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Gay Good Samaritan Acquitted of Kidnapping

Timothy Kincaid

September 27th, 2009

About 6:30 in the morning of July 4, 2008, David James “D.J.” Bell took his neighbors’ children, ages 2 and 4, into his South Salt Lake home. The neighbors were having an all night party and the children were wandering about unattended.

When Lulu Latu finally noticed her kids were missing, she went to Bell’s home. Finding the kids there, she become hysterical, screaming and slapping Bell. Minutes after she returned to her drinkfest, her fellow partiers broke down Bell’s door and assaulted Bell and Daniel Fair, his partner. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Bell was dragged from his home by his then-shoulder length hair and his head was repeatedly smashed against the pavement, [defense attorney Susanne] Gustin said. Blood was oozing from his right ear and he still suffers hearing loss, she said.

Someone used a piece of broken glass to cut Bell’s throat, chest and one of his toes.

Bell’s partner, Fair, also was beaten, and a large TV was thrown onto his head.

The District Attorney opted not to bring any assault charges in the case but instead charged Bell with kidnapping. Defense argued that this was an anti-gay hate crime and that had any other neighbor taken the children in they would have been thanked instead of beaten. (SLT)

[Defense attorney Roger] Kraft accused police of conducting a shoddy investigation, noting that 10 people who attended Latu’s party were never interviewed. Neither were four people at Bell’s home, even though they wanted to talk and provided police with their contact information.

Juror Jorgensen agreed that if the police investigation had been “handled properly, [they] would have come to a different conclusion on that day.”

In cases like these, it can be difficult to know whether there were extenuating circumstances, whether Lulu had reason to fear for her children’s safety with Bell, whether other neighborhood history was involved. Although I was tempted to see this as yet another illustration of how police assume that gay men are guilty until proven innocent in Utah, I hesitated at that time to form judgment.

But it seems the jury had far less difficulty, After acquitting Bell, the jurors told the Tribune that they were appalled at the lack of evidence and the waste in pressing charges.

Perhaps, after being rebuked by the jury, the district attorney may be willing to possibly consider caring whether it’s free-beating season on gay men in Salt Lake County.

Comments

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John
September 27th, 2009 | LINK

Lemme see: assualt & battery with intention to commit grievous bodily harm (or however they term this in Utah), attempted murder, felony use of a deadly weapon (broken glass), home invasion, etc. Now if a complete novice such as I can see the violations of law in this case committed against Bell & Fair, why can’t Ms. Cook or someone else in her office? I presume they are vastly more educated in matters of law than I am.

Oh wait.

Of course.

Bell & Fair are fags.

No doubt the dirty lil’ sodomites got what they deserved.

Just more of that “love of Christ” in action no doubt…

Burr
September 27th, 2009 | LINK

Moral of the story:

Call the cops on the drunk ass breeders who won’t take care of their spawn instead of trying to be nice, I guess.

Edwin
September 27th, 2009 | LINK

Which would have been better to let the kids get run over on the street. Or maybe really kidnapped.
Utah the great state of preaching HATE.

Elliot
September 27th, 2009 | LINK

I was born in Utah, and had lived here all my life until I moved away two years ago.

I’m sick to my stomach after reading this. What on earth were these people THINKING?1

Eddie89
September 27th, 2009 | LINK

I suppose Bell and Fair thought they were just being good friends and neighbors by watching the kids, while their “parents” slept off their booze induced fest.

These straight parents may have been “friendly” with their gay neighbors, but it seems that this “friendship” was only on the surface and within them dwelt the demon of bigotry.

If she was truly “supportive” and “accepting” of gay people, she should have thanked her neighbor and his partner for watching her kids while she sobered up!

Richard W. Fitch
September 27th, 2009 | LINK

After reading the article in SLT, it’s hard to say who ranks highest on the ‘ID-10-T’ scale: Bell for rescuing the kids, the neighbors for going ballistic, the police for poor investigation or the prosecutor for filing kidnapping charges. The only sane ones seem to have been the jury; after a 4-day trail costing the tax payers an estimated $100,000, one juror stated that there was no conceivable reason why the case should even have reached trial. What is more disturbing are some of the comments by readers. From the info available it would seem that Bell was indeed the hero in this case. He had been at the party and left at some unstated earlier time. He knew these people, they were even in the process of planning some kind of neighborhood barbeque. It appears the party was still in progress at 6:30 AM FROM THE NITE BEFORE!! Bell was not home alone. His partner and at least 3-5 other people were in his house. What was the prosecutor claiming, the attempted gang-rape of a 2-y/o and 4 y/o??? The SLT also records that the parents have prior criminal records of a serious nature, info which was not admissible in the trial. All in all this can only be seen as a blatant perversion of justice predicated on bigotry, homophobia and the egregious assumption that every gay man is a pedophile. But then of course, this was the capital of morality – Salt Lake City, Utah.

paul j stein
September 27th, 2009 | LINK

Sue them into bankruptcy. AND BEYOND!

Leonard Drake
September 27th, 2009 | LINK

I am thankful for the jurors for having the mind of reason and sanity, and not playing into the apparent game of collusion in which the rest of the Salt Lake City participants in this case (except for Bell and Fair) were involved.

Dominique
September 27th, 2009 | LINK

Sometimes doo-doo occurs for a reason.

The so-called leadership of the LGBT community, The Pride Center, has been Missing In Action from day 1. The openly gay legislators have also been silent.

A few vocal queer folks shouted out loud and were admonished by their straight-passing peers. The word was that we just couldn’t be sure and that we shouldn’t say anything until we find out if he’s guilty or not.

What bollocks!

The support came from the fringes, from the new, young, bold queer folks. Many who are also gender queer; with a supporting cast of many straight allies. Yet, it appeared they were not to be supported by the LGBT leaders. (Equality Utah folks being the only exception) The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

Back to my original statement. Perhaps the reason for all the pain and suffering DJ and Dan have endured… was for a group of reasonable heterosexual members of our community to finally stand up and state loudly and succinctly.. ENOUGH!!!

Who knew that our greatest support in the battle for equality… our most reasonable response to this whole insane experience… would be middle-of-the-road heterosexual community members? And who dreamed in their wildest dreams that these reasonable heterosexual people would speak so boldly, so plainly, and without guile?

tavdy79
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

it’s hard to say who ranks highest on the ‘ID-10-T’ scale: Bell for rescuing the kids,

How was Bell an idiot for doing what any responsible adult should do if they see vulnerable young children alone on the streets at night? I personally would feel honour-bound to take care of them, since their own parents were clearly incapable of doing so. Any risk to me as an adult must always be counted as secondary to the risks to them as children, who are unable to defend or care for themselves.

Christopher Waldrop
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

tavdy, I’ve read a couple of different stories about this case, and, while I don’t believe the parents had any reason to think their children were in danger, nor was the violent attack in any way justified, I can understand why the parents would have been concerned at finding their children missing. Well, I can understand why reasonable parents would be concerned, although I’m not sure reasonable parents would be partying like this with their kids wandering around.

I do believe Bell should have taken the time to ask Latu, “Is it all right if your kids go to my place where they can get some sleep?” And he may have even done so. It wouldn’t be surprising if he did ask and she forgot or said yes and then changed her inebriated mind. This was just a horrible situation all around. I’m just glad assault charges are finally being brought.

Joe in California
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

Innocent until proven guilty.
.
Shame on you Utah! gay & straight!

Politicalguineapig
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

The thing I find most ironic is that considering the statistics, these kids would have been in more danger from their own father than from Mr. Bell. Ugh, never underestimate the idiocy and violence of fundamentalists.

cowboy
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

I guess I should have been one of those who have been out protesting at the courthouse and at the SLPD headquarters. I can’t provide an excuse for my absence.

I am mad at the police for not doing their job and I’m certainly a lot more wary about calling for protection from the Salt Lake Police Department.

I was privy to some information about the incident. It was told to me that when the Salt Lake Police tried to put Mr. Bell into jail, the jailer said to the police: This man needs medical attention before ever being put in a cell; he was bleeding so badly. He had a severed toe and a deep gash on his neck.

Why didn’t the police take him to the hospital first?

Thank you Dominique…for your sage words.

palerobber
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

i live in Utah and this case has been making me sick ever since it resurfaced in the news this past week. i certainly hope the men who attacked Bell and his partner are charged and convicted. but i see from comments some misunderstanding of the context of this awful story.

South Salt Lake, where this happened, is not like Utah as a whole. it is ethnicly diverse and heavily Democratic. it’s also economically marginal and suffers from a high crime rate. in fact, there was a high profile case of a child kidnapped and murdered by a (straight) neighbor in South Salt Lake earlier the same year as this incident.

so while Utah is close to the worst state in the nation on gay issues, the neighborhood where this happened could just as easily have been in any urban area in the county. i don’t think the motives of the attackers are completely clear cut and Bell – while not an ex-con – is not a squeaky clean character himself.

Priya Lynn
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

Palerobber said “Bell – while not an ex-con – is not a squeaky clean character himself.”.

How do you know that?

Kristie
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

Not only should the people that beat these two men be charged but the parents of those kids should be charged with child endangerment and neglect. They were partying it up while their 2 and 4 year old children roamed the neighborhood at night. Those kids could have been hit by a car or picked up by an ACTUAL pervert and never been seen or heard from again!

If this “mother” was so damned worried about the safety of her kids she should have been paying attention to them. It’s a shame that these two people who valued the welfare of these kids more than their own parents did had to go through this. I guess it’s true that no good deed goes unpunished!

Penguinsaur
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

“i don’t think the motives of the attackers are completely clear cut and Bell – while not an ex-con – is not a squeaky clean character himself.”

The mob might have just been drunk and stupid, but I dont see how anyone can defend the authorities trying to charge them on such flimsy pretext for kidnapping and make no attempt whatsoever to file charges against the angry mob. it doesnt matter if they kidnapped them or not, once you have the kids back its illegal to assault them, their was a big ruckus in Texas afew years ago because a guy shot a burglar in the back as he was fleeing, he got charged because the burglar wasnt a danger when he shot him. Theirs no way two men were a danger to the angry mob.

Feisty Scorpio
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

How dare someone say D.J. is not a squeaky clean character? I have know this wonderful person since High School and it has been priviledge to call him a friend. I love this man more than with each passing year and he is a fantastic person. Loyal, wonderful, salt-of-the-earth! He will do great things, you watch! You have not seen the last of D.J. Bell!

It was an honor to be there when he was acquitted of a crime he did NOT commit! It never should have gotten this far. I hope the people who did this to him get charged to the fullest extend of the law. As for the South Salt Lake City Police, they messed with the life of a good person. They are an embarassment to law enforcement!

palerobber
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

Kristie,

i was refering to his police record of DUI and failure to pay child support. also, he gave detectives conflicting stories of how the kids came to be at his house (whether they walked over on their own or he took them with him when he left the party). in explaining the discrepency the defense noted that Bell was intoxicated so he might have gotten mixed up.

again, i’m not in any way trying to rationalize the brutal actions of his attackers. i just don’t think it’s clear that his sexual orientation was a major factor. still, i could be wrong.

as for the DA who brought kidnapping charges, i’m much more suspicious of gay profiling. i hope someone is able to shed some light on how that decision was made.

palerobber
September 28th, 2009 | LINK

sorry, that last post should have been address to Priya, not Kristie.

DJ Bell
October 8th, 2009 | LINK

Palerobber, Let me start by saying that the conflicting story told to the police happened all in once sitting, followed by, “I actually don’t really remember much of anything until getting HERE (the police station)”. Suffering a traumatic brain injury will do that to you. About my DUI; That was 10 years ago and I have learned my lesson, so if you’re holding that against me, shame on you. I’ve forgiven myself for that mistake and have vowed never to let it happen again. As for not paying child support, if you can convince my ex-wife to let me see my child that she’s REFUSED to let me see based on my sexuality for the last 9 YEARS, I’ll gladly start paying again. She cut off my rights in another state behind my back and I’m still fighting to get those rights back. If that makes me “not so squeaky-clean”, then so be it. Otherwise, don’t go spouting things you have NO RIGHT TALKING ABOUT!

Priya Lynn
October 8th, 2009 | LINK

Hear Hear DJ. I’m so sorry that a good samaritan should have been abused in this way – you are a truly good person.

Black guys help little white girl after many caucasians stood by and done nothing! - Politics and Other Controversies - Page 14 - City-Data Forum
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