The Republic of T.

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The LGBT Hate Crimes Project: Jimmy Lee Dean

This entry is part 38 of 53 in the series lgbt hate crimes project

I mentioned earlier that the shooting at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church had jump-started my return to the LGBT Hate Crimes Project. Specifically it was Joe Lauria who put it into a context that immediately gelled for me.

Even if this man hopefully acted alone it is chilling to all progressive people and groups, like the Unitarians. Are we free to express our views, indeed to allow our children to perform in a church play?

Th answer, of course, is no. Well, sort of. Maybe. Not really.

You’re free to express your views, and you’re free to allow you’re children to perform in a church play. (Though some people will tell you it’s not “real” church and what you practice isn’t a “real” religion.) You’re just not safe. You’re views, if the offend or upset some patriot citizen, may get you berated at the very least, beaten up, if you’re lucky, and perhaps worse. But you take that risk by being a liberal.

You hear people say things that you know aren’t entirely meant in jest. Like the stuff in the previous post. Or this one from the late Jerry Falwell.

“You know when I see somebody burning the flag, I’m a Baptist preacher I’m not a Mennonite, I feel it’s my obligation to whip him. In the name of the Lord, of course. I feel it’s my obligation to whip him, and if I can’t do it then I look up some of my athletes to help me. … But, as long as at 72 I can handle most of the jobs I do it myself, and I don’t think it’s un-spiritual. When I, when I, when I hear somebody talking about our military and ridiculing and saying terrible things about our President, I’m thinking you know just a little bit of that and I believe the Lord would forgive me if I popped him.”

– Jerry Falwell, during a September 25, 2005, sermon to his Thomas Road Baptist Church congregation

And, again, this one from Ann Coulter.

“When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker [John Walker Lindh, the American Talib] is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors.”

– at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2002, in Crystal City, VA.

Now, substitute “gay” for “liberal.” The message is clear, right down to the use of violence to “physically intimidate” people and make sure they don’t get out of line or forget their “place.” The occasional dead or beaten liberal (or queer, or nigger, etc.) is an effective reinforcement of the above.

Yes, you’re free to be whoever or whatever you are. You can gather with other people like yourself, and even take over whole neighborhoods. You can walk down the street holding hands with your S.O. You’re free to do that. But you’re not safe. Your openly identifying as LGBT, or appearing to be such, may inflame some righteous citizen, and may get you rebuked, beaten, or worse. But that’s a risk you take by being homosexual.

After that follows the assertion that you should expect the above. You want to be able to express your views safely? Don’t be liberal. You want to be able to walk down the street and hold hands with your spouse? Don’t be gay. Otherwise, you’re not safe.

Whether it’s an organized activity — like lynching — or an individual incident, a hate crime directed against a person or persons sends a message to everyone else who belongs to that group: you are not safe; watch yourself; this can happen to you.

In some places, being gay means you can’t even walk down the street safely, because you are targeted for violence because you’re gay. The LGBT Hate Crimes Project includes stories of people who’ve experienced just this, like Michael Wren and Lisa Craig.

What happened to Jimmy Lee Dean is just one more example.

Jimmy Lee Dean, 42, is a bisexual man from Oak Lawn, TX, who was attacked and beaten while walking home with a friend on July 16, 2008, by two men who yelled anti-gay epithets during the attack.

The Background

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Dean, a native of Cincinnati, has lived in Dallas for about 20 years, and had lost contact with his family. Dean works as a freelance web designer, but his true love is music and playing his guitar, and his goal is to open a home recording studio to help other artists cut demos.Around midnight on July 17, Dean left Alexandre’s — one of two gay bars he’d been to that night — and began walking back towards his apartment complex 50 yards away. Michael Robinson, a 48-year-old gay man and car salesman, walked out of Zini’s Pizzaria around the same time. He encountered Dean, who was walking in the same direction, and the two struck a conversation.1)

Near the corner of Throckmorton Street and Dickerson Avenue, they passed Bobby Jack Singleton, 26, and Jonathan Gunter Gunter, 31, walking in the opposite direction. Dean gave them a nod, having recalled seeing them there before, and kept walking.2) Singleton and Gunter doubled back and came up behind Robinson and Dean. Robinson turned to confront them.

The Attack

A verbal exchange occurred between the parties, and Robinson urged Dean to keep walking. When Singleton and Gunter got between him and Dean, Robinson ran to his apartment one block away and retrieved a kitchen knife. When he returned, Dean lay on the ground with Singleton and Gunter kicking him, stomping his face and yelling things like “you gay ass motherfucker, punk-ass bitch,” according to Robinson.3)

Singleton and Gunter attacked Dean, pistol-whipped him with a 9mm Glock handgun, as well as kicking and stomping his head, face, and body. Witnesses said that Singleton and Gunter used anti-gay epithets before, during, and after the attack.4)

When Robinson approached with the knife, the one of the men pulled the gun on him that they’d used to beat Dean. Distracted, they began walking a way from Dean. Norman Draper, 26, a heterosexual passing motorist acting as designated driver for some gay friends, saw Singleton and Gunter pass behind his car on foot, and saw Dean lying in the street. Draper left his vehicle, put flares on the road, and called 911. A former security officer and Police Explorer, he used latex gloves to retrieve the gun that Singleton and Gunter had tossed into some high grass, as well as a bloody knife lying next to Dean.5) Singleton and Gunter were apprehended at the scene by security guards from the nearby clubs. They were arrested and held on bail; $300,000 for Singleton, and $300,500 for Gunter.6) They were charged with aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony, because investigators recovered a set of keys and a Zippo lighter from them, which belonged to Dean.7)

The Aftermath

Dean was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital. He suffered a broken jaw and vertebrae, as well as facial fractures and swelling. Witnesses at the scene said that after the beating, Dean’s nosed was attached only by a piece of skin. His injuries were so bad that police were unable to interview him for days after the attack.8)

Singleton and Gunter later admitted to police that they’d targeted Dean because they thought it would be easier to rob a gay man.9)

On July 31, the Dallas County prosecutors announced that they would not seek hate crimes charges against Singleton and Gunter. Dallas police plan to categorize the attack as a hate crime for statistical purposes. Prosecutors, however, decided not to pursue hate crime charges because Singleton and Gunter already face the maximum penalty — up to 99 years — if convicted. Texas law dictates that a hate crimes designation is made during the sentencing face of a trial, after conviction.10)

Series NavigationThe LGBT Hate Crimes Project: Angie ZapataThe LGBT Hate Crimes Project: Sakia Gunn

3 Comments

  1. What about the crime of thought? I do not support crime, obviously. But if a man is beaten into submission, does it matter what the criminal was thinking? Or how the criminal ‘feels’ about other races/lifestyles? Meaning, if a Catholic beat a Baptist over religion, is that a hate crime? If so, how is it different than a crip and a blood? Or a bigot and a minority?

    Just my thoughts, I haven’t made up my mind on the hate crime issue. Very good post though.

  2. Hi, I just wanted to say there is mis-information out there. This was not a hate crime, it was a robbery, a very brutal robbery. I know both of the offenders and the age of BJ Singleton is 29 not 26, he lived with his LESBIAN COUSIN, Jon Gunter, lives with his GAY brother…there is a new article out in the Dallas Voice where Jimmy Dean himself confirms seeing the pair three days in a row, scoping I suppose, he also said, there were no gay slurs mentioned, I don’t know the whole truth but just know, the newspapers have not printed all facts. This however is a fact, it was a horrible terrible mistake, I don’t know how they feel about it now but I am sure they would make different choices if they could go back. I don’t know what pushed them to make this choice but someone(Jimmy) was hurt badly and they both deserve to be punished for it, however, it was not a hate crime.

  3. Phillip Mabry, let me hopefully help you make up your mind about hate crimes, and about your question about “crimes of thought”. The quotes below come from the q&a section at http://www.trendsinhate.com:

    What distinguishes hate crimes from non-hate crimes is that with a bias-motivated crime the victim is purposefully selected based on a hatred toward a socio-demographic feature that that victim has, a feature that often times has historical roots in oppression. Gender, race, religion, disability status, age, ethnicity, and more recently and in fewer jurisdictions, homelessness status, sexual orientation, and gender identity are all categories from which hate crimes can be based. In violent, non-hate crime offenses, the perpetrator intends to do harm because of who the specific victim is; in hate crimes, the perpetrator intends to do harm because of what class of people the victim belongs to. From the perspective of the perpetrator hate crime victims are interchangeable so long as the potential victims have the same hated characteristic. This differentiates crimes from hate crimes where strong emotions come into play. For the husband enraged with his wife, only she is his target; for the Neo-Nazi, any Jew will do. Thus, with hate crime perpetrators, their potential victim pool is large. This is why hate crimes are seen as victimizing not only the specific person targeted, but also the class of persons the victim belongs to. This too is why hate crimes are acts of domestic terrorism; they function to terrorize groups of people. Just as all Americans were placed on alert following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (and not just those residing in New York City or Washington, D.C.), all blacks are placed on alert when a race-based hate crime happens to a specific black person. Because of the community-terrorizing feature of bias-motivated crimes, they are particularly pernicious, even though they constitute a small percentage of all crimes committed.

    and

    …Additionally, because hate crime perpetrators premeditatively select their victims, increasing the punishment for a hate crime perpetrator makes sense. Why? Because hate crime laws by their definition take into account the motive for the crime; and, perpetrator motivation (or lack thereof) has long played a role in American law for establishing culpability and exacting appropriate punishment. For instance, killing someone is agreed to be more heinous when premeditation occurred as compared to the negligent, unplanned killing of another. This is why planned (first-degree) murders carry harsher punishments than unintentional killings of persons by, say, drunk drivers.

    I have yet to come across any serious person who believes that a premeditated murderer should receive the exact same punishment as a drunk driver who kills someone.

    To Jennifer Givens: yes, I think everyone would agree that beating someone and kicking someone, almost to death, for a Zippo lighter is “very brutal” to use your words. To use the words of criminologists and sociologists, such violence for such a small prize constitutes “overkill”, and overkill is common in hate crime murders (but it is rare for non-hate crime murders). Had Mr. Dean died, this would be, forensically speaking, a classic hate crime murder (the selective targeting, the slurs, the overkill). Also, living with a gay relative does not mean someone cannot commit a sexual orientation-based hate crime. I believe the Dallas Texas Police Department: the assault and robber of Mr. Dean was a hate crime.

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