Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count
January 9, 2006
The Hate Crimes Act of 1990 requires the FBI to compile and release an annual summary of hate crimes in the United States. Congress defined hate crimes as those whose motivation is primarily based on biases against a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or disability. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t require local law enforcement agencies to participate in the reporting program, nor is there any funding to offset the costs of collecting and reporting the data.
The FBI has done what it can to simplify the reporting process and to encourage local police departments to participate, but participation rates are far from uniform. For 2004, 12,711 law enforcement agencies participated in the hate crime reporting system. These agencies have jurisdiction over 86.6% of the American population.1
Participation varies widely from state to state. Fifteen states can boast that all of their law enforcement agencies participated in 2004, covering 100% of their states’ population. But in seven states, less than half of their population were represented by hate crime reports to the FBI. In Georgia, only seven police and sheriff departments participated, covering just under 12% of that state’s population. Hawaii didn’t participate at all. Between gaps in the system and some law enforcement agencies’ reluctance to investigate hate crimes based on sexual orientation, a lot of serious crimes end up being omitted from the FBI’s report.
Which may explain why Daniel Fetty is missing.
Waverly, Ohio is not known to be a particularly dangerous place. A small town of 5,200 in southern part of the state, it is a typically Midwestern town that has struggled economically in recent years. But through it all, it is a town whose reserved yet friendly character remains intact.
Waverly’s pride can be found mainly in two places. As in all small Ohio towns, life revolves around the Waverly High School football and basketball games. In 2002, the football team made news with an unrivaled display of sportsmanship. Waverly Tigers’ coach Derek DeWitt and Northwest Coach Dave Frantz had talked before the game about putting Jake Porter, a Northwest senior with mental retardation, into the game. But that night, with the game nearly over and Waverly leading 42-0, Coach DeWitt met with Coach Frantz during a timeout. He not only offered to allow Porter to enter the game, but to score a touchdown as well. Coach Frantz and the referees agreed. When the timeout ended, Porter entered the field and was given his play in the huddle. Northwest snapped the ball and handed it off to Porter. Both teams then parted away from the center, allowing Porter to take off on a 49-yard dash to the end zone with the crowd on both sides of the field leaping to its feet and cheering wildly. There wasn’t a dry eye in the bleachers that night.
Waverly is like that.
Waverly residents also have good reason to be proud of the new lease on life given to the Emmitt House, a historic hotel on Market Street next to the main highway. The Emmitt House had been a Waverly landmark since 1861, but like the town itself, it had fallen onto hard times in recent decades. Finally new owners refurbished the grand old building and opened a very fine restaurant and pub, one that rivals fine establishments in much larger cities. The Emmitt House’s restoration was more than just a cleaning of bricks and mortar. Much of Waverly’s history and pride was restored along with it.
Daniel Fetty, 39, worked at the Emmitt House as a busboy. Gay and deaf, Daniel was well-liked among his coworkers. But he had been going through a rough patch lately. His apartment was destroyed in a fire, which forced him to live in his car that he parked close to where he worked. He was saving his meager wages and share of the tips for a new apartment.
At 1 a.m. on October 2, 2004, police were called to investigate a fight near Market Street. When the lone officer arrived, he saw three men run behind a nearby building. He also found Daniel in a trash bin. Daniel had been stripped naked and severely beaten with bricks, boards and bottles before he was thrown into the bin. The officer called an ambulance, which rushed Daniel to Pike Community Hospital. From there, he was flown to Grant Hospital in Columbus, some seventy miles to the north, where he died shortly before 1 p.m. the next day.2
Within hours of the call, three suspects were arrested. They were Martin Edward Baxter, 28; Matthew Wayne Ferman, 22; and James Veachel Trent, 19. Baxter and Ferman were charged with aggravated murder and robbery. Charges against Trent were held as they negotiated a plea bargain in exchange for his testimony against Baxter and Ferman.
Residents and officials were shocked at the savagery of the murder, the first seriously violent crime in some forty years. This is not the sort of thing that happens in a town like Waverly. You hear about these things happening somewhere else, not here.
And this was no simple robbery as the suspects claimed. The savagery of the attack led Daniel’s friends to suspect that his sexual orientation was a motive. Alicia Purdy, who had been Daniel’s roommate when he lived in Texas, said, “He was a gentle man, and I’m sure that it did not require three men armed with boards and bricks to simply overtake him and steal his cash, nor could he have instigated such a vicious attack.”3
Pike County Prosecutor Robert Junk shared that suspicion. Noting that Daniel was stripped naked, Mr. Junk believed that robbery was not the sole, or even primary motive of the attack. “That factor, and the severity of the beating, this is something we, and I, take seriously, and we will check it out,” he told reporters. He noted that in most robbery cases, the victim may be punched or stabbed, but not stripped and so savagely beaten.4
Experts have noted that hate crimes based on sexual orientation are often more brutal than the typical assult. Gay bashings — which are more likely to involve hammers, baseball bats, golf clubs, and ice picks — are often characterized by “overkill”, indicating a higher level of emotional reaction on the part of the attacker.5 This is one distinction which makes hate-motivated crimes different from ordinary crimes, and it partly explains why thirty-one states have hate crime laws which cover sexual orientation.
But Ohio has no hate crime laws. The best that Prosecutor Junk could do was to upgrade the charges against Baxter and Ferman on December 10, 2004 to include aggravated robbery, abduction and tampering with evidence. With the original murder charge, they would now face the death penalty.6
In December, Trent pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and was sentenced to seven years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Baxter and Ferman. On September 23, 2005, Baxter avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to aggravated murder and tampering with evidence. He was given a a life sentence, and will be eligible for parole after 20 years.7 Ferman pleaded guilty to murder and tampering with evidence on November 3, and was sentenced to 18 years to life.8
During Baxter’s plea hearing, Juanita Meek, Daniel’s mother, was given the opportunity to speak to Baxter about what he did. “You put out both his eyes, broke his nose, knocked out his teeth, broke his Adam’s apple, broke his neck, broke all but one of his ribs and punctured his heart and lungs.”9 She then asked Baxter if her son had begged for his life as he was being beaten to death. “And this asshole laughed at her, in front of the judge,” said Gloria McCauley, executive director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization (BRAVO). She had been providing victim support to Daniel’s mother and sister, and was present in the courtroom. “Everything she said to him, he would smirk and laugh… They were both [Meek and her daughter] literally shaking and crying after this guy’s behavior.”10
Ms. McCauley was satisfied however that Prosecutor Junk characterized the murder as a hate crime during Ferman’s plea hearing in open court. “I’m very pleased that Mr. Junk is being so public about viewing this as being hate-motivated.”
“Working with Prosecutor Robert Junk, he has not dropped the ball at all,” she said. “He is a pleasure to work with.”
For Prosecutor Junk’s part, he concluded, “Everything has been resolved. For the family, at least it gives them some closure. Baxter and Ferman won’t be bothering anyone for a long, long time, if ever.”
In the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics for 2004, only one death was attributed to sexual orientation. But that victim wasn’t Daniel Fetty.
According to the FBI’s report, Waverly’s police department filed reports for three quarters, reporting no hate crimes for any of the five categories that the FBI tracks. But one of the quarterly reports is missing. (The FBI’s report doesn’t indicate which quarter that was.) The Waverly police department was one of eighty Ohio law enforcement agencies that missed filing at least one quarterly report. Two hundred fifty-six other departments, from Akron and Amberly Village to Youngstown and Zanesville, filed reports for all four quarters.11 Unfortunately, there is no funding to cover local police department’s costs in compiling the statistics and filing the reports.
During the investigation, Waverly police chief Larry Roe was asked about prosecutor Junk’s labeling of Daniel’s death as a hate crime. Chief Roe responded that he was investigating the incident as a simple robbery, a position at odds with Prosecutor Junk. While it may be tempting to accuse Chief Roe of sweeping a hate crime under the rug, the fact of the matter is that the chief’s position is perfectly in line with Ohio law.
Ohio has no hate crime laws on the books. The closest thing there is to a hate crime law is one on ethnic intimidation, which only lists several misdemeanors. That law comes down the hardest on telephone harassment. Sexual orientation is not included.
And because Ohio has no hate crime law (let alone one covering sexual orientation), and because the defendants agreed to plea bargains to avoid the death penalty (and thus, avoiding a trial also), there was no need to make the connection between Daniel’s murder and his sexual orientation in court. In the end, Prosecutor Junk’s first and foremost goal was satisfied: the culprits have been put away for a very long time. That’s the prosecutor’s job, and by all accounts he performed his job admirably.
But while Ohio has no hate crime law on the books, the federal Hate Crimes Act of 1990 asks local agencies to report hate crimes, including those for sexual orientation. In 2004, twenty Ohio police departments reported a total of fifty-seven hate crime incidents based on sexual orientation. These departments did this despite the absence of a hate crime law in Ohio.
Police chiefs everywhere consider their first responsibility to be catching crooks and putting them behind bars. Reporting hate crime statistics — voluntarily, often without the specialized training needed to investigate hate crimes, and without state backing, encouragement, or dollars — is far down the list of priorities for most stretched police departments. And that’s assuming that investigating hate crimes is itself priority for them.
So in the end, and for whatever reason, Daniel’s death is missing from the FBI’s statistics.
Why Doesn’t Daniel Count?
The omission of Daniel Fetty’s case from the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics isn’t unusual or surprising. To learn more about problems with the FBI’s hate crimes reporting program, see Federal Hate Crime Statistics: Why The Numbers Don’t Add Up.
“One of the things that is really frustrating about this case is that not a lot of people have been paying attention to it,” commented Ms. McCauley. “Daniel was not a poster boy.” She compared Daniel Fetty’s case to that of Matthew Shepard, in which a young, good-looking, middle-class college student was beaten senseless and tied to a fence in Wyoming. Because Daniel was not young and attractive, she feared that his murder wouldn’t become a rallying cry, as has happened with Matthew Shepard’s case.
Alicia Purdy, Daniel’s friend and former roommate, simply said, “Dano was not just any ‘gay man.’ He was a brother, a son, a grandson, and a beloved friend.”
Daniel Fetty deserves to be counted.
1. FBI. Hate Crime Statistics, 2004. (Washington: US Department of Justice, November, 2005). Available online at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2004/openpage.htm.
3. Glassman, Anthony. “Two charged with murder in man’s beating death.” Gay People’s Chronicle (October 15, 2004). Available online at http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories04/04oct15.htm#story2.
4. Glassman, Anthony. “Ohio man is beaten to death in a suspected hate crime.” Gay People’s Chronicle (October 8, 2004). Available online at http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories04/04oct8.htm#story1.
5. Patton, Clarence. “Hate Crimes.” Body Positive (April 1999). Available online at http://www.thebody.com/bp/apr99/viewpoint.html.
6. Glassman, Anthony. “Pair may get death in gay man’s murder.” Gay People’s Chronicle (December 17, 2004). Available online at http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories04/december/04dec17/04dec17-st1.htm.
7. Glassman, Anthony. “Second man pleads guilty in Waverly beating death.” Gay People’s Chronicle (October 14, 2005). Available online at http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories05/october/1014053.htm.
8. Rucker, Janelle. “Ferman pleads guilty to end murder saga.” Chillicothe Gazette (November 4, 2005). Available online at http://www.chillicothegazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051104/NEWS01/511040302/1002.
9. Roberson, Lisa. “Second defendant pleads guilty in 2004 killing of homeless man.” Chillicothe Gazette (September 24, 2005). Available online at http://www.chillicothegazette.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050924/NEWS01/509240303/1002.
10. Glassman, Anthony. “Final man pleads guilty to beating Daniel Fetty to death.” Gay People’s Chronicle (November 11, 2005). Available online at http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories05/november/1111055.htm.
11. FBI. Hate Crime Statistics, 2004. (Washington: US Department of Justice, November, 2005). See tables 13 and 14. Available online at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2004/openpage.htm.