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Spacey stopped for speeding after court appearance

Spacey’s lawyer argues Snapchat video may show consent



Kevin Spacey in court (Photo screen grab from live stream)

Kevin Spacey appeared in a Nantucket, Massachusetts courtroom Monday, Jan. 7 to enter a not guilty plea in the case of felony sexual assault that was lodged against him by the Cape and Island District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors alleged that the actor groped an 18-year-old busboy in the Club Car, a bar on Nantucket Island, in 2016. 

Nantucket District Court Judge Thomas Barrett agreed to limit the conditions of Spacey, 59, remaining free without bail to a ‘No-Contact’ order in which the actor must stay away from his now 20- year old alleged victim and his family. 

The judge also agreed to the Spacey defense team request that all data held by prosecutors, the alleged victim and his girlfriend be preserved for discovery in the case. Los Angeles-based attorney Alan Jackson argued that such data could be exculpatory evidence. Jackson was referring to the text messages and a Snapchat video of the alleged incident that Jackson argued could prove that the encounter between Spacey and the young man was consensual.

“This is data that we believe is not only potentially exculpatory but likely exculpatory for Mr. Spacey,” Jackson told the judge.

The hearing came more than a year after former Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh accused Spacey, the former “House of Cards” star, of sexually assaulting her unidentified son in the Nantucket bar. Unruh has told reporters that her son didn’t immediately go to police “largely because of embarrassment and fear.”

But in court filings, Spacey’s lawyers argue that the alleged victim misled Spacey when he claimed to be a 23-year-old college student. Additionally, Spacey’s attorney note that the alleged victim “joked about the incident with friends for months.”  

The case was continued until 11 a.m. on March 4 for a hearing Spacey does not have to attend, though the judge said he must be available by telephone.  The entire Nantucket hearing took less than fifteen minutes.

But Spacey was not done with the spotlight. He was pulled over for speeding while leaving Reagan National Airport outside Washington, D.C., after the hearing. He was given a verbal warning, Christina Saull, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, told reporters. 

Apparently the officer who stopped the actor realized it was Spacey after looking at his driver’s license. He also noticed that Spacey was being followed by vehicles full of cameras crews, a scene reminiscent of the traffic accident that befell Princess Diana when she was chased by paparazzi in 1997.   

“This incident was unique because he was being followed by people,” Hernandez told the Washington Post, adding that the airport did not provide him a security escort. “The officer determined a verbal warning would suffice and Mr. Spacey continued on his way without any further incident.” – Karen Ocamb contributed to this story

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Federal Government

Veterans can now identify as transgender, nonbinary on their VA medical records

About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity



Graphic via U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough announced Wednesday that his department added the options of transgender male, transgender female, nonbinary and other, when veterans select their gender, in medical records and healthcare documentation.

“All veterans, all people, have a basic right to be identified as they define themselves,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “This is essential for their general well-being and overall health. Knowing the gender identity of transgender and gender-diverse veterans helps us better serve them.”

The statement also noted that the change allows health-care providers to better understand and meet the medical needs of their patients. The information also could help providers identify any stigma or discrimination that a veteran has faced that might be affecting their health.

McDonough speaking at a Pride Month event last June at the Orlando VA Healthcare System, emphasized his support for Trans and LGBQ+ vets.

McDonough said that he pledged to overcome a “dark history” of discrimination and take steps to expand access to care for transgender veterans.

With this commitment McDonough said he seeks to allow “transgender vets to go through the full gender confirmation process with VA by their side,” McDonough said. “We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do, but because they can save lives,” he added.

In a survey of transgender veterans and transgender active-duty service members, transgender veterans reported several mental health diagnoses, including depression (65%), anxiety (41%), PTSD (31%), and substance abuse (16%).  In a study examining VHA patient records from 2000 to 2011 (before the 2011 VHA directive), the rate of suicide-related events among veterans with a gender identity disorder (GID) diagnoses was found to be 20 times higher than that of the general VHA patient population.

McDonough acknowledged the VA research pointing out that in addition to psychological distress, trans veterans also may experience prejudice and stigma. About 80 percent of trans veterans have encountered a hurtful or rejecting experience in the military because of their gender identity.

“LGBTQ+ veterans experience mental illness and suicidal thoughts at far higher rates than those outside their community,” McDonough said. “But they are significantly less likely to seek routine care, largely because they fear discrimination.

“At VA, we’re doing everything in our power to show veterans of all sexual orientations and gender identities that they can talk openly, honestly and comfortably with their health care providers about any issues they may be experiencing,” he added.

All VA facilities have had a local LGBTQ Veteran Care Coordinator responsible for helping those veterans connect to available services since 2016.

“We’re making these changes not only because they are the right thing to do but because they can save lives,” McDonough said. He added that the VA would also change the name of the Veterans Health Administration’s LGBT health program to the LGBTQ+ Health Program to reflect greater inclusiveness.

Much of the push for better access to healthcare and for recognition of the trans community is a result of the polices of President Joe Biden, who reversed the ban on Trans military enacted under former President Trump, expanding protections for transgender students and revived anti-bias safeguards in health care for transgender Americans.

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Prominent LGBTQ+ activist found dead in Florida landfill

Diaz-Johnston was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz & he led the fight for marriage equality



Photo courtesy of Don Diaz Johnston

Police in Florida’s capital city confirmed that the body of Jorge Diaz-Johnston, 54, who had been reported missing was found in a Jackson County landfill Saturday morning.

Diaz-Johnston was last seen alive Jan. 3 in Tallahassee, more than an hour from where his body was found, according to a missing person notice released by police. Detectives are investigating his death as a homicide, a police spokesperson said.

Diaz-Johnston, was the brother of former Miami mayor and Florida Democratic Party Chair Manny Diaz. As an LGBTQ advocate he led the fight for marriage equality, he and his husband were plaintiffs in an historic 2014 lawsuit that led to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Miami-Dade County.

ABC News reported at the time that a South Florida circuit court judge sided with Diaz-Johnston and five couples suing the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Florida dropped its ban on same-sex marriage in 2015.

His husband wrote in a poignant Facebook post; “There are just no words for the loss of my beloved husband Jorge Isaias Diaz-Johnston. I can’t stop crying as I try and write this. But he meant so much to all of you as he did to me. So I am fighting through the tears to share with you our loss of him.”

“We are heartbroken to learn of the death of Jorge. He and his husband Don were two of the brave plaintiffs who took on Florida’s anti-gay marriage ban and helped win marriage equality for all Floridians,” Equality Florida said adding, “Our deepest condolences to Don and Jorge’s extended family.”

Detectives urge anyone who may have information to call 850-891-4200, or make an anonymous tip to Big Bend Crime Stoppers at 850-574-TIPS.

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Bill prohibiting ‘gay panic defense’ clears New Hampshire House

New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of ‘gay panic’ as a defense



New Hampshire State House (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Legislation prohibiting defendants accused of manslaughter from using the victim’s gender, gender identity or sexual orientation as a defense, which had died in committee during the 2021 regular session of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, was reintroduced this session and passed with a 223-118 vote last week.

House Bill 238, stirred up controversary from opponents who claimed that state statues already covered murder and manslaughter. During a Criminal Justice committee hearing last Spring, Rep. Dick Marston, a Manchester Republican, voiced opposition, saying that the laws already cover murder and manslaughter and that “there’s no way in heck that you’re going to be able to say ‘Well because he or she was some deviant sexuality that I’m not–‘”

Marston was cut off by committee chairman Daryl Abbas, a Salem Republican, who gaveled him down and rebuked him for the derogatory language the Concord-Monitor reported

Later, the committee Republicans blocked an effort to move the bill out of committee alleging it needed more work and was not necessary because a jury could already strike down a similar attempted defense. The bill was then stalled in the committee, effectively killing it from being pushed further in last year’s session.

As the measure now heads to the state Senate, New Hampshire could soon join over a dozen other states which ban the use of the ‘gay panic’ as a defense.

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