Trial to begin for suspect in Oak Lawn hate crime

Posted on 26 Feb 2009 at 6:09pm
By John Wright News Editor

Jimmy Lee Dean still recovering 7 months after brutal robbery



Dean is shown two weeks after the attack.

Jimmy Lee Dean still hasn’t regained his sense of smell, and a procedure to straighten his drooping right eyelid was unsuccessful.

Dean, 43, is awaiting yet another surgery to repair and replace teeth, but perhaps the most devastating  impact of the brutal gay-bashing he suffered seven months ago has been psychological.

Once a very active, fun-loving person, according to his friends, Dean said he now has little energy and suffers from depression.

"Anybody who’s been around me before and gets around me now is going to realize that I’m different," Dean said recently.

Beginning Monday, March 2, one of two suspects accused of robbing Dean and beating him nearly to death on Dickason Avenue in Oak Lawn last July is scheduled to stand trial in Dallas County District Court.

Jonathan Russell Gunter, 32, is charged with aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in prison.

According to police reports, Gunter and 29-year-old Bobby Jack Singleton pistol-whipped Dean with a 9mm Glock handgun, then kicked and stomped his head, face and body as he lay motionless in the middle of the dimly lit street.

The attack, called the worst anti-gay hate crime in Dallas in recent memory, left Dean hospitalized for 10 days.

Gunter and Singleton, both of Garland, admitted to police they targeted Dean because they though it would be easier to rob a gay man. They also reportedly yelled anti-gay epithets before, during and after the attack, which occurred just a block from the Cedar Springs strip.

The Dallas Police Department classified the incident as a hate crime for FBI reporting purposes, but the District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute the case as a hate crime because under Texas law, such a finding by a jury couldn’t result in enhanced sentences but could force a greater burden of proof on prosecutors.

Jamille Bradfield, a spokeswoman for the DA’s Office, said this week that prosecutor Marshall McCallum is "pretty confident" Gunter’s trial, originally set for January, will proceed on Monday. Bradfield said a trial for Singleton, who’s also charged with aggravated robbery, is set for the following week.

Gunter’s defense attorney, Charles Humphreys, also said he’s expecting the trial to proceed Monday. Humphreys said he expects the trial to be complete by Wednesday. 

Both Humphreys and Singleton’s attorney, Edwin King, said they didn’t want to discuss the case in detail.

Michael Robinson, an eyewitness to Dean’s attack who’s since launched a hate crimes advocacy group, said he’s encouraging people from the LGBT community to attend Gunter’s trial beginning Tuesday morning, March 3. The trial will be in Dallas County’s  194th District Court, on the seventh floor of the Frank Crowley Courts Building at 133 N. Industrial Blvd. in Dallas.

Robinson, who was walking alongside Dean prior to the attack, has criticized the DA’s Office for failing to prosecute the case as a hate crime.

Robinson said he believes robbery was an afterthought, given the suspects didn’t initially brandish a weapon and took only keys and a lighter. And while a hate crimes enhancement wouldn’t result in longer sentences, since the charge is already a first-degree felony, Robinson believes it would send a message that anti-gay violence won’t be tolerated.

Robinson’s group, United Community Against Gay Hate Crimes, held a rally on the Cedar Springs strip in October to protest the decision by the DA’s Office not to prosecute the case as a hate crime. But Robinson said he opted against staging another rally outside the courthouse because he’d rather see people from the LGBT community attend the trial.

"They need to see what happened and how this process works with this hate crimes statute that we have and lend support for the victim in the courtroom," Robinson said. "I think the most important thing is to make sure these guys are convicted. If we have to settle for an aggravated robbery, I’ll still be disappointed with the indictment, but I’ll be glad they’re off the streets."

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 27, 2009.

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