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Man sentenced to life in prison for 1992 murder of gay sailor recommended for parole

Family of Allen Schindler organizes campaign opposing release

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Terry M. Helvey pleaded guilty to the 1992 murder of gay Navy sailor Allen Schindler (pictured above).

A former U.S. Navy sailor sentenced to life in prison for the 1992 anti-gay murder of fellow U.S. Navy sailor Allen Schindler while the two were stationed in Japan received a recommendation for parole at a Feb. 17 hearing, according to Schindler’s sister who attended the hearing.

Members of Schindler’s family, who expressed strong opposition to approving parole for former Navy Airman Apprentice Terry M. Helvey, are calling on the LGBTQ community and others to send email messages and letters opposing parole for Helvey to an official with the U.S. Parole Commission, which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Kathy Eickhoff, Schindler’s sister, told the Washington Blade that a parole examiner issued the recommendation that Helvey be approved for parole at the Feb. 17 Zoom hearing after listening to testimony by Helvey and his sister. Eickhoff said she, her mother, and her daughter also gave testimony at the hearing in their role as the victim’s family.

“He was given a recommendation to be paroled on Oct. 26, 2022,” Eickhoff said. “It will now go to a parole board for a final decision,” she said. “That will happen in the next week to three weeks.”

Porcha L. Edwards, the Parole Commission official that Schindler’s family members are urging people to contact to oppose parole for Helvey, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Schindler’s murder triggered expressions of outrage by LGBTQ activists when news surfaced that Schindler, 22, had been subjected to harassment and threats of violence on board the Navy’s amphibious assault ship Belleau Wood when rumors surfaced on the ship that Schindler was gay, and the ship’s captain ignored Schindler’s request for protection.

Naval investigators disclosed that Helvey and another one of Schindler’s shipmates, Airman Charles Vins, attacked Schindler on Oct. 27, 1992, in a men’s bathroom at a public park in Sasebo, Japan near where their ship was docked.

A Naval investigative report says a witness to the attack saw Helvey repeatedly stomp on Schindler’s head and body inside the bathroom. An autopsy later found that Schindler’s head and face were crushed beyond recognition, requiring that his body be identified by a known tattoo on his arm.

Another Naval investigator, according to media reports, presented evidence that Helvey admitted to his hostility toward Schindler when Helvey was interrogated at the time of his arrest the day after the murder. “He said he hated Homosexuals. He was disgusted by them,” the investigator said in a report. In describing Helvey’s thoughts on Schindler’s murder, the investigator, Kennon F. Privette, quoted Helvey as saying, “I don’t regret it. I’d do it again…He deserved it.”

Helvey, 21, was later sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to killing Schindler. The guilty plea was part of a plea bargain offer by military prosecutors not to seek the death penalty, which could have been pursued under military law.

Charles Vins, the other sailor implicated in Schindler’s murder, whose lawyer argued that he was an accomplice to the attack who did not actually physically assault Schindler, also pleaded guilty to three lesser charges, including failure to report a serious crime, as part of a separate plea bargain offer by prosecutors. As part of that plea offer, Vins cooperated with prosecutors in the case against Helvey. He was released after serving 78 days of a one-year prison sentence.

After being dishonorably discharged from the Navy, Helvey was transferred to a federal prison and has been an inmate in several federal prisons for the past 29 years. He is currently an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Greenville, Ill.

Eickhoff, Schindler’s sister, said Helvey has been applying for parole and clemency almost every year for at least the past 20 years. She said federal parole authorities have turned down all those requests until last week, when, for the first time, a parole examiner issued the recommendation for parole.

According to Eickhoff, Helvey, who is now 50 years old, has expressed remorse for what he did 29 years ago and claims he is a different person. She said the Feb. 17 parole hearing, in which the parole examiner asked Helvey questions, appeared to focus on whether Helvey would “reoffend” if released from prison.

“He [Helvey] said what he has lined up,” Eickhoff told the Blade. “He’s going to go home. He’s got three different jobs lined up. His mother and his stepfather need him. He wants to be a truck driver,” Eickhoff said. “And then, of course, all of the things he has done while he’s been in prison,” she recounted Helvey saying at the hearing. “All of the mentoring and all of the classes and all the wonderful things he’s done.”

Eickhoff noted that if Helvey is approved for parole and is released on Oct. 26 of this year, it will take place one day short of the 30th year after her brother’s murder. She said the parole examiner also stated at the hearing that 30 years of incarceration in a federal prison can sometimes become a threshold for when a prisoner becomes eligible for parole under federal law.

“And he does have a parole hearing every two years and a clemency hearing every other year,” Eickhoff said. So, it’s more or less every year we are going through this,” she told the Blade. “Twenty-nine years ago, we thought that was it,” she said when Helvey was sentenced to life in prison. “But no, that’s not what happened.”

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons website says all federal and state prisoners are eligible to apply for clemency, which can be granted by a state governor or the U.S. president depending on the circumstances of the case.  

Among those joining Schindler family members in urging opposition to parole for Helvey is longtime gay activist Michael Petrelis of San Francisco, who called on the Navy to publicly recognize the Schindler murder as a hate crime shortly after the murder took place in 1992.

In 2015, Petrelis released to the public a 900-page Naval investigative report he obtained from the Navy through a Freedom of Information Act request that revealed new information that the Navy had withheld in earlier years.

Among other things, the investigative report provided further details that the captain of the ship on which Schindler was stationed discussed Schindler’s request for protection from anti-gay harassment in front of other shipmates. Doing so further spread the word that Schindler was gay, a development that subjected him to intensified anti-gay harassment on the ship, according to Petrelis.  

Eickhoff and her family are urging members of the LGBTQ community and others supportive of what they say is justice for Allen Schindler to send letters and email messages expressing opposition to parole for Helvey to:

Porcha L. Edwards
Victim Witness Specialist
United States Parole Commission
United States Department of Justice
90 K Street, N.E., Third Floor
Washington, D.C. 20530
Email: [email protected]
Office: 202-346-7003
Work Cell: 202-880-2156

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Over 100 LGBTQ-themed books in a Florida school district labeled with advisory warning

They warn: “this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students.”

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Advisory Notice (via Twitter)

A southwest Florida district put parental “advisory notice” on over 100 books, many of which are race or LGBTQ-themed. 

A great number of books in Collier County Public Schools, either digital or physical, now have warning labels writing “Advisory notice to parents,” according to an NBC report,

The label, tweeted by nonprofit free-speech-promoting group PEN American, states, “This Advisory Notice shall serve to inform you that this book has been identified by some community members as unsuitable for students. This book will also be identified in the Destiny system with the same notation. The decision as to whether this book is suitable or unsuitable shall be the decision of the parent(s) who has the right to oversee his/her child’s education consistent with state law.” 

Stephana Ferrell, co-founder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project, which means to fight book banning, told NBC that she had a call from Elizabeth Alves, the associate superintendent of teaching and learning for Collier County Public Schools. In the call, Alves told her that the district added the labels starting in February. 

These measures, which Alves described as a “compromise,” happened after the district’s legal representative talked with the Florida Citizens Alliance, a conservative group which initiated a “Porn in Schools Report” project last year. The report included a list of books that “promote gender self-identification and same-sex marriage” as well as titles that include “indecent and offensive material,” as the group explained. 

Chad Oliver, the Collier County Public Schools spokesperson, on the other hand offered a different story. 

Oliver sent an email to NBC News and said, “Based upon advice from the General Counsel, we placed advisory notices on books about which parents and community members had expressed concern and in accordance with the recently passed Parents’ Bill of Rights Law (HB 241).” 

The law referred by Oliver is also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

According to PEN America, there are 110 labeled books in total, and the list greatly overlaps with the one Florida Citizens Alliance inquired about with Collier County Public Schools. 

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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney introduces bill to make monkeypox testing free

Health insurers would be required to cover costs

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Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney has introduced legislation to make monkeypox testing free to the public. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), amid the ongoing monkeypox affecting gay and bisexual men, has introduced legislation in the U.S. House seeking to make testing for disease free to the public.

Maloney, one of seven openly gay members of Congress and chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement the measure, called the No Cost for Monkeypox Testing Act, would testing amid the monkeypox outbreak would be accessible to all.

“It is critical that we eliminate cost as a barrier to testing for monkeypox to ensure we can identify cases and prevent further spread,” Maloney said. “This legislation takes the lessons we learned from past public health emergencies and protects those at risk of contracting monkeypox by making tests accessible to everyone.”

The legislation would require private health insurers as well as Medicare and Medicaid to cover the costs of monkeypox testing at no expense to the patients, either through deductibles, co-payments, and co-insurance.

The bill introduction comes the week after the Biden administration declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency and the same it has issued new guidance to enhance to the accessing of existing vaccines doses amid criticism federal officials were too slow in distributing shots.

The Washington Blade has placed a request in with the Centers for Disease Control seeking comment on the legislation. Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra said Tuesday the federal government has the capacity to conduct an estimated 80,000 tests each week.

Maloney has been representing New York’s 18th congressional district, but after redistricting is now seeking re-election in the 17th district. Amid controversy over a potential showdown between Maloney and Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), who’s Black, another openly gay member of Congress and the current representative of that district, Jones has since opted to run for re-election in the New York’s 10th congressional district. Maloney is now running unopposed in the 17th.

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Biden administration shifts monkeypox vaccine approach amid shortage

Health experts sees new guidance as mixed bag

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The Biden administration has changed its guidance on monkeypox vaccines to enhance availability amid the shortage.

The Biden administration, amid criticism it was slow to act on the monkeypox outbreak and still not meeting the demand for vaccines as the number of cases continues to grow, has announced a shift in guidance for implementation of the shot in an effort to enhance availability.

As the estimated number of monkeypox cases in the United States reaches 8,900, top health officials announced the new move on Tuesday as part of a decision by Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra to issue a determination under Section 564 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to justify emergency use authorization of vaccines. The announcement follows up on the Biden administration’s announcement last week declaring the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency.

Becerra said in a conference call with reporters the 564 determination and change in approach to vaccines would “boost and strengthen” the Biden administration’s response to monkeypox, which has overwhelmingly affected gay and bisexual men, and “safely accelerates and multiplies our supply of effective vaccines by up to fivefold.”

“Today’s action also reaffirms HHS and this administration’s commitment to using all available resources and capabilities to end the monkeypox outbreak and provide the best possible care to those suffering from the virus,” Becerra added.

The new vaccine approach, which may may be considered minor to non-medical observers, would change injections of the JYNNEOS vaccine from the subcutaneous route (delivery of the vaccine under the fat layer underneath the skin) to the intradermal route (delivery of the vaccine into the layer of skin just underneath the top layer). In theory, that would allow for greater accessibility of monkeypox vaccines as it increases the number of doses from each vial of vaccine.

The change was made amid criticism the Biden administration failed to meet the demand for vaccines during the outbreak and geographic inequity as certain metropolitan areas of the country have more access to vaccines than other places.

As The New York Times reported last week, the Biden administration has faced criticism for not moving quickly enough in acquiring and distributing vaccines, including bulk stocks already owned by the U.S. government manufactured in Denmark by Bavaria Nordic now being given to other clients.

“The government is now distributing about 1.1 million doses, less than a third of the 3.5 million that health officials now estimate are needed to fight the outbreak,” the Times reported. “It does not expect the next delivery, of half a million doses, until October. Most of the other 5.5 million doses the United States has ordered are not scheduled to be delivered until next year, according to the federal health agency.”

Biden officials, nonetheless, touted the numbers of vaccines and tests in response to monkeypox as a positive, acknowledging the 1.1 million vaccines being made available as well as delivery of more than 620,000 of those doses, deployment more than 15,000 courses of the monkeypox treatment and increasing the country’s capacity to administer tests on a weekly basis to around 80,000. Meanwhile, officials also promoted the change in approach in vaccines as means to allow greater accessibility to the shots.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, promoted during the conference call the use of intradermal injections and said they’re “often used for TB skin tests and have been used for other types of vaccines.”

Although Walensky conceded some health care providers “may not be as familiar with intradermal administration” as they are with subcutaneous injection, she said CDC would make additional guidance materials available, including a clinician alert message to the Association of State & Territorial Health Officials, outreach to key clinician partners and an education resource video. The change in guidance, Walensky said, is for vaccine implementation in adults, but children — where single digit monkeypox cases have been reported — would continue to receive vaccination in the traditional subcutaneous approach.

But health experts aren’t responding with overwhelming praise to the decision to change the guidance on vaccine implementation from subcutaneous injections to intradermal injections, expressing concerns the new approach may be insufficient.

Jennifer Kates, director of global health & HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, was among those saying the change in guidance on vaccine approach was a mixed bag and told the Blade more data is needed to evaluate the effectiveness.

“As we saw with COVID, using these authorities in the context of public health emergencies is an important strategy,” Kates said. “In this case, this step will significantly expand access to vaccines for those most at risk. However, there remain questions about the effectiveness of this approach — real world studies are needed — and challenges to translating vaccines into vaccinations.”

Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation & Research (CBER) at the Food & Drug Administration, was asked during the conference call with reporters to respond to concerns the change in guidance was insufficient and downplayed the novelty of implementing the vaccines through the intradermal route as “not at all new.”

“In fact, the reason why the Bavaria part of this equation comes from the fact that in Germany, this vaccine was given intradermally originally, in an effort to replicate the original version of the smallpox vaccine,” Marks said. “It’s been given to thousands of people intradermally, so this isn’t the first time it’s been done.”

Walkensky said the intradermal vaccine approach has been implemented amid policies among localities to implement a one-dose approach to the JYNNEOS vaccine through the subcutaneous route. (The D.C. government is one of the jurisdictions that had enacted a one-dose approach amid a vaccine shortage.) There is not data, Walkensky said, to support that approach and “in fact, if anything, there are data saying that that is not protective enough.”

“So by using this alternative strategy of intradermal dosing, not only do we have more doses, but we actually allow people to get two doses in a way that shows immunologic response that’s superimposable from the subcutaneous dosing,” Walkensky said. “So we have more doses, and in fact, we have the ability to doubly vaccinate people so that they get the protection that they need.”

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