National news briefs • 09.02.11

Judge puts trial on hold in case against Dan Choi

WASHINGTON — Dan Choi may be closer to having charges against him dropped after the judge in his case put the trial on hold this week.

Choi, a gay former Army lieutenant, was arrested for handcuffing himself to the White House fence in November 2010 to protest “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Choi was dismissed from the Army under the policy.

Choi was arrested two other times earlier in 2010 for similar White House protests. However, charges in those instances were brought against him in local court.

This case is being tried in federal court and he faces six months in jail and a fine. Choi’s attorney claims he is being treated differently and harshly prosecuted because is outspoken and gay.

In putting the trial on hold, the judge said that he believes Choi has shown — at least preliminarily — that he is being treated differently.

The government prosecutor, Angela George, said that she plans to have the judge’s actions reviewed by a higher court. She said that Choi is being treated no differently than the other protesters. Choi attorney Robert Feldman said that he believes the judge’s actions mean that his client has “effectively won the case” and charges will eventually be dismissed.
The trial is on hold for 10 days.

Others arrested in the case accepted a plea deal of no jail time in exchange for pleading guilty with the condition of no further arrest for four months. Choi rejected that deal.

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Death penalty recommended in case of man who murdered family

LYNDON, Kan. — A jury recommended the death penalty for James Kraig Kahler who was on trial in Kansas for killing four family members in November 2009. Final sentencing by the judge is set for Oct. 11.

Kahler is the former city utilities director in Weatherford.

After 23 years of marriage, his wife filed for divorce. She was a fitness trainer at a Weatherford gym and had been seeing another woman she worked with after Kahler tried to initiate a three-way sexual relationship with his wife and the other woman.

Kahler moved to his parent’s home outside Topeka weeks before the murder.

His son Sean, now 12, testified that he saw his father shoot his mother.

In addition to his wife, Kahler killed her grandmother and their two daughters, ages 18 and 16. Sean testified that he was not threatened during the shooting rampage.

The defense argued that the affair affected Kahler’s state of mind. They argued for life in prison because, they said, he was out of control emotionally and suffering deep depression when he committed the murders.

Under Kansas law, mental illness is only a defense if it prevents the defendant from forming the intent to kill or acting with premeditation.

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Jury unable to reach verdict in trial of teen accused of killing classmate

LOS ANGELES — A jury was unable to reach a verdict in deliberations that began on Monday, Aug. 29 in the murder case of Brandon McInerney, who is accused of shooting his gay classmate, Lawrence King, in their computer class in Oxnard, Calif., in February 2008. The judge declared a mistrial.

In closing arguments, the prosecution said that McInerney, whose attorneys claimed shot King in a panic after King repeatedly flirted with him, was lying in wait and planned the killing ahead of time. They claimed the defense was using gay panic as an excuse.

The defense said McInerney was in a dissociative state when he killed King. They claim he was not completely aware of what he was doing and said he grew up in a violent household and was sexually harassed by King.

One of the jurors is a college student who started classes this week. Ventura County Judge Charles Campbell is allowing the jury to deliberate around her schedule.
The trial was moved to Los Angeles because of pre-trial publicity.

The murder took place when McInerney was 14, but he is being tried as an adult. Now 17, he faces up to a 50-year prison term, although jurors may consider a conviction of voluntary manslaughter with a 14 to 21 year sentence.

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Prosecutors: Man filmed with Clementi should stay anonymous

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — Prosecutors say the identity of a man recorded on a webcam in a gay intimate encounter with a New Jersey university student who killed himself should remain a secret.

The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office filed a motion Monday, Aug. 29, asking a judge to withhold the name of the man, identified only as M.B.

The Star-Ledger newspaper of Newark reports the request came in response to a motion filed by lawyers for Dharun Ravi, who is accused of spying on Rutgers University roommate Tyler Clementi and is charged with bias intimidation and invasion of privacy.

Clementi killed himself last September after his encounter with M.B. was transmitted online. His suicide sparked national discussion about bullying.

Ravi’s lawyers say they believe M.B. has information that could help their client’s case but they don’t know his name.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 31, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Lesbian activist protests bank profits

Local activist Dawn Meifert said her group, Dallas Uncut, will protest outside Bank of America at 6300 Mockingbird Lane on Saturday, Feb. 26, at 8:30 a.m.

U.S. Uncut, begun in Jackson, Miss., protests businesses that have paid no income taxes but have reaped large financial gains for executives and stockholders. Their slogan is, “You Caused This Crisis. Now YOU Pay.”

Meifert said she formed the Dallas chapter this week and will be participating in protests against the bank along with groups in more than 30 cities across the country, from Boston and New York to Los Angeles and Honolulu.

Meifert said she expects to be out at the protest location for about two hours, handing out information about how the bank received $45 billion in bailout money while funneling money through accounts in 115 offshore tax havens and offering below rate loans to politicians while refusing to use the bailout money for loans.

For more information, visit USUncut.org.

—  John Wright

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Jim Schutze

“It’s why we can’t have protest movements in Dallas. People here are too obedient. Gay rights, black activism, Tea Party — doesn’t matter. There’s something in the water. If the mob in Tahrir Square had been made up entirely of members of the Dallas Tea Party, all Mubarek would have had to do to shut the thing down was tell them all to go sit in time-out.”

— Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze,
in a blog post bemoaning the timidness of Tuesday’s protests
at the Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting

—  John Wright

Watch: Jon Stewart Mocks Media Coverage of Wisconsin Protests

Stewart

Naive news media outlets are comparing the Wisconsin labor protests to the uprising against oppressive regimes in the Middle East, and right-wing news outlets are turning them into the "Bizarro Tea Party".

Jon Stewart looks at Wisconsin's 'Revenge of the Curds', AFTER  THE JUMP

 


Towleroad News #gay

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Westboro Baptist edition

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. A group of hackers known as Anonymous threatens to destroy websites belonging to the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church if the church doesn’t end its protests in 2011.

2. The church responds by telling the “anonymous crybaby hackers” to “Bring It.”(Flier above.)

3. It turns out the church actually made up the whole thing as a publicity stunt. (Press release below.)

—  John Wright

Anti-violence group plans ‘Phelps-a-thon’ during Westboro Baptist Church’s visit to Tucson

Phelps clan in Dallas

The Phelps clan is headed to Tucson.

In response, the Arizona Legislature passed and the governor signed legislation banning protests within 300 feet of a funeral. In some show of compassion (maybe in fear for their lives), the clan decided not to protest the funeral of Christina Green, the 9-year-old who was murdered. However, they still plan to picket the funeral of U.S. District Judge John McCarthy Roll.

When the clan visited Dallas to picket downtown at the Holocaust Museum and Congregation Beth El Binah at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, a fundraiser was held called “When Hell Freezes Over.” The goal was to replace the $3,000 ice maker at the community center. They raised move than $11,000.

The Wingspan Anti-Violence Project will be doing the same thing this week. They are holding a Phelps-a-thon.

Although we wish them luck, the circumstances are completely different. The group came to Dallas for no reason whatsoever and everyone who participated made a joke of the appearance. There was plenty of time to prepare stupid signs and costumes to welcome their afternoon of hate.

In Arizona, people are mourning. They are dealing with loss and healing. No one is in the mood for a jolly old time to mock the haters. The focus is on funerals and people in hospitals. Reaction to Phelps is a mere afterthought. But the gesture is appropriate. Let their visit to promote hatred after a violent incident raise money to decrease violence.

—  David Taffet

Concerns, Protests Grow Over Wikileaks Soldier Bradley Manning

More concern over the conditions of Wikileaks soldier Bradley Manning, which has been called "torture" by Salon's Glenn Greenwald. Now, a psychologists group concurs:

Manning In the latest public pronouncements calling attention to Manning's plight, the Psychologists for Social Responsibility this week sent an open letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying it is "deeply concerned" about Manning's confinement conditions at a military prison at Quantico, Va.

"As an organization of psychologists and other mental health professionals, PsySR is aware that solitary confinement can have severely deleterious effects on the psychological well-being of those subjected to it," the group said. "We therefore call for a revision in the conditions of PFC Manning’s incarceration while he awaits trial, based on the exhaustive documentation and research that have determined that solitary confinement is, at the very least, a form of cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment in violation of U.S. law."

The letter deplores the "needless brutality" of Manning's conditions and says they undermine his right to a fair trial.

According to his lawyer, "Manning is confined in a 6-by-12-foot cell with a bed, a drinking fountain and a toilet for about 23 hours a day. On a " typical day," he is awakened at 5 a.m. and is not allowed to sleep between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m.; if he tries to sleep during those hours, guards will make him sit up or stand. He eats all his meals in his cell. He is allowed one hour of "exercise" daily outside his cell, consisting of walking in figure eights in an empty room, according to Coombs. When he goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and give his clothing to the guards. He is not allowed to have any personal items in his cell.

David House at FireDogLake, visited Manning, and agrees with the assessments above. Read his extensive report here.

Some have said that Manning's conditions are an effort to get him to name Julian Assange as a conspirator in order to get Assange on espionage charges.

Manning has not been convicted of any crime.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Westboro Baptist Falling Behind On Promised Laramie Project Protests

Once again the Westboro Baptist Church's threats of a protest — over Buffalo Grove High School student production of The Laramie Project — end with a no-show by the Kansas-based circus, leaving these Chicago-area high schoolers waving signs around for nobody but reporters' cameras.


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Queerty

—  admin

Local activist C.d. Kirven successfully completes probation after arrest in Speaker Pelosi’s office

C.d. Kirven protests cautiously during her probationary period

“I’m very excited to be free!” said activist C.d. Kirven.

Kirven was arrested and later received probation for participating in a GetEqual sit-in at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Washington offices in March. When her six months of probation ended on Oct. 7, all charges were dropped.

“According to [the] ENDA 4 attorney yesterday, charges dropped and record clean,” Kirven said in an e-mail.

Four activists were arrested in Pelosi’s office protesting the speaker’s failure to bring the Employment Non-Discrimination Act up for a vote in the House. Two of the protesters who live in Washington, D.C. received community service along with their probation.

While on probation, Kirven had to be careful not to get arrested. That didn’t stop her from staging other protests, but she said she’s been careful. Now that her probation is over, she said she won’t tone it down.

“So, I’m planning my next direct action but it won’t be like before,” she said.

Since that time, she and fellow Dallas activist Michael Robinson, who was arrested at the same time in Pelosi’s San Francisco office, have formed their own direct action group, Get Equal Now.

—  David Taffet

GetEqual Protests President From Land, Air And Sea In Miami

Getequalobamamiami

President Obama’s fundraising trip to Miami was overshadowed this evening by GetEqual activists who took launched an air, sea and land mission to protest the dinner, put on for Rep. Ron Klein.

Hoping to press the President on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, GetEqual activists first greeted Obama’s motorcade with signs reading “Stop the Discharges Now” and “We’ll Give When We’re GetEqual.” The President rolled down the window a bit and waved to the crowd, said participiants.

Once Obama arrived to the event, his ocean view, courtesy of his host, Miami Heat player Alonzo Mourning, was obscured by a weather balloon bearing the organization’s website address.

GetEqual’s ultimate action, however, was on the water, where they unfurled a 40-foot banner on a boat, blew air horns and demanded Obama end the discriminatory military policy.

According to the White House pool report, inside the event, where the President hammered the GOP “Pledge to America” and praised Klein, some attendees looked to toward to noise, but overall the protest went down unnoticed. Via AMERICAblog:

As he is speaking, air horns can be heard across the bay, and pool is told by a GetEQUAL spokesman that they are activists protesting the administration on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Appear to have several small boats, at one point pool can hear some yelling. Some members of the audience look over but noise is not loud enough to disrupt and POTUS continues uninterrupted.

Meanwhile, Kerry Eleveld reports that Anthony Woods, a soldier discharged under DADT, and an activist named Itzel Diaz  attempted to by ,000 tickets, but the Democratic National Congressional Committee denied them access.

Robin McGhee, one of GetEqual’s cofounders, insists they will continue to protest until the President makes good on his campaign promise: “If the president is going to travel around the country asking for our dollars and our votes, then we are going to travel with him and insist that he first give us some of the hope and change he promised.”


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright