors] hinged on that element,” Hill said Wednesday, Jan. 19. “After reviewing the cases, the District Attorney’s Office made a determination that it was in the best interest of justice to dismiss the cases.”

Hill commended the District Attorney’s Office for its decision. “They were willing to take the time to look at these cases with an open mind and make a determination after having done that,” he said.

Asked whether it’s safe for people to go to the gay bathhouses, Hill said he was reluctant to offer broad legal advice. “I think everyone has to make their own decision about their own personal conduct, but I would think that the decision regarding these cases would give people some comfort about that,” Hill said. “I don’t begin to assume what DPD is going to do in the future, but I would think the fact that the cases were filed, and the result that’s come about in this case, I’m sure they have other things they’d rather spend their resources on than purusing cases that may or may not get prosecuted.”

Neither DPD Chief David Brown nor LGBT liaison officer Laura Martin responded to requests for comment.

DPD’s vice unit has said it conducted the raid in response to a citizen complaint.

A co-owner of The Club Dallas declined to comment on the dismissal of the charges.

—  John Wright

More on Club Dallas

We’re still trying to get in touch with someone at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office to explain why prosecutors have chosen to dismiss charges against several of the men who were arrested in the Dallas Police Department’s raid of a gay bathhouse in October. However, it appears we are running into the same roadblock as the Dallas Morning News. The DMN reports that District Attorney Craig Watkins has designated one person to handle all media inquiries, and prosecutors in the DA’s office have been instructed not to talk to the media at all, and some fear getting fired if they do.

Anyhow, we’ve requested an interview with Watkins himself about the decision to dismiss the charges. The DA’s office’s media representative informs us that she’s passing along our request. It seems as though when the Dallas Police Department goes out of its way to raid a gay bathhouse and arrest 11 people — then the DA’s office declines to prosecute — there ought to be some sort of public explanation. The raid was hugely controversial in the gay community and made national news. We could speculate, as others have, that the DA’s Office believes these cases would be difficult to prove and doesn’t view them as a priority. Again, though, that’s speculation and hearsay — something prosecutors don’t typically like.

We also haven’t received any response from DPD as to what the department thinks about this decision by the DA’s office. We’ve spoken with both LGBT liaison officer Laura Martin and Chief David Brown himself, and both have promised to get back to us. Specifically, we’d like to know whether DPD plans to continue conducting these types of raids in the future knowing that the DA’s office isn’t going to prosecute those arrested. Imagine all the resources it took to plan and conduct the raid, then complete all the paperwork and book the 11 men into jail. And all for nothing, apparently. In extremely tight budget times, that shouldn’t sit well with anyone.

—  John Wright

Rep. Marc Veasey again files bill seeking study of hate crimes act but says it’s ‘not going anywhere’

For the third consecutive legislative session, State Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, filed legislation last week calling for a study on the implementation of Texas’ hate crimes statute.

Veasey wants to know why, despite thousands of hate crimes reported to law enforcement since the statute was passed in 2001, only about a dozen cases have been prosecuted in court as hate crimes. If you’ll remember, the statute covers “sexual preference” but not gender identity.

In an interview the other day with KXAN (video above), Veasey cited homophobia as one of the reasons why the statute isn’t being used:

While Veasey understands that it’s hard to prosecute hate crimes he believes there’s another, underlying reason why prosecutors are rarely using the law.

“You have some people on the right that have said that it is a bill that protects gays and so they are against it for that reason,” Veasey said.

And Veasey told The Star-Telegram that the outcome of this year’s elections means the bill is likely doomed again in next year’s session, which begins in January.

“I’m going to try it, but quite frankly it’s not going anywhere,” Veasey said. “A lot of these folks that got elected were elected on opposition to the president and probably feel that being for anything pro-civil rights would hurt them in their political careers.”

Wait a second, is Veasey suggesting they’re going to completely ignore this memo?

—  John Wright