Man claims prosecutors reluctant to pursue anti-gay hate crime
A gay 27-year-old Denton man claims the Denton County district attorney’s office is reluctant to pursue the prosecution of an anti-gay hate crime he alleges was committed against him in 2005.
Christopher McKee, 27, said a Denton County prosecutor told him it would be difficult to obtain a conviction against the defendant, who is charged with a Misdemeanor A assault, because the area is not gay-friendly. The prosecutor asked him to agree to a plea bargain that would reduce the crime to a Misdemeanor C classification.
McKee said he objected to the plea bargain because the resulting punishment would amount to a “slap on the wrist.”
McKee said he had expected to go to trial this week, but the prosecutor dismissed the charges against the defendant on Oct. 23 because of a technicality in the wording of the charge and then re-filed the charge. McKee’s name was misspelled.
“They had blamed the police report for the misspelling of my name, but it was really the district attorney’s office that screwed up,” McKee said.
McKee said he wanted to go to trial immediately, regardless of the technicality.
Now, it will likely be another nine months before the case goes to court again, McKee said.
The charges originally were filed on March 13, 2006.
Lee Ann Breading, first assistant district attorney, did not return a message left at her office.
Denton County criminal records show an assault charge is pending against George Clifton Young, 26, who is charged in connection with an assault on McKee Dec. 3, 2005.
McKee said two men assaulted him after he left a tavern on Fry Street and was observed kissing a gay friend goodbye. The two men followed him to his car and assaulted him while he was on the phone to a 911 operator asking for help.
McKee, who works in the mental health field as a case manager, said he was beaten and kicked, and that he suffered bad bruising from the attack.
The two men fled the scene, but he saw the defendant about 10 days later and followed him home. He called police who arrested Young.
McKee said the second man has not been charged, and that Young claims it is a case of mistaken identity.
Young is 6-foot and weighs 300 pounds, according to jail records.
Several people, including Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Pete Webb, joined McKee in a morning-long protest on the steps of the Denton County Courthouse on Monday. A total of about 25 people showed up during the protest, Webb said.
Webb said he joined the protest because the prosecutors do not seem to be supportive of McKee.
“I was there in support of him and in support of his rights for justice and equality,” Webb said. “We’re talking about another nine months this gentleman has to wait to receive his day in court. It’s not fair to him.”
Webb said he was surprised to hear about such a crime occurring so close to the university.
“It was a horrific incident that occurred,” Webb said. “To think that in this day and age someone could be attacked simply because they are gay or lesbian, and that it occurred right there in Denton close to the university.”
Paul Scott, executive director of Equality Texas, said he is interested in McKee’s case because it highlights a problem his organization is seeing in the state. The hate crime law was enacted in 2001, but law enforcement agencies have done a poor job of enforcing the law in many areas, he said.
Of 1,300 cases filed since 2001, only eight have been successfully prosecuted, Scott said.
“We’re doing some initial research to see what are the barriers to prosecution,” Scott said.
Scott said he has discovered that law enforcement agencies in some areas are unaware of the law’s existence.
Scott said State Sen. Rodney Ellis of Houston is advocating reopening the hate crimes law to strengthen its enforcement.
Equality Texas plans to ask its Dallas-area members to push McKee’s cause and urge the Denton County prosecutors to pursue maximum charges in the case.
For information visit www.equalitytexas.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, October 27, 2006.