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Anti-gay crimes rarely prosecuted in Texas by name

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Preston Vest, Troy Clattenburg's nephew, said Clattenburg (inset) was lke a brother. Shortly after the murder, Vest got a tattoo in remembrance of Clattenburg.

Photo: , License: N/A

Troy Clattenburg

Representatives with the Department of Justice's civil rights division out of Washington, D.C., said the DOJ analyzes each hate-crimes case brought to them to see if Shepard/Byrd applies, saying the feds must consider whether prosecution at the federal level "is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice."

Under the act, the DOJ has prosecuted some 10 cases, charging 35 defendants — none in Texas — mostly for race-related bias. In only one case was the victim targeted because of sexual orientation: two Kentucky men were indicted in April and accused of kidnapping and assaulting a gay man.

Over the past decade Bexar County has seen two hate-crimes prosecutions.

In 2003 and early 2004, authorities claimed Thomas Carroll went on an arson spree, setting fire to Indian- and Pakistani-owned convenience stores across San Antonio, apparent retribution for the 9/11 attacks and evidence of anti-Muslim bias, Herberg said. Prosecutors scored a 30-year sentence, instead of the likely 10 years Carroll would have received without the hate-crimes enhancement.

In January 2005, William Rose erupted when an African-American driver honked his horn at him near Randolph Air Force Base. Rose ran up and began kicking the driver's car, launching into a tirade that included the "N-word" and "Aryan Nation!," Herberg said. Without a hate-crimes enhancement, Rose would have been charged with criminal mischief, and likely would have received probation. With it, he got five years in prison.

But some advocates worry cases continue to fall through the cracks, particularly when involving sexual orientation and gender identity. In February 2010, unknown assailants beat two members of a gay softball team near Austin City Hall. There was outrage. There were marches and rallies. However, there were never any arrests or charges.

Local advocates note two San Antonio deaths that happened in the months preceding Clattenburg's murder, saying they appear to be anti-gay motivated but were never investigated and prosecuted as such.

In November 2009, Enrique Santos confessed to murdering 50-year-old Jorge Sgetelmeg. According to an affidavit in the case, Santos confessed he and Sgetelmeg were sharing a beer in his SUV when Sgetelmeg made a pass at him. Santos punched Sgetelemeg in the face several times before bashing him in the head with a rock. He then chocked Sgetelemeg to death with a necktie.

In the early morning hours of August 31, 2009, James Lee Whitehead (known in the drag community as Niki Hunter) was walking along Ogden Street when three armed assailants jumped him, knocked him to the ground, and began beating him. Whitehead died when an SAPD officer accidentally shot him while aiming for one of the assailants. Police didn't pursue the case as a hate crime because witnesses didn't report the assailants making derogatory slurs.

Early this year, Clattenburg's mother and other family members returned to the parking lot outside the apartment where the murder happened, holding a vigil in remembrance of lesbian, gay, bi, or transgender victims murdered because of their status.

"Troy was a very special person," she said, "very kind, gentle as a butterfly, harmless as a butterfly.

"How this could happen is beyond anything I could have ever imagined." •

Organizations helping push for aggressive hate-crimes prosecution

Get Equal Texas
Equality Texas
Human Rights Campaign

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