Missouri supremes set the state up for slap down
October 31st, 2013
Justice Scalia once famously said that “a tax on yarmulkes is a tax on Jews”, the idea being that one cannot hide behind the technicality of a law ‘applying to everyone’ when the actuality is that the law is designed to impact only one demographic.
And though Scalia refuses to see it, he provided the clearest legal parable as to why it is that laws designed to impact only gay citizens – though couched as ‘applying to everyone’ – violate the US Constitution.
Although several conservative politicians have tried to claim that their state’s sodomy laws are still valid using the argument that they applied to both gay and straight people, these have never gotten any legal traction. When Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia Attorney General (and GOP gubernatorial candidate), tried to argue for reinstatement of that state’s sodomy laws by bringing a case involving oral sex with an opposite-sex minor, the US Supreme Court didn’t even grant certiorari.
Nevertheless, those who oppose equality for gay people often tie themselves up in logic pretzels, seeking a way to simultaneously disadvantage gay citizens while still convincing themselves that they are applying rules equally and fairly. And one of their favorite tactics is to make one unequal law – fully justified in this one instance by tradition and religious freedom and social need and, especially, ‘think of the children’ – and to then use that inequality as justification for the next. It’s what I call gay yarmulke logic.
The current iteration of the gay yarmulke is marriage (having replaced “homosexual acts”). Those who oppose equality aren’t anti-gay, you see, just anti-gay marriage. And, of course, the next inequality is justified by marriage inequality.
The latest example comes to us from the State of Missouri.
On Christmas Day 2009, Missouri State Trooper, Corporal Dennis Engelhard was hit and killed in the line of duty when a car hit an icy patch and veered out of control. He left behind his partner of 15 years, Kelly Glossip, and Kelly’s son who they were jointly raising.
The Police and Fireman’s Fund held a fundraiser for the parents, at which they ignored Engelhard’s spouse and child. The State Troopers issued an obituary stating that Engelhard was ‘single’ and the Governor asked people to pray for his family, who who “lost a beloved son and brother.”
And, naturally, claiming that Glossip was just “a boyfriend”, the state refused to provide him with the survivor benefits to which any spouse is entitled and which are intended to help the family go on after an officer is killed.
Glossip sued. And today the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that Glossip had no rights. Not because of his orientation, oh no of course not, but because of the gay yarmulke, marriage laws. Although they had exchanged rings, they weren’t a family. (OzarksFirst)
Glossip argued that the law was discriminatory because Missouri state law also forbids same-sex marriage. He also claims it is an unconstitutional special law.
The court rejected these claims.
In a 5-2 opinion, the court ruled that the law Glossip was challenging discriminated on the basis of marriage, not sexual orientation.
“Glossip was denied ssurvivor benefits because he and the patrolman were not married, not because of his sexual orientation,” the ruling document stated. “If Glossip and the patrolman had been of different sexes, Glossip would have still been denied benefits no matter how long or close their relationship had been. The result cannot be any different here simply because Glossip and the patrolman were of the same sex. The statute discriminates solely on the basis of marital status, not sexual orientation.”
They weren’t discriminating against gay people, you see, just people of the same sex being spouses. They also oppose heterosexual people of the same sex being spouses. Just like they would tax Lutherans for wearing yarmulkes.
But while these cases frustrate me, they are our key to equality. These examples of discrimination are so blatant, so intuitively unfair, that they win not only our legal arguments but the hearts of the public.
What the State of Missouri did to not just Kelly Glossip but to Dennis Engelhard, who gave his life for the state, is so cruel that it shames decent people. And the gay yarmulke argument is so obscene that it is inconceivable that it could hold up to an inspection by the US Supreme Court.
It is through cases like this one that marriage equality will finally be achieved.
Appeals court finds for Palm Springs cops, not “filthy mother-f*ckers and c*cksuckers”
January 18th, 2013
Two years ago, the police in Palm Springs decided that they wanted to crack down on the “bunch of filthy mother-f*ckers” and “c*cksuckers” who frequent the Warm Sands area. So they set up a sting. They dressed attractive officers in tight clothes to give come-hither looks to the gay men going to the various spas.
And when a man approached, the officer would say, “show me what you got“. Some of those foolish enough to suppose that the police in gay-friendly Palm Springs would never engage in entrapment fell victim to the officer’s encouragement and were arrested for indecent exposure.
This did not go over well with the city’s residents and the Chief of Police resigned. But the Riverside County District Attorney, who answers to a larger much more conservative constituency wasn’t going to let the obvious entrapment and homophobic slurs stop him from prosecution. So rather than go for the mild “lewd acts”, he sought prosecution on “indecent exposure” charges, a criminal category designed to punish predatory acts on unwilling victims which requires the guilty party to register for life as a sex offender. And he was shocked, shocked!, when four of the victims didn’t just plead guilty in exchange for dropping the sex offender registration, like he requested.
And when they got to court, the judge wasn’t at all interested in the fact that the police regularly ignored heterosexual lewd acts and made no attempt to crack down on repeated complaints about heterosexual acts. Nor did he think it worth noting that there had been no complaints at all – none – about this “threat to public decency”. Instead he discovered that there was nothing at all discriminatory about the targeting of gay men – and only gay men – in sting operations.
So they appealed.
And on January 3rd, the appellate court agreed. (mydesert.com)
A three-judge panel concluded that “there is substantial evidence to support the trial court’s determination that the prosecution did not engage in invidious discrimination.”
“As unprofessional and inappropriate (as) the comments may be, they do not demonstrate discriminatory intent on the part of the Department,” the judges wrote in the ruling.
Which is, of course, absurd. There really is no question whatsoever that this was discrimination. Not to those who are open to even the possibility that gay people should be entitled to the same treatment by their government as straight people – which, it seems, does not include these judges.
Even the police force couldn’t muster up a statement of agreement.
“The Police Department respects the decision of the Riverside County Superior Court in this matter,” Chief Al Franz wrote in an email. “We reached out to the community after those events transpired in an effort to regain the community trust that was lost. We will continue building upon the relationships with all of the citizens and businesses that we serve and are dedicated to moving forward.”
So, unless they fight on, these four men will be sex offenders, a danger to the safety of children, criminals. All because some police officers channeled the 70’s and decided to go show the faggots who is in charge.
But the vile truth is that it is perfectly legal to target gay people for discrimination in law enforcement. Laws directed at gay people, and only at gay people, are legal. We are not a protected class, there is no presumption of unconstitutionality in the behavior of federal, state, or municipal officers, and if the courts protect the police from the people (instead of the other way around), we have little recourse.
Which is why the cases before the Supreme Court right now, the DOMA3 case and the Prop 8 case, are so very important. Yes, they address marriage, but they really address a bigger issue: do the protections of the US Constitution also apply to gay people. And are laws (and relatedly behavior) which target gay people for abuse to be subjected to merely to “rational basis” rules or are the realities of millennia of oppression and hostility directed at the LGBT community to be recognized and some form of enhanced scrutiny applied when police and district attorneys and judges decide that heterosexuals deserve one type of treatment while reserving quite a different treatment for the “”.
Lewd or immoral acts in Michigan
December 14th, 2011
Laws are funny things. Generally created out of some panicky necessity (usually the necessity of a politician to appear to be statesmanlike), they linger on long after the need has passed and often to the point of absurdity.
But sometimes rather than amusing and fairly harmless laws that reflect a cultural reality that has long passed, they become tools for abuse by police or other authorities who seek to achieve their own personal goals based in their own prejudices or ill intent. And that appears to be happening in Kent County, Michigan. Sheriff Larry Stelma is using a law written to address prostitution to “clean up” county parks.
750.448 Soliciting, accosting, or inviting to commit prostitution or immoral act; crime.
A person 16 years of age or older who accosts, solicits, or invites another person in a public place or in or from a building or vehicle, by word, gesture, or any other means, to commit prostitution or to do any other lewd or immoral act, is guilty of a crime punishable as provided in section 451.
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person convicted of violating section 448, 449, 449a, 450, or 462 is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.
Stelma has decided that this is his justification for ridding the parks of gay men. And he’s taking a very broad interpretation of the code to do so.
He has decided that “accosts, solicits, or invites another person” includes responding to solicitation by an undercover police officer. And “commit prostitution or to do any other lewd or immoral act” includes flirting, holding hands, or inviting another person home or to another private location to pursue sexual activities. Or rather, it does if the target is a gay man.
And Stelma acknowledges that his officers are not interested in following the letter of the law, and especially not the spirit of the law, but in harassing targets that he knows full well are not committing a crime: (Mlive.com)
“There is a range of discernment there, but whatever that act or suggestion was has to be considered by a judge or jury as being lewd or immoral,” Stelma said. “Our community has invested heavily in the parks and they expect us to keep them safe, family-friendly places and that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”
So Sheriff Stelma will arrest those whom he deems not to be “family-friendly” and parade them in front of the community for public shaming and condemnation. Oh, and if it was unwarranted, well then a judge can let them off the $500 penalty.
At Box Turtle Bulletin we do not endorse or defend sex in public or suggest that such acts should not be discouraged or punished when they occur. Half of the arrests reviewed by the ACLU were for activities that were criminal and that is appropriate.
But we also do not accept the assumption that being gay is a crime or that there is anything “family-friendly” about targeting gay people. And if an officer or police force is arresting gay people for things for which one would never arrest a heterosexual, they are engaging in criminal behavior themselves and are violating the civil rights of citizens.
Such tactics are not uncommon and the reason is clear. There is very little disincentive for police to engage in this form of selective and creative enforcement. Seldom are police chiefs reprimanded, much less fired. And there is little social cost resulting from their abuse of power.
Those who are hateful or fearful are happy that “that element” is remove from a “family park” and those who object are smirked at as being soft on crime and a seedy element themselves. And, of course, there is the internal reward of harming people whom the officer or leader considers inferior or less human. Truly, bigots love a good “round up the homos” police sting.
But the cost to their victims can be huge.
Often those who resort to meeting in a park are men who are closeted and afraid to go to a bar or look online. They will do anything, say anything, to avoid having their secrets become public. And it is on just such a fear that corrupt officers and police forces rely; the sheriff can hold the threat of being listed as a sex offender over their head to keep them from any public objection.
I’m really sick of this.
It has reached the point now that when I hear of any dispute between an officer and a civilian, I assume that the officer is simply engaging in police brutality. And sadly, I’m very seldom wrong.
And even more frustrating is the mindset that is universally shared by the police community: protection of their own before protection of the community. Even in the most extreme of cases. (OC Register)
Earlier this month, six Fullerton cops surrounded and savagely attacked an unarmed, 37-year-old Kelly Thomas until he was dead. By the time the cops were done, Thomas’ face looked like it had been put through a meat grinder.
Multiple witness say the cops repeatedly beat the 135-pound homeless man with their weapons, fired multiple Taser shots into his body, kicked his face and head with their boots and then, long after the man was subdued and on the ground, slammed their knees into his throat, apparently crushing it.
Thomas had committed no crime and it appears that the murder was for sport. Not one officer in the police force objected. The six were not put on suspension or reprimanded or even frowned at as a consequence of their action. In fact, it was not until the man’s father went to the internet and got the support of local radio hosts John and Ken that anyone knew about it or the department took up an investigation. And when John and Ken began reporting, the families of other police officers actually called up and tried to make excuses.
This was a murder committed on police time, in uniform, with police recorders running, and people watching. The victim was threatened and taunted and then beaten to death. And they didn’t care that they would be turning in “reports” or that their department would have access to the recordings. They already knew that they were protected from any consequence to any action – even murder – because they were police officers.
And when the Fullerton community erupted in anger and a few officers were finally arrested, guess who bailed out the primary murderer? Yep, his fellow officers.
This infuriates me.
The thing is that my instinct runs to ‘law and order’. I like having a police force to protect me. I like knowing that if someone breaks into my home or threatens me on the street or otherwise harms or endangers me, that there is someone to look out for me. And when people like Kent County Sheriff Larry Stelma abuse their office and bring shame to the process, it hurts those honest officers who try to do their job and protect the citizens.
But honest officers seem to be in short supply. And their honesty seems to come secondary to their loyalty to power and corruption. The “thin blue line” appears to have become an impenetrable boundary that breaks the world into two classes: “good guys” who murder citizens, and “perps” like you and me and homeless schizophrenics and closeted men in Michigan.
And I know that I’ll be told that “there are a lot of good officers”. Bull. Being a good officer means not only avoiding abuse yourself, but stopping it when others do it. And that simply doesn’t occur.
But this only happens because we allow it. We are afraid that if we stop police abuse that it will empower criminals and crooks. Unfortunately, we now are seeing that our fear has already empowered criminals and crooks – the ones wearing the uniform.
It needs to stop. We need to make it stop.
Perhaps it is time to implement a tool that police bullies use against the citizens. Perhaps it’s time to create a Police Brutality Offenders Registry and when an officer has been accused of abusing his power he goes on the registry. If you are surly or arrogant or dismissive of a citizen, it goes into the Registry. If someone dies at your hands, it goes into the Registry. If you are on a police board that excuses an officer or finds “justifiable” something that would result in jail time for anyone else, then your name goes into the Registry.
And people seeking to move into a new city or precinct can look up the Police Brutality Offenders Registry, just like they can the Sex Offenders Registry, to see just how safe their new community might be. “Great schools and few sex offenders, but the police are corrupt so we’ll not buy here.”
And perhaps it is time for society to withhold the respect afforded police until they have proven themselves worthy. They need to decide if they are peace officers or a police force, if they answer to the community first or to their loyalty to the uniform first. It isn’t enough, any more, to be honest officers themselves, it’s now time for them to insist that others in their ranks be honest or get out. And if their sergeant doesn’t like it, go the newspapers.
Until officers and police forces identify themselves as protectors of the citizenry, we must assume that they are not good people. If they cannot condemn the horrific acts in Fullerton in clear and unequivocal terms, if they cannot demonstrate that your civil rights are more important than ‘rousting the objectionables’, if they think that they are an exception and exempt from laws that prohibit murder, then we must assume that they are the enemies of law and order no different from a street gang.
I hate to assume guilt and corruption… but it seems that few police are willing or able to show otherwise.
Gay Good Samaritan’s attackers finally sentenced
May 24th, 2011
On July 3, 2009, Tapululululu Latu decided to celebrate Independence Day by holding an all night party. At about 6:30 on the following morning, her neighbor, D.J. Bell (who had earlier been at the party) noticed that two small children from the party were wandering about unattended while their parents reveled and took them into his home.
When Lulu noticed that the children were missing, she came to Bell’s home where he returned the kids to her care. But although the children had been well cared for, Lulu became hysterical, slapped Bell, and went back to the party where she rallied the partiers with some tale.
She led the gang back whereupon they broke down the door and attacked Bell and his partner, Daniel Fair, who had been sleeping. They dragged Bell into the yard where they repeated smashed his face into the sidewalk and cut his throat with a piece of glass. Fair was beaten and a television was smashed onto his head. All the while the assailants screamed homophobic slurs at the pair.
The Salt Lake City police came and promptly made arrests. They took Bell to jail on charges of kidnapping.
To the bafflement of the entire community, the District Attorney insisted on pressing the charges and took the case to trial. Although Bell was not wealthy, a number of attorneys and private investigators stepped up to provide support without any expectation of compensation (
not a common practice for those in the legal field).
The jury, having heard the entire story and all the evidence, responded in anger. They accused the District Attorney of wasting their time and were furious at the police for their shoddy investigation. Having decided that the gay guy must be guilty, the detectives didn’t even return phone calls of witnesses that wanted to provide information.
And finally, perhaps in response to an increasingly incredulous public and a string of uncomplimentary news stories, the District Attorney pressed assault charges against Latu and her mob.
And this week sentences were assigned. Other than one, the assailants plead guilty to reduced charges. (Deseret)
Peace, 35, Ieti Mageo, 34, and Ietitaia Tavita Nuusila, 27, previously pleaded guilty to reduced charges of aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and rioting, all third-degree felonies. They were each sentenced Monday to zero to five years for each count, but 3rd District Judge Randall Skanchy ordered the sentences to be served concurrently.
They were also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $14,865 to Bell and Fair.
Tapululululu Latu, 31, was sentenced to 365 days in jail for attempted riot, a class A misdemeanor, but 180 days of her sentence was suspended. She will spend two years on probation when released.
As for Bell, he still has scars and permanent partial loss of hearing in his right ear.
Judge does not drop charges in Palm Springs entrapment case
February 2nd, 2011
From the Desert Sun:
Judge David B. Downing said that, prior to the hearings, he had been inclined to dismiss the charges, but the testimony of two Palm Springs police officials — outgoing Chief David Dominguez and Sgt. Bryan Anderson — changed his mind.
Palm Springs police showed no discriminatory intent, Downing said.
I guess it was coincidence that they made no attempts to
entrap sting heterosexuals.
“Show me what you’ve got”
January 27th, 2011
Sometimes I wonder whether law enforcement in this country hasn’t completely abandoned the deterrence of crime in favor of “catching bad guys”. And sadly, I see the glorification of entrapment and the nonsensical presentation of it as evidence of my protection to be a trend that has no foreseeable end. And rather than find it troubling, the masses are applauding.
This past Christmas some stupid 19-year-old Somali American kid was “stopped” from setting off bombs at a Christmas Tree Lighting in Portland, Oregon. And the FBI was quick to soak in praise for having foiled his efforts. Of course, they also were the ones who approached him, encouraged his radicalism, provided the “explosives” and sent him on his way. But they are heroes for “protecting” the people from this kid.
Now I’m certainly not saying that the FBI should have ignored the potential threat. But I couldn’t help but wonder if they couldn’t have as effectively prevented an atrocity by approaching the kid and telling him that they were aware of his radical views and that they would have their eye on him. Or perhaps by working with local Muslim leaders to redirect his thinking.
Maybe that wouldn’t have been the right approach in this instance, but I wish that it could have been considered. But, of course, discouraging radicalism isn’t nearly as dramatic or as likely to scare the public or demonstrate just why they need you.
Which brings me to the trial going on in Palm Springs. The 19 gay men who were enticed by a “sting operation” (aka entrapment) conducted by the police department to make an example of and punish the “filthy mother-f*ckers” are fighting their arrests.
I don’t know these guys. For all I know, some were regular scoff-laws who delight in public sex. But they also may be regular guys who had no intention of anything indecent or illegal until an undercover officer encouraged them to break the law. (mydesert.com)
“I pretty much just stood there. People would walk up to us,” Palm Springs officer Chad Nordman testified. He did say “show me what you’ve got” to those arrested — but only after they approached him first, Nordman added.
But approaching isn’t a crime, whether Officer Nordman thinks so or not. And even if being a gay man make you a “bad guy” in Nordman’s eyes, it isn’t an arrestable offense. So the officer had to push the “criminal”, he had to encourage him.
Show me what you’ve got. Commit a crime. Let me catch a bad guy.
What if, instead, the police had just regularly enforced the law when they saw public sex – there or anywhere. Or what if the decoy had simply said, “I want you to know that I am a police officer. And we want to have the public sexual activity to stop. You could have done something for which you would be arrested. Think about it.” Would that not have discouraged public sex? Would that not quickly result in a change in behavior in the area?
But deterring a crime was second to catching bad guys. Even if you had to encourage them to be bad guys to do so.
Palm Springs police entrapment victims choose not to plead guilty
January 21st, 2011
The victims of a police sting involving homophobic slurs and entrapment techniques have rejected an offer by the Riverside County District Attorney (Desert Sun)
During Thursday’s hearing, the district attorney’s office proposed a plea agreement that would have dropped the lifetime sex offender registration requirement if the defendants pleaded guilty.
They opted, instead, to move forward with their motion to dismiss the charges.
Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Earl Lee Roberts called the defense decision “ironic.”
“They’ve been screaming about (being listed as sex offenders) all along, and now we’ve offered to settle this for less than sexual registration and they want to keep going. I think that’s kind of ironic,” Roberts said.
I guess Roberts thinks that the “filthy mother-f*ckers” should be delighted that they will only have to pay a fine and have a crime on their record. But instead they are rejecting the DA’s position that “the Palm Springs Police Department did nothing wrong” when they set about to entrap gay men and wink at heterosexuals for the same conduct.
Roberts is vowing to make a show pony out of the case, bringing in witnesses to, undoubtedly, argue how disgusting the gays are. To me, this seems like a foolish plan. The judge is already troubled by the Police Chief’s homophobic comments, and isn’t likely to be amused by such efforts.
Perhaps it’s time for newly elected DA Zellerbach to step in. If this situation goes much further in this direction, he may find himself the target of an angry citizenry.
Fallout of a police sting in a safe place
January 12th, 2011
In 1990 I accidentally stayed in the Warm Springs district of Palm Springs. I say “accidentally” because I misunderstood what was meant by “gay resort” and thought that it simply was gay owned and a safe friendly place to stay where you didn’t have to worry about any homophobic smirking or unpleasant heterosexist assumptions. I guess I didn’t notice the “clothing optional” sign and it really wasn’t until much later that I realized that I stayed in the middle of what was basically a sex club without having a clue. Ah, naive youth.
The eleven mostly-small, often tacky, clothing optional “resort” motels that find a home in Warm Springs, are the sort of phenomena that could only spring up in a gay friendly and sexually tolerant environment. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does provide an outlet to a subset of gay men who enjoy a style of sexuality that includes less intimacy and more immediacy. And while there are undoubtedly those for whom Warm Sands is a consistency, I suspect that most visitors consider it an excursion, a place to get away from the normality of life and go play at hedonism in a safe place.
And what could be safer than Palm Springs? With a majority gay city counsel and perhaps half of the residents gay – often retired gay couples – who would bother the gay revelers? After all, Palm Springs is home to the White Party and the Dinah Shore Weekend and has long been happy to overlook a little excess in the name of tolerance.
Even before Palm Springs became the haven for men who decorate their retirement home with perhaps a tad too many mid-century gew-gaws (just saying), it was Hollywood’s playground. The glamor hotels were where the beautiful people came to be photographed in swimsuits, but the Warm Springs spas and resorts were built by folks like Howard Hughes to let starlets play outside the confines of 1950’s Los Angeles morality (and even occasionally for the male leads to leave their pretty arm candy and spend some quality time together).
This desert oasis has long been disinterested in puritanical morality and given the wild set a greater degree of freedom. But in June 2009, Warm Sands ceased to be a safe place for the sexually nonconformist. That was when Police Chief David Dominguez and District Attorney Rod Pacheco decided to crack down on the “c*cksuckers.”
Dominguez set up a sting in which “shirtless and squeezed into tight jeans, a hunky undercover Palm Springs police officer hovered in a shadowy parking lot and lured men cruising the Warm Sands neighborhood”. The sting involved fifteen officers over four nights and the police chief personally attended. In total nineteen men were seduced by the officers into doing something for which they could be arrested.
Personally, I find the notion of police stings to be troubling. It is difficult to know with certainty the number of otherwise law-abiding people who are enticed to an infraction of the law, but it is inevitable that such entrapment will result in “crimes” that would have never been committed. Such policing starts with a presumption of guilt and maximizes the lure in an effort to capture as many “criminals” as possible; Fat Freddy and Homely Hank are not the cops they put in disguise.
And such work does little to reduce crime. You don’t reduce theft by leaving out a pile of twenty dollar bills on a park bench and then arresting anyone who picks them up. And you don’t reduce the citizens’ exposure to lewd behavior by having an attractive man talk someone into briefly exposing themselves in the shadows of an empty parking garage.
But stings are a quick and easy way for police to demonstrate that they are “protecting the family” and “cracking down on criminals,” especially the perverts. And because there has historically been little downside to such action, these stings have always been around. And even an outcry by the gay community generally results in no punishment to officers or the police force and, at best, a promise of “sensitivity training.”
Yet, I’m willing to consider allowances for efforts to address a problem. If there’s a problem. And the police chief claimed that there was, indeed, a problem and that the sting was done in response to what police said were complaints about drug use, public sex and prostitution in Warm Sands.
The difficulty is that when the attorney representing the men asked, no formal complaints could be documented. In fact, during the previous two years, only two indecent exposure cases involving gay men had been reported (in a city that is half gay), while ten complaints involved men exposing themselves to women. None were in Warm Sands.
Oh, there had been casual mentions to council members about the goings on (and there undoubtedly had been goings on). But the residents appear to have mostly just accepted the cruising as part of living in the area, just as do the residents of West Hollywood and Chelsea.
There had developed, however, a pattern of police obsession about the Warm Sands district. Cops would drive by and if they saw men talking, they would tell them “take it inside” even though they were not committing any crimes, showing indication of committing crimes, or doing anything more criminal than, well, talking. And it appears that the police decided that the gay men in the Warm Sands district were an offense to them, if not to anyone else.
Yet still this sting, like so many, probably would not have raised much attention had it not been for the actions of the District Attorney. Most people are willing to shrug their shoulders and think, “well, I guess you’ll stay zipped up next time, won’t you.” Even when the police set out to entrap the public, there is an attitude that the punishment of those entrapped is not such a great burden and so they give the police the benefit of the doubt.
But Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco decided to take action that is never taken in these instances. Invariably treated across the country as lewd conduct, the men caught in such stings pay a fine, suffer embarrassment, and go on with life a bit more carefully.
Pacheco decided instead that he would destroy their lives. Rather than lewd conduct, Pacheco filed charges of indecent exposure, a criminal category designed to punish predatory acts on unwilling victims which requires the guilty party to register for life as a sex offender.
This gave the men reason to fight. And fight they did. Public defender Roger Tansey, who represents six of the men, set about asking questions. The answers he found shook up the city.
Tansey discovered that the sting was not actually based on documented complaints. Further that the police were well aware of a pattern of heterosexual lewd conduct at a water park and in a local garage and did nothing, making no arrests, designing no sting operations, and – as might be the tradition of the city – looked the other way. It was only gay men that the police chose to target and prosecute.
So Tansey went public and the city responded.
Pacheco, who no doubt thought that his excessive prosecution would be popular in conservative Riverside County, was the first to discover that cracking down on the homos may require a price. (LA Times)
Former Riverside County Dist. Atty. Rod Pacheco’s hard-line prosecution of the Warm Sands cases, which have yet to go to trial, rallied many in the Palm Springs gay community to pour money into his challenger’s campaign in the June election. Pacheco lost to Superior Court Judge Paul Zellerbach by 8,400 votes.
But Tansey’s coup came when he got the testimony of officers conducting the sting. Although the chief had long claimed that they had not engaged in slurs, it turns out that he personally engaged in slurs and egged his officers on. (Desert Sun)
It’s the first time Dominguez has admitted to making expletives during the lewd-conduct sting, which has sparked controversy across the valley over how it was carried out, the severe charges those arrested face, and the gay slurs police made during surveillance.
Dominguez was alleged to have said “what a bunch of filthy mother-f*ckers” and “you guys should get paid extra for this,” according to a Sept. 11 complaint filed by an attorney representing at least one officer who took part in the sting.
Chief Dominguez “apologized” and promised sensitivity training. But unlike virtually every other situation that we have seen occur over the past couple of years, in Palm Springs the community was too powerful. “I’m sorry for calling you mother-f*ckers” and “we’ll take sensitivity training” just wasn’t good enough.
Even the city’s report based on their probe of the situation was not adequate. Absent any details, a report of “appropriate disciplinary and correction action,” sounded like happy platitudes designed to make a public embarrassment go away rather than a city that took the targeting of a demographic for police harassment seriously. And as the city manager and some council-people rushed to Dominguez’ defense, emails poured in and Warm Sands based community organizations expressed their frustration.
Last Thursday, Police Chief David Dominguez resigned. He may not be the last to go. The fury over the city’s pooh-poohing of the situation may result in long-seated council people getting tossed out on their ear. Much of it may depend on the outcome of Tansey’s hearing on January 20th to have the charges dismissed. Incoming DA Paul Zellerbach (a Republican, as is Pacheco) has just been sworn in and has not yet announced how his office will approach the arrests.
The Palm Springs gay community is peculiar; it is older and in many ways quite conservative. Many of the gay retirees are Republican and even the majority Democrats often share the perspectives of men their age. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this makes them any less offended by discriminatory policing practices. In fact, it is precisely because of the perception of acceptance in Palm Springs that many decided to retire in a safe place.
Staff and dancers arrested during police raid on the Atlanta Eagle were found not guilty
March 15th, 2010
On September 10, 2009, the Atlanta police raided the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar. They treated the customers like criminals and laughed and made racist and homophobic remarks as patrons lay handcuffed and face down on the floor.
The police were certain that illegal public sex and drugs would be discovered by their raid, thus justifying their heavy-handed approach. But no sex was going on. And although the police searched all of the patrons, they did not find any drugs at all.
So they had to do something. They couldn’t simply acknowledge that their raid was pointless, purposeless, and anti-gay in appearance. Somehow they had to explain why nine undercover officers, a dozen uniformed police, ten squad cars, and three jail vans descended on the 62 patrons enjoying their beer.
A crime, they needed a crime. So they arrested four employee and four dancers for “providing adult entertainment without a permit”. They were dancing in their underwear, you see.
Last Thursday a judge threw that bogus excuse out on its ear. (Journal-Constitution)
An Atlanta judge found three defendants in the Atlanta Eagle gay bar case not guilty Thursday, and the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the charges against the other five defendants.
Municipal Judge Crystal Gaines said city police failed to produce evidence proving that men danced naked without permits or that the bar operators were running an unlicensed adult establishment.
That isn’t to say that they didn’t try. Det. Bennie E. Bridges testified of the evil deeds done that night.
Bridges said that he heard no slurs and that he saw one of the defendants dancing atop the bar “in bikini underwear.”
“He was pulling down the front of his underwear and exposing himself,” Bridges said. “Men would reach up and put money into the waistband.”
But Bridges couldn’t even identify five of the eight arrested, so their charges were dismissed. And after the judge heard testimony from patrons, dancers, and employees that no one was exposed, the judge decided Mr. Bridges’ statements were not enough.
Judge Gaines said the city had to overcome “all these witnesses” and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that nude dancing happened.
“I don’t believe that the city has met that burden,” she said.
This is a blow to the police force. There is a civil suit brought by the patrons of the Eagle against the police, and a conviction of the employees or dancers would have helped with the defense. And no doubt the officers thought at the time that arresting someone – anyone – would be a good idea. “Criminals” have less credibility when it comes to addressing police excesses.
But in this instance they may have done themselves more harm than good. False arrests only serve to turn public opinion against a police force that can then be seen as abusive. And this decision suggests that the word of the officers in this case, or at least that of Bridges, is not completely credible.
But this is not the only way in which the officers are hurting their own public image.
The Atlanta City Council, meanwhile, has agreed to subpoena 18 officers to answer questions about the raid from the Citizen Review Board. So far, only one officer has complied.
That refusal may be due to the lawsuit, but it certainly doesn’t make them look good.
And in the meanwhile, the suit goes forward (pbaonline)
Attorneys say starting Monday, patrons of the Atlanta Eagle present that September night begin giving depositions to the city attorney’s office. Also this week, the legal team plans to request documents, radio transmissions and other records as part of its discovery process.
While last week’s acquittal of the Eagle employees will not have a direct effect on the civil case, Attorney Dan Grossman says it shows the raid was malicious and illegal.
“It was not about sex,” said Grossman. “It was not about underwear dancing. It was cops who simply wanted to search 70 people for drugs, didn’t have a warrant, didn’t have the right to do it, and did it anyway.”
Oh, yeah. I think it’s time to start thinking about a settlement.
Police deliberately destroy lesbian’s military career out of spite
March 15th, 2010
Sometimes I get so angry that it is hard to type. Now is one of those times.
Sgt. Jene Newsome is a lesbian who played the Military’s don’t ask, don’t tell game. She kept her private life private and did not tell her employer that she’s gay. She did, however, enter a relationship with another woman and married her. And the woman she married had a problem with the law.
And when the police came knocking for her wife, Newsome wasn’t home. (AP)
Newsome was at work at the base at the time and refused to immediately come home and assist the officers in finding her partner, whom she married in Iowa — where gay marriage is legal — in October.
Well, now, wait a minute. They are the police. And in Rapid City that means that all you non-officer scum jump when they yell “frog”. Ya know, to protect a serve and all that.
And since Newsome didn’t jump high enough, they decided that they would choose to destroy her life.
Police officers, who said they spotted the marriage license on the kitchen table through a window of Newsome’s home, alerted the base, police Chief Steve Allender said in a statement sent to the AP.
Newsome was discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t annoy the local police in any way.
Oh, but they have their reasons. Yesirreee.
As you read the following, remember that Newsome’s only crime was “not being cooperative”. That is her only connection to “the case”. She was not involved in the theft, and the Air Force was only tangential.
The license was relevant to the investigation because it showed both the relationship and residency of the two women, he said.
“It’s an emotional issue and it’s unfortunate that Newsome lost her job, but I disagree with the notion that our department might be expected to ignore the license, or not document the license, or withhold it from the Air Force once we did know about it,” Allender said Saturday. “It was a part of the case, part of the report and the Air Force was privileged to the information.”
Now ask yourself if that makes any sense whatsoever. Would a straight couple’s marriage license require “alerting the base” about the sexual orientation of a heterosexual? Or is police Chief Steve Allender just trying to justify an act that is based in the most vile of bigotries, callousness, and abuse of power?
You bet it’s an emotional issue, Mr. Allender. Because you decided to destroy someone’s life. And that makes me emotional.
But I guess you showed us, didn’t you, Mr. Allender. We all better jump next time you say “frog”.
Miami Beach Police harrass gay witness to their brutality
February 3rd, 2010
Miami Beach Officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi were going about their business of kicking an unarmed man in the head when they realized that they were being observed. By a gay man, of all people.
So they approached Harold Strickland, pushed him to the ground, tied his hands behind his back and screamed homophobic slurs at him. They said they were sick of the f**ing f**gots in the neighborhood so they decided to arrest him for “attempting to break into cars”.
Unfortunately for Forte and Hazzi, Strickland was on the phone with a 911 operator reporting the beating he was witnessing when they decided that he would be target number two. And the tape of the call corroborates Strickland’s call up until the point where the officers demanded to know who he was and what he was doing there. At the time they “observed him” breaking the law, he was face down in their custody being subjected to police brutality.
The officers are still on duty.
Let me repeat, the officers are still on duty. And I can’t help but wonder why the 911 call did not immediately generate a top level investigation. Were I on a jury, the lack of concern on the part of the city would weigh heavily on my determining of just how much to award Mr. Strickland.
The inhumanity of “protecting marriage”
January 30th, 2010
In 1995 Hootie and The Blowfish were on the radio, Waterworld was stinking up the movie theaters, and Tommy Lee married Pamela Anderson. It may not have been the best of years, but it was a good year for Kelly Glossip; that’s the year he met Dennis Engelhard.
Over the next 15 years the two men built a life together. They bought and decorated a house, joined a church, and helped raise Kelly’s son from a previous relationship.
And Dennis established a career in law enforcement, earning respect as a Missouri State Highway Patrolman. Even though Missouri is not a liberal state, the two lived openly, even attending social functions with Dennis’ coworkers.
But in 2004 the residents of Missouri decided that they needed to amend the state constitution to protect marriage from people like Kelly and Dennis. And in the process, they provided justification for treating them with contempt.
On Christmas Day, Dennis Engelhard was assisting at a minor accident when he was struck by a car which had lost control in the snow. He was killed. And at Glossip’s time of grief, his state did everything they could to make his life more miserable.
Although there was no confusion about the nature of their relationship, Glossip was denied Engelhard’s survivor pension benefits. And the trooper support organizations decided that they would treat Glossip as dismissively as they would “any other boyfriend” because he’s not a legal spouse (ignoring the fact that most of them had voted to deny Glossip any choice of being a legal spouse).
On the debut night of season nine of American Idol on Fox 2, St. Louis, Idol wanna-bes sang in an effort to raise money for true St. Louis heroes: the families of police and firefighters who’d given their lives in the line of duty. It was night one of the 16 week Backstoppers St. Louis Idol karaoke contest at Helen Fitzgerald’s restaurant and bar in Sunset Hills.
Backstoppers gives financial support to the families of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Tuesday nights contest had a very special significance: the entire evening was a tribute to Missouri State Trooper, Corporal Dennis Engelhard, 49, who gave his life in the line of duty in St. Louis County on Christmas Day.
Engelhard was working an accident on Interstate 44 when an approaching driver apparently hit a slick spot in the snow, went off the road, hit and killed Engelhard, who was standing near the trunk of his cruiser.
The highlight of the evening was a rendition of Danny Boy by 15 year old Ronnie Bass. People in the crowd teared up as he sang what has become something of anthem for police officers. Engelhard had no wife or children.
Backstoppers had already presented his parents with the first check to help them cover expenses related to his death.
Their contribution to Kelly? Nothing.
“The parents are the legal next of kin,” [BackStoppers director Ronald A.] Battelle said.
But it was the state of Missouri that really went out of its way to viciously erase Kelly Glossip from official existence. The department issued an obituary reporting that Engelhard was single and had no children. (StLToday.com)
Gov. Jay Nixon called on Missourians to pray for Engelhard’s family, who “lost a beloved son and brother.”
Neither [he nor his son] were formally recognized, Glossip said, at Engelhard’s funeral last month, attended by dozens of law enforcement officials in Engelhard’s hometown of Brookfield, Mo.
While policies that exclude long-term same-sex couples from financial compensation are disgustingly unfair, officials that erase their existence during a funeral are inhumane. This is deliberate callous cruelty was designed to celebrate Dennis Engelehard’s sacrifice for his fellow citizens and make police officers appear to be heroes while dismissing, ignoring, and erasing Kelly Glossip, the part of Dennis’ life that they find distasteful or embarrassing.
But no one displayed his contempt and an utter lack of empathy more than the man responsible for seeing that state employees are treated fairly:
The law would apply the same to a straight trooper with a boyfriend or girlfriend, said state Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains, chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Employee Retirement.
“I personally feel that a relationship should be between a man and a woman,” Franz said. “They still love each other and care about each other, but I don’t think we can change the law for that.”
In the recent testimony for Perry v. Schwarzenegger, supporters of Proposition 8 sought to argue that there really isn’t any animus towards gay couples but that society simply wants to protect the status and tradition of the definition of marriage.
I think we know that isn’t true in Missouri.
Georgian LGBT group raided
December 26th, 2009
There is a report from the Inclusive Foundation, an LGBT organization in the nation of Georgia (located on the eastern edge of the Black Sea bordering Russia, Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan) of harassment by the police force:
On December 15 2009 the office of the Inclusive Foundation, a well known Georgian LGBT organisation, was raided by the police. They did not wear police uniforms, did not provide a search warrant, did not inform about their identity or agency they represented and did not explain the purpose of their intrusion. Members of the LGBT community were present in the office during the raid for a regular meeting of the “Women’s Club”. The men confiscated cell phones of all those present in the office, did not allow them to contact their families, and made degrading and humiliating remarks, such as ‘perverts’, ‘sick persons’, Satanists. They threatened to take photos of the women and disseminate them to reveal their sexual orientation. They also threatened ‘to kill’ and ‘tear to pieces’ one of the leaders of the organisation, Eka Agdgomelashvili, if she did not stop demanding the search warrant and identification documents of the police.
Georgia is one of the world’s oldest Christian nations and, being on the border between Christendom and the Muslim World, strongly identifies with the faith and is greatly influenced by the Georgian Orthodox Church. Although homosexuality was officially decriminalized in 2000, the society and the church are strongly homophobic and the gay community is likely to find little sympathy.
In 2007, a rally for diversity in Tbilisi, the capital, was mistakenly reported to be a gay pride event and the pressure from the church, the newspapers, and the public caused the even to be cancelled.
Bill James’ lastest unusual statement
December 18th, 2009
Bill James is the Mecklenburg County Commissioner who slurred the dead gay son of a fellow commissioner. In a follow up communication, James declared that North Caroline flaunts the US Supreme Court and refers to gay men “infesting” areas. From Q-Notes.
James wrote: “Homosexual conduct is illegal in NC (even after Lawrence V Texas). We arrest 250 homosexuals each year in Mecklenburg alone for either a ‘crime against nature’ or ‘solicitation of a crime against nature’. Unlike prostitution (exchanging money), even suggesting homosexual sex is a criminal offense in NC. If we were all that ‘progressive’ would we be arresting 250 homosexuals a year? Setting up sting operations to de-infest areas where they congregate? Point is, if you want to delude yourself that homosexual conduct is ‘ok’ go ahead. The law, the police and the DA however have a different view.”
I have inquired with Peter Gilchrist, the Mecklenburg District Attorney, and Ken Miller, Deputy Chief of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, as to whether their departments agree with Mr. Jones.
Atlanta sued for Eagle raid
November 24th, 2009
On September 10, Atlanta police stormed the Eagle, a gay bar, treating all patrons like criminals, disregarding their civil rights, and subjecting them to homophobic language. They seemed to presume that illegal sex and drugs would be found which would justify this extreme action on their part.
There was no sex. Although patrons were individually searched (without cause or warrant) not a single illegal substance was found. And though police ran a check on each person, not even a warrant for an outstanding jaywalking ticket was identified.
So since this was just begging for a lawsuit, Lambda Legal has obliged. (Windy City Times)
In the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia today, Lambda Legal and co-counsel filed a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta, the Chief of Police and forty-eight individual officers of the Atlanta Police Department on behalf of nineteen individuals who, on September 10 at the Atlanta Eagle gay bar, were forcibly searched and detained.
“The illegal activity going on in the Atlanta Eagle that night was committed by the APD,” said Greg Nevins, Supervising Senior Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. “If it is APD procedure for elderly men and wounded veterans to be thrown to the floor and harassed simply for being in a bar having a drink after work, then the APD should change its procedures.”
No doubt the police will issue a report in which they find themselves faultless, within procedure, and without blame.