TOP 10: The Dean trials

Posted on 30 Dec 2009 at 3:36pm
By John Wright

Two men who brutally attacked Jimmy Dean near Cedar Springs Road in 2008 are convicted and sent to jail.

Jimmy Dean’s attackers are convicted: Jimmy Lee Dean’s attack near the Cedar Springs strip in the early morning hours of July 17, 2008, was the most brutal anti-LGBT hate crime Dallas has seen in recent memory.

This year Dean’s attackers, Jonathan Russell Gunter and Bobby Jack Singleton, were separately tried, convicted and sentenced to prison in Dallas County’s 194th District Court.

Gunter, now 33, of Garland was sentenced to 30 years following a three-day trial in March. Singleton, now 30, also of Garland, who’s believed to have inflicted most of Dean’s injuries, was sentenced to 70 years following a four-day trial in August. Gunter and Singleton must serve at least half of their respective sentences before they’re eligible for parole.

Dean, who identifies as bisexual, was hospitalized for 10 days following the attack, which took place along Dickason Avenue between Reagan and Throckmorton streets, near the heart of Dallas’ gay entertainment district.

The two defendants, armed with a 9 mm Glock handgun, yelled anti-gay epithets when they robbed and savagely beat Dean as he was walking home from a bar on the Cedar Springs strip. After knocking Dean unconscious, they kicked and kneed him in the head and body as he lay motionless and belly-up in the middle of a dimly lit street.

During the trials, Dean testified that he suffered a broken chin, nose and back, as well as a dislocated jaw. He said he’s permanently lost his sense of smell, and surgery has been unsuccessful in repairing his drooping right eyelid.

Dean’s face has been "meshed together" by doctors, and the roof of his mouth is "made of metal," he testified. Previously an aspiring songwriter, he said he’s no longer interested in music and now suffers from anxiety and depression.

According to testimony from other witnesses, after consuming large quantities of alcohol at a bar in North Dallas, the two defendants traveled to Oak Lawn because they were "low on money" and thought it would be easier to rob a gay person.

Dallas police classified the incident as an anti-gay hate crime. However, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office chose not to seek hate-crimes enhancements because they wouldn’t have resulted in longer sentences, but could have increased the burden of proof.

Singleton and Gunter were charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years, because they were found in possession of keys and a lighter belonging to Dean.

Among the key prosecution witnesses were Michael Robinson, who was walking alongside Dean immediately prior to the attack, and security guards from nearby gay nightclubs who apprehended Gunter and Singleton. Robinson launched a hate crimes advocacy group, United Community Against Gay Hate, in the wake of the attack.

During Gunter’s trial, the defendant’s openly gay younger brother took the stand and testified that Gunter doesn’t hate gay people. Gunter’s parents also pleaded with the jury for mercy and handed Dean letters of apology after their son was sentenced.

Prosecutors sought a longer sentence for Singleton because he was the one who pummeled Dean in the head while he was down.

During Singleton’s trial, prosecutors repeatedly played recorded jailhouse phone calls in which the defendant laughed and joked about the attack and suggested that he could avoid being charged with a hate crime by pretending to be gay.
"All I got to do is fill out one of them homosexual cards and prove that I’m a faggot, too," Singleton told his half-sister in one of the phone calls.

He added that if he were later sent to prison, he would explain to corrections officials that he’s "not really a fuckin’ faggot" to avoid being housed in protective custody.
Singleton also admitted in the phone calls, as he did in a statement to police and again on the witness stand, to beating Dean.

"I stomped him two or three times," he said at one point in the phone calls.
Singleton took the stand during sentencing and said he was sorry for the attack, but prosecutor Marshall McCallum told the jury the apology was insincere.

McCallum had Singleton get up from the witness stand and demonstrate how he brought his knee down onto Dean’s face.

A handful of people from the LGBT community attended portions of both trials in a show of support for Dean and to send a message that anti-gay hate won’t be tolerated.

"I wanted to be here for Jimmy," said activist Laura McFerrin. "I don’t know him, but it could be any of us." 

Dean said after the trials that he was satisfied with the sentences. He said he and his partner, Thomas Bergh, planned to move away from Dallas.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 1, 2010.

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments