aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Skipper & Matthew & Hate Crime
By any standards, Skipper’s murder was vicious. He was stabbed 20 times inside his car. His throat was slit, his face pummeled. The attackers took his jewelry, his laptop and his new car, and dropped his body by the side of the road in Wahneta, a small town outside Winter Haven.
The killing has sparked an outcry from gay rights groups and gay-oriented Web sites. Vigils for Skipper will be held today in 13 cities around the state as well as in Washington, D.C.
But Skipper’s death has received little mainstream attention compared with the 1998 slaying of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay college student whose savage murder in Laramie, Wyo., drew national headlines and spawned a play and a movie.
Family and friends say that’s in large part because Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told local media that Skipper was cruising for sex when he met his attackers and that earlier in the night he had been smoking pot with one of his attackers and talking about an illegal check copying scheme.
Specifically, the sheriff said:
“What we do know is that Ryan was looking for someone to pick up that evening. And unfortunately for Ryan, he picked up the wrong person.”
The sheriff said that because one of the murderers told him Skipper was “messing” with him. There’s no other reason to believe it’s true. He went on to imply that Ryan was involved in a check forging scheme with the murderers based solely on their statements.
Shepard has been subject to revisionist history based largely on the word of killers, too. Frank Rich was among those to rebut those revisions - “ABC had obtained the first TV interviews with the killers and seemed determined to rehabilitate their images along the way” - but I found David Neiwert’s arguments the most persuasive. After reviewing the significant factual flaws, he takes on the topic of hate crimes.
Quoting from his book, Death on the Fourth of July, he addresses “one of the persistent myths about hate crimes, namely, that the laws on the books now should be adequate to punish them:”
This myth arises from one of the realities about hate-crime laws: they only exist on the books as laws dealing with a special category of crimes with which we already are well familiar (murder, assault, threatening, intimidation, vandalism, etc.)—that is, a hate crime always has a well-established “parallel” crime underlying it, upon which is added the layer of motivation by bias (racial, ethnic, etc.). Thus, opponents argue, the laws for those parallel crimes should be adequate for punishing perpetrators. (If this argument sounds familiar, it is; the identical points were raised in the 1920s and ‘30s by opponents of the anti-lynching legislation that was the NAACP’s raison d’etre during its early years.)
Are hate crimes truly different from their parallel crimes? Quantifiably and qualitatively, the answer is yes.
The first and most clear aspect of this difference lies in the breadth of the crimes’ effects. Hate crimes attack not only the immediate victim, but the target community—Jews, blacks, gays-to which the victim belongs. Their purpose today, just as it was in the lynching era, is to terrorize and politically oppress the target community. Hate-crime laws resemble anti-terrorism laws in this respect as well-adding, in effect, punishment because more than just the immediate victim is targeted and affected, and thus greater harm is inflicted.
[O]ne study, conducted in 1991, estimated that better than 50 percent of all gays and lesbians in America had been subjected to physical attacks motivated by their homosexuality. As early as 1987, a Department of Justice report had observed that “homosexuals are probably the most frequent victims of hate crimes.” The same report noted: “Many victims of bias crimes do not report incidents because they distrust the police, feel that the incident is too minor or that the police cannot do anything about it, have a language barrier, fear retaliation by the offender or-in the case of gays and lesbians-fear public exposure.”
What really stood out about these crimes was their viciousness. These weren’t merely assaults: they entailed torture, mutilation, castration, sexual assault, and extremely severe beatings, and they were very likely to end in death. Gay-related homicides are notable for the “overkill” that pervades the attacks; a 1995 study found that in more than 60 percent of the homicides, there was evidence of “rage/hate-fueled extraordinary violence” that included “dismemberment, bodily and genital mutilation, use of multiple weapons, repeated blows from a blunt object, or numerous stab wounds.”
Ryan’s case is clearly that, a hideous hate crime. The task now is to undo the taint caused by the sheriff’s comments in the mind of the public, the press and prospective jurors. And support the hate-crimes legislation.
LATER: Someone explain to me how could this NOT be a hate crime?
The Lottery: The Lump Sum Industry
Caught up in other things, I let my lottery coverage go. Picking it back up, you will recall that a Georgia truck driver winning half of the $390 MegaMillions jackpot sent me to the library to find the microfiche copy of an April 23, 1995 New York Times Magazine cover story on lottery winners, TICKET TO TROUBLE: Congratulations! You’ve won one million dollars. Your troubles have just begun, by Lois Gould (links to excerpts below).
The day after my last post on the topic, the New Jersey couple that won the other half came forward:
“We feel very fortunate and blessed,” Harold Messner, 57, a general contractor who bought the winning ticket. “This is that early retirement we’ve always dreamed of. Now we can do all those things we said we would do once we retired.”
Maybe. Maybe not.
Ed Ugel...had a very unusual dream job: he bought jackpots from lottery winners. When you win the lottery, your prize is often paid out in yearly installments. And Ed would offer winners a lump sum in exchange for their yearly checks. He’s talked with thousands of lottery winners, and the vast majority, he says, wish they’d never won. Ed is writing a book about his years in the “lump sum industry” called Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions. It comes out in September 2007.
Ed tells us that states have now moved into the lump sum industry, whereby lottery winners agree to take a much reduced (50%!) payout in order to get the money up front, rather than accept the annual payout that works out to something like $35,000 a year take home for a million dollar winner. His estimation is that “broke lottery winners or financially troubled lottery winners are the rule.”
I’ll be looking forward to Ed’s book. Maybe I’ll even drop him a line so that we can get a preview.
SEE ALSO: The lottery: You’re rich! Wait - got a calculator? and Winning the lottery: Your deadbeat pal’s on line 2 and Lottery ticket-holder losing big time and The Lottery: Everyone loves a winner? I don’t think so...
Researcher seeks rural gay volunteers
Anne Foster writes that she is a student in Northern Ireland doing a thesis on homophobia. She’s looking for volunteers and has asked that I post the following email:
My name is Anne and I’m a mature student undertaking a research project on Homophobia in a rural part of northern Ireland. I would be grateful to hear any feedback from GLBTI community members regarding their experiences of heterosexist discrimination in day to day life, the difference between urban and rural existence reflecting on the localized community settings in rural areas and also on the more metropolitan aspect of the city existence. I am interested to see if the experience is comparable and / or what are the differences.
In Northern Ireland at present, we have some legislation to protect equality in that we have Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act which protects against discrimination based on nine specifications such as sexual orientation. We also have anti discrimination legislation for employment and also are implementing a Single Equality Bill. Civil recognition for same sex partnerships has been introduced etc. So on face value we have quite a bit of statute to protect against institutionalized heterosexist discrimination. However there is a large lobby (predominantly religious and on the grounds of sinfulness and abnormality) about same sex relationships, rights to marriage or civil recognition and also regarding parental rights. Most recently there has been debate on whether to allow for equality of access to services infringes on the rights of Christian citizens who feel that they have more legal rights to equality and / or representation.
Basically folks I am looking for a selection of feedback on any issues you think relevant in a democratic society regarding your rights, equality etc. and if heterosexism or homo negativity affects your day to day lives. I have a specified time limit for receiving information and would appreciate that you understand the mail address given is set up to maintain your confidentiality and to adhere to solid ethical practice. You can contact me with any comments here. I’d appreciate if you can just send your comments as succinctly and concise as possible to allow for me to process the information. Any rural dwellers that feel being GLBTI in a smaller community setting has particular relevance to your lifestyle, image or family situations, please feel free to write conversational style etc. Also on a sensitive issue for some, if there are any individuals who are living a cloaked existence due to a formal heterosexual relationship eg, please take a moment to forward some feedback as it is relevant to some of the research reached locally here in Northern Ireland.
I appreciate your time in contributing to this and thank Joe sincerely for all his support to date.
Girls Gone Wild founder’s leagal woes
I’m probably the last blogger in the world to have seen this. I’m happy nonetheless. E! Online News on Tuesday:
Girls Gone Wild mastermind Joe Francis was taken into custody in Panama City, Florida, Tuesday morning, four days after a federal judge ordered him behind bars for contempt of court.
Tom Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshal’s office in Pensacola, confirmed that the 34-year-old soft-porn purveyor was nabbed at Panama City International Airport as he arrived in town on a chartered jet around 6:30 a.m. to surrender to authorities. According to Miller, Francis did not turn himself in but was instead identified by awaiting marshals as he deplaned.
The founder of the risque “Girls Gone Wild” empire was indicted Wednesday on two counts of tax evasion by a federal grand jury, the latest in a series of legal woes for the Santa Monica entrepreneur.
The indictment in Reno of Joe Francis, 34, follows his arrest by federal marshals Tuesday on a contempt-of-court citation stemming from a civil case in Florida, where he is being held without bail.
Wednesday’s charges alleged that Francis deducted more than $20 million in false business expenses on corporate income tax returns filed in 2002 and 2003 by two of his companies, Mantra Films Inc. and Sands Media Inc.
“Girls Gone Wild” bad boy Joe Francis has allegedly been found with pills in his Florida jail cell—and the reason he got caught is because he allegedly tried to bribe a guard for a bottle of water with a $100 bill on Wednesday night.
In her LATimes piece from last August, Joe Francis: ‘Baby, give me a kiss,’ Claire Hoffman opened with:
Joe Francis, the founder of the “Girls Gone Wild” empire, is humiliating me. He has my face pressed against the hood of a car, my arms twisted hard behind my back. He’s pushing himself against me, shouting: “This is what they did to me in Panama City!”
Amanda Marcotte noted that, “when he realized that Hoffman was going to tell the truth about him, Francis resorted to claiming that Hoffman had a crush on him.”
If you’re inclined towards sympathy for Francis, read Hoffman’s piece. Then think again.