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Local news in brief
Minister denounces HRC silence on Wone verdict
A D.C. minister who emerged as an outspoken opponent of the city’s same-sex marriage law has denounced the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT groups for not speaking out against the acquittal of three gay men implicated in the Robert Wone murder case.
Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the National Black Church Initiative, was referencing a D.C. Superior Court judge’s decision June 29 acquitting Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky and Dylan Ward of charges stemming from the 2006 murder of local attorney Robert Wone.
Judge Lynn Leibovitz, who presided over the non-jury trial, ruled that prosecutors failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the three defendants committed any crimes.
“In the past, the National Black Church Initiative has spoken out against violence against homosexuals,” Evans said in his July 21 statement. “But none of the local or national gay groups have spoken out against this miscarriage of justice.
“Outcries are heard loud and clear when these organizations or members of their community are wronged,” he said. “What kind of hypocrisy is at play when they refuse to respond when homosexuals perpetrate a wrong?”
Michael Cole, an HRC spokesperson, said the group speaks out on hate crimes against gays and other minorities, but it’s not within its purview to comment on other criminal cases. Police and prosecutors did not classify the Wone case as a hate crime.
“We follow and comment on issues of crimes against our community because one of the critical pieces of work that we deal with is protecting our community from hate crimes,” Cole said.
David Greer, one of three gay editors of the Who Murdered Robert Wone blog, said the editors and numerous contributors to the blog have spoken out in the blog on what they consider the injustice of the unsolved Wone murder.
LOU CHIBBARO JR.
Rehoboth attack not bias-related: police
The assault and robbery of a gay man on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk was one of at least four muggings in the popular resort town over the past two weeks and does not appear to be a hate crime, according to Rehoboth’s police chief.
But Stephen Gerard, the victim of the July 17 boardwalk mugging, said the trauma of the attack was heightened when two police officers responding to the scene asked him if he provoked the incident by making a pass at one or more of the perpetrators.
“The officers who took my statement were skeptical of me,” he said in an e-mail. “They determined I was gay and accused me of looking for prostitutes who frequent that end of the beach.”
Gerard said the incident was unprovoked and took place seconds after he walked past a group of about five young men who were hanging around a bench on the boardwalk.
“After I passed them, I noticed a shadow coming from behind to the left,” he said. “Then everything went black. When I awoke, I was bleeding profusely and my wallet was stolen. A straight couple nearby called 911.”
Gerard was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, where he was treated and released.
Rehoboth Police Chief Keith Banks told the Blade he regrets that Gerard interpreted the officers’ questions as being accusatory. He noted that the south end of the boardwalk — where Gerard was attacked — has been known as a gay male cruising spot and that some gays have been targeted for assaults there in past years.
“For a very long time we haven’t had anything like this,” Banks said, so when Gerard’s case surfaced last week, the officers arriving at the scene wanted to cover every possible angle.
“As soon as I saw that, I was in contact with the officers working that night, the shift commander, to see what exactly was going on, if it could have been handled better, how it was worded,” he said. “We don’t want to add any more trauma to a victim. I can assure you of that. We want to get these guys just as bad. We have a wonderful community here and we don’t want it harmed by some thugs doing this type of crime.”
Banks said the victims in the other three incidents are not believed to be gay. He said each gave similar descriptions of the attackers, leading police to believe the same group of perpetrators is committing the muggings.
LOU CHIBBARO JR.
Lesbian chef challenges Dupont restrictions
The acclaimed chef and owner of the Dupont Circle restaurant Hank’s Oyster Bar, who is lesbian, has created a stir by challenging a longstanding city practice backed by some civic groups calling for restaurants and bars to agree to certain restrictions on their operations.
The restrictions are outlined in documents known as voluntary agreements, which Advisory Neighborhood Commissions and some neighborhood activists have demanded in exchange for not opposing a business’s liquor license. Nightlife advocates, gay and straight alike, have complained that the voluntary agreements are forced upon the businesses and unfairly impose restrictions, such as early closing hours and bans on dancing or entertainment, that are not required by law.
Supporters of the agreements say they are needed to protect residential areas from noise and other disturbances that they say some bars, restaurants and nightlife venues create.
Hank’s Oyster Bar owner Jamie Leeds has applied for permission with the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to expand her popular restaurant to an adjacent building near 17th and Q streets, N.W. She has requested that the voluntary agreement she signed five years ago when she opened the restaurant be terminated because, among other reasons, it forbids her from expanding to a larger space.
In a development viewed as recognition of Hank’s as a well-liked and trouble-free business, the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission voted not to challenge Leeds’ expansion proposal or demand she sign a new voluntary agreement.
But the Dupont Circle Citizens Association and five nearby residents filed challenges with the liquor board requesting that it reject her request to terminate the voluntary agreement. The challengers say they are open to negotiating an amended voluntary agreement that might allow Hank’s to expand into the adjacent building if Leeds complies with various restrictions.
Nightlife advocates have hailed Leeds for standing up to what they call unfair and unreasonable restrictions imposed in voluntary agreements.
David Mallof and Alexis Rieffel, two of the residents opposed to dropping the agreement, say in their challenge that any decision by the liquor board approving Leeds’ request “would be widely viewed as aggressive, anti-resident regulatory behavior.” The two called for the board to reject a “sweeping, draconian, unwarranted, and overreaching possible termination of an appropriately and legally promulgated, valid and in-force, mutually and contractually agreed upon voluntary agreement.”
LOU CHIBBARO JR.
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