Miami—Four people have been arrested in connection with an investigation into illegal activities in the petition drive to force a referendum on Miami-Dade’s gay-inclusive civil rights law.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers charged Anthony Verdugo Jr. with one count of false swearing and Ralph Patterson with unlawful use of a notary commission, said Chip Thullbery, a spokesman for the Polk County State Attorney's Office. That office, in Winter Haven, was appointed as special prosecutor in the Miami case.
The two men were arrested on August 16, one day after a 17-year-old volunteer on the petition drive was taken into custody. On August 20, Nayibe Busse turned herself in to authorities.
Verdugo is a member of Take Back Miami-Dade, a group trying to repeal the portion of a county ordinance that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Thullbery said Verdugo lied when he signed paperwork saying he had witnessed people signing the petition.
“It would mean either that the people didn't sign at all, or they didn't sign in his presence,” Thullbery said.
Patterson, a notary public, was arrested in Jensen Beach.
“He notarized his own signature, which you're not supposed to do,” Thullbery said. Busse, also a notary public, is accused of the same misdeed.
The charges against Verdugo, Patterson and Busse are third-degree felonies and they face a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.
Christian Montoya, 17, was arrested Thursday and charged with seven counts of false swearing for stating that he had seen people sign the petitions he circulated. According to officials, all of the signatures on one of his pages were obviously in the same handwriting.
The arrests come after a yearlong criminal investigation by the state into whether the petition drive by Take Back Miami-Dade and the Miami-Dade Christian Coalition was tainted by forged signatures.
“I can't definitely say there won't be more arrests,” Thullbery said.
No phone numbers were listed for Verdugo and Patterson.
Miami-Dade County approved an amendment to its human rights ordinance in 1998 that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Last year, the two groups led a petition drive to put the rule up for vote on September 10.
The Miami-Dade Department of Elections and a group fighting the repeal effort, No to Discrimination/Save Dade, prompted the investigation after reporting that hundreds of petition signatures appeared to be forgeries or duplicates.
Miami-Dade County Elections Supervisor David C. Leahy said August 16 that the arrests and allegations of wrongdoing will not affect his certification of the petition.
“I certainly didn't count as valid anything which I viewed as being a signature that was not signed by the voter,” Leahy said. “There were quite a large number of signatures that I invalidated . . . but I still had enough valid signatures that I determined that the petition was valid.”
Leahy said that only a judge can order the county to remove the referendum from the September 10 ballot.
“This most recent fraud discovery is part of a developing pattern across the country where the opponents of GLBT rights basically lie, cheat and steal to deceive the public into supporting them,” National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Lorri L. Jean said.
An Allentown, Pennsylvania anti-gay petition drive was invalidated after 600 signers sent affidavits to city officials declaring that the gatherers had misrepresented the purpose of the petitions. In Massachusetts, petition-gatherers in support of a ban on same-sex marriage told prospective signers that they would be putting their names on a petition to ban the sale of horsemeat for human consumption. Allegations of misrepresentation and fraud have also emerged in a petition drive to repeal Ypsilanti, Michigan’s gay-inclusive civil rights code.
Columbus--The number of signatures needed for a repeal petition should be derived from the number who actually voted in the last election, not all registered voters, an anti-gay group has told the Ohio Supreme Court.
Families First, a group attempting to repeal same-sex domestic partner benefits for Cleveland Heights city employees, filed its brief with the Ohio Supreme Court August 15.
The group is attempting to get the high court to order Cleveland Heights council clerk Thomas Malone to accept their petitions to put the benefits, passed April 15, on the ballot. Malone rejected the petitions on May 15, after finding that they did not have enough signatures.
Familes First leader Tracie Moore filed suit in the Ohio Supreme Court June 14, claiming that the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections inflated the number of signatures needed.
Moore is represented by Cincinnati attorney David Langdon. Attorneys Brian Fahling and Michael DePrimo of the anti-gay American Family Association Center for Law and Policy of Tupelo, Mississippi also represent Families First with permission of the court.
Although the suit is against both Malone and the Board of Elections, Moore’s brief directs its arguments primarily toward Malone.
“It is a question of who interprets the city’s charter, Malone or the Board of Elections,” said Langdon, pointing out that the “fine lines” of who is responsible will be sorted out by the high court.
The dispute is over a city charter provision requiring petitioners to collect signatures of 15 percent of registered voters at the time of the last municipal election, which in this case is November 6, 2001.
According to Langdon, the definition of voter is “the meat and potatoes of the case.”
The Board of Elections certified the number to be 35,699, two days before the petitions were due. Earlier, Families First had been given four lower numbers by board workers, some by telephone.
Langdon argues that the certified number contains people who are deceased, people who have moved out of Cleveland Heights, and people who don’t vote. He wants the court to lower the number to 12,221, representing the actual number of voters in the city’s last election.
Using the lower number would mean that Moore’s group gathered more than enough signatures to put the benefits on the ballot. With the board’s number, they fall short.
“It’s the difference between a registered voter and a registered non-voter,” said Langdon.
The Board of Elections asserts that they maintain their records according to Ohio law, and that the petitioners should have asked for a certified count prior to gathering signatures.
Langdon does not address this argument in his brief, as he did in his early statements to the media.
“There may be some legitimacy to that argument, so we didn’t go there,” said Langdon. “If we could start again, I would have [Families First] get the certified number from the Board of Elections on April 15.”
Langdon said most cities with charters define what constitutes a voter more clearly than Cleveland Heights does, and that the other cities’ charters are more consistent with the definition provided by Ohio law.
Cleveland Heights law director John Gibbon represents Malone in the case. In an earlier motion, he argued that the term “registered voters” is not defined by the charter, and should be construed according to its “plain and ordinary meaning.” Gibbon did not return calls for comment.
Langdon’s brief suggests to the court that if they cannot rule the correct number of registered voters at the last general election to be 12,221, they could order the Board of Elections to exclude those who left Cleveland Heights or died prior to November 6, 2001.
Families First believes that adjusted number would be low enough for their petitions to be sufficient.
Malone and the elections board were granted a ten day extension to file their briefs in the case, making them due August 27. Langdon will have three days after they file to submit a rebuttal.
The court is not likely to ask for oral arguments, and will decide the matter by the content of the briefs.
The court does not have a deadline for a decision. Since the suit originated in the state’s highest court, there will be no appeals.
Medina, Ohio--Over fifty people participated in Medina County’s first openly publicized gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allies event, a picnic held at River Styx Park ten miles southeast of Medina on Sunday, August 18.
People attending ranged in age from ten to 70 with a mix of couples, individuals and families, including people from each of the alphabet of orientations and identities.
The picnic’s planners sought to provide an affirming social event that would include educational materials such as handouts from Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, the Cleveland Lesbian-Gay Center’s PRYSM youth group, the Akron Pride Center, the Unitarian Universalist Church and other groups.
The newly-formed Medina County organization Jessica’s Allies Group organized the picnic and the Pride Center in Akron sponsored the event. JAG came into existence early this summer in response to the suicide of Jessica Douglas, a local 14-year-old who suffered the typical harassment that targets openly gay teens.
JAG has a vision of making Medina County and its schools accepting and appreciative of sexual orientation and gender identity diversity. The group wants harassment to cease in the community and in the schools and will work with the schools to assure their awareness of and attention to the needs of GLBTQ youth.
The lone disruption during the picnic was the theft of a rainbow flag from the park’s entrance. Two unidentified young men took the banner, leaving behind a U.S. flag.
“I imagine those guys thought that rainbow flag was just so beautiful that they wanted to hang it from the porch at their home,” said Akron Pride Center president Mark Myers. The center had loaned the flag for the picnic.
Medina County Park Ranger Hokes, who took the theft report, was less sanguine. “You know, you can find jerks anywhere,” he said.
JAG meetings are open to anyone who shares the vision of the group; call the Pride Center at 330-2532220 for time and location. Volunteers will forward messages from there to JAG.
Hart, Mich.—Five thousand six hundred women turned out for the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival from August 13 to 18.
The 27th annual festival brought artists as diverse as the punk-rock Bitch and Animal and slam poet Alix Olson to women’s music legend Holly Near and comedian Elvira Kurt.
In previous years the festival has had minor problems with homophobic locals in rural Michigan, but this year their behavior was more neighborly, according to festival staff.
Trans Camp, a transgender group opposed to the festival’s “womyn-born womyn” policy, set up their own site a couple hundred yards down the road, although festival staff member Holly Pruett hesitated to call it a protest. She termed it “an alternative experience” to the festival itself.
“They held a workshop that some of the festival-goers attended,” she noted.
This year’s festival was, in one major way, a return to its roots: the atmosphere was more politically charged than it has been in recent years.
“I think that many of the people were very conscious that the last time they gathered here was a few weeks before September 11, and the political climate around the world has changed a lot since then,” Pruett said.
Performers talked about the importance of alternative expression in times of conflict and the role of women as a “force for peace.”
“It was really the return of a political presence in the women’s community,” Pruett concluded.
Lakewood—Victory’s, a once-popular lesbian bar in this near-west Cleveland suburb, is no longer gay, and accusations have been leveled that management is rudely ejecting their former patrons.
On August 15, Trumaine Kinsey went into the bar, now known as the Hot Spot, to wait for a friend shortly before 9 pm. The bar was a convenient meeting place for her friend, who is unfamiliar with most of Lakewood. The bar, at 13603 Madison Ave., is six blocks from an Interstate 90 exit.
“Whenever we meet on this side of town, we meet there,” Kinsey said.
According to Kinsey, before she could order a drink, she was told to leave the premises. “They were really extremely rude,” she noted.
She explained that she was waiting for someone who was supposed to meet her there, but they would not let her wait inside. She left and stood outside, awaiting her friend’s arrival.
Kinsey claims that bar management came to the door three or four times while she was outside; she believes they were checking up on her. She went back into the bar momentarily to request that they tell her friend that she had gone to the bar next door.
When her friend arrived a half-hour late, employees at the former Victory’s denied having seen Kinsey.
Kinsey reported that a number of her other friends have gone in since the change, which happened about three weeks ago, and were also ordered out.
Management allegedly said to some of the women, “Tell the girls to go to the Nickel. We don’t want your business here.”
The Ohio Board of Liquor Control enforcement division gives bars wide discretion in ejecting patrons.
According to liquor board officials, a bar owner or manager can give just about anybody the boot to keep his or her premises safe and avoid trouble. Legal recourse is possible in a civil action if a discriminatory pattern can be proven, but the situation would boil down to a case of the owner or manager’s word against that of would-be patrons.
While state laws protect access to public accommodations on the basis of sex, race, religion and national origin, sexual orientation is not protected in public accommodations on either the state level or in Lakewood itself.
Lakewood does include sexual orientation in its fair housing and ethnic intimidation ordinances, but has no ordinance on discrimination in public accommodations, relying on the state law there.
The entire thing surprised Kinsey.
“This is Lakewood,” she noted. “It’s the gay ’hood. It’s not supposed to happen here.”
She continued, “It wouldn’t have killed them to quietly serve us. It’s not like we went in there to make trouble.”
The management of the Hot Spot did not return calls for comment. While business at Victory’s, which opened in mid-1999, had slackened of late, the Hot Spot is one of over 40 non-gay bars is Lakewood, which has roughly 5.6 square miles and a population of under 57,000 people.
Philadelphia—The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled August 20 that gay men and lesbians may adopt their partners’ children.
The case involved a lesbian couple from Lancaster County, Carole and Barb Fryberger, and an unnamed male couple from Erie County.
Both couples have one partner with two children. When the second partner in each case applied to adopt the children, they were refused, although second-parent adoptions have been allowed in other counties.
Pennsylvania law allowed gay couples to adopt children together, but did not permit second-parent adoptions. In such cases, the legal parent would have to give up parental rights before their partner could adopt. The law was not applied evenly, however.
Chief Justice Stephen A. Zappala, in the 6-0 decision, called the inequity “absurd.”
Justice Michael Eakin abstained from the decision.
While some county judges had allowed second-parent adoptions, the Superior Court handed down a decision on Nov. 8, 2000, banning all such adoptions.
The ruling would still require same-sex partners of parents to file a request for adoption with the courts, and a judge must then rule on whether the adoption would be in the best interests of the child.
The ruling relies on an amendment to Pennsylvania’s adoption law that was enacted in 1982 which says that a judge may waive legal requirements for adoption if it is proven to be in the best interest of the child.
Carole Fryberger gave birth to twin sons in 1997, and Barb Fryberger petitioned to adopt them in 1998, but was refused. The women then filed an appeal.
One of the Erie men had adopted two children, one in 1991 and one in 1999. His partner of 17 years filed to adopt both children, but an Erie County judge refused the request in 1999. Their case was later combined with the Fryberger appeal.
Ohio does not allow second-parent adoptions, either same-sex or opposite sex. Only married spouses may adopt their partner’s children without the birth parent first giving up his or her legal rights to the child. Another option, a shared parenting agreement, is on shakier legal ground. The Ohio Supreme Court is expected to decide soon on the case of a lesbian couple seeking court approval of their shared parenting agreement, which twelve states currently allow.
Eric Resnick contributed to this story.
Ohio newspapers are urged to follow suit
New York City—The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation announced an initiative to convince newspapers to print gay and lesbian commitment announcements on August 19, one week earlier than originally planned.
The announcement of the year-long Equality Project was hastened by its first success: The New York Times revealed that, starting in September, same-sex commitment ceremonies and registered domestic partnerships will be listed alongside heterosexual marriages in the Sunday Styles section of the paper, which reaches over 1.2 million people across the nation.
The Equality Project will now lobby papers across the country to follow the Times’ lead and give parity to gay and lesbian announcements, including Ohio papers like the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer and Akron Beacon Journal.
“We are going to be working with papers in Ohio to encourage them to change their policies to print commitment announcements,” said Michael Young, GLAAD’s central regional media manager.
“We’re going to be focusing on the larger markets in Ohio: Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Akron, those areas,” he noted.
According to Young, in addition to contacting the papers directly, the organization will also work with their contacts in local groups to find couples having commitment ceremonies who would be willing to go to their local papers and request announcements. Young pointed out that a large number of the papers that don’t print same-sex announcements simply have not received requests for them.
“I think once they hear some of the arguments, hopefully it will help,” Young said. “They acknowledge that this is something that’s happening more often, and they’ll have to address it at some point.”
The new Times policy opens the announcements to couples having public commitment ceremonies and would, as is the case with weddings, identify the person officiating at the ceremony. The announcements will also be available to couples registering a civil union in Vermont or a domestic partnership in any municipality that offers partnership registries.
The GLAAD web site, www.glaad.org, contains a list of newspapers that have gay-inclusive announcement policies. The only Ohio paper included in the list is Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, although the list is not comprehensive. It is comprised of newspapers that have indicated to GLAAD that they do print gay commitment ceremony announcements.
Presently, 70 newspapers in the U.S. print the announcements. Some of the largest newspapers in the country are on the list, including the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and the Miami Herald. There are also dozens of smaller, local papers.
“In our research, we’ve found that community papers are taking the lead on printing announcements,” GLAAD spokesperson John Sonego said. “In many ways, this makes sense. Local newspapers recognize that gay and lesbian couples are integral to the fabric of their communities.”
“More and more editors understand a refusal to acknowledge their public declarations of commitment is fundamentally unfair and discriminatory, and does not serve the community at large,” Sonego concluded.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
New group gets grant to hire Statehouse lobbyist
Columbus—Ohioans for Growth and Equality will receive the maximum allowable grant in the first round of the Human Rights Campaign’s 2003 Equality Fund grants, announced August 20.
The statewide group was originally named Ohioans for Pride, Justice and Growth when it was founded in May. It will receive the maximum first-round amount, $5,000. The money will be added to seed money donated by individuals in Columbus and used to hire a full-time lobbyist for LGBT issues in the Ohio Statehouse.
According to interim board chair Timothy J. Downing, the grant will bring the seed fund up to $11,000, which the group hopes to triple by the beginning of 2003 through a string of fundraisers.
The group, a state-registered non-partisan issues advocacy committee with the ability to endorse candidates, shortened its name at its second board meeting. Downing noted that the original name was deemed too cumbersome.
Equality Fund grants are unrestricted donations to state and local organizations that, unlike many other grants, can be used for lobbying and issue advocacy.
Downing believes that, with the passage last year of the Defense of Marriage Act by the Ohio House and a threatened revival of a state ban on gay sex repealed 30 years ago, a lobbyist advocating specifically for LGBT issues is needed.
Investigators look at arson victims
Missoula, Mont.—Although there was an outcry about “blaming the victim” after a lesbian couple’s home was burned in an arson fire last February, investigators are still looking hard at the two women.
The couple, Carla Grayson and Adrianne Neff, say the late-night fire was a hate crime resulting from the lawsuit they filed days earlier against the Montana university system seeking domastic partner benefits. They said they and their two-year-old son barely escaped.
County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg said he still does not have enough evidence to charge anyone.
An August 15 application for a search warrant to open a safe taken from the house provides the most detailed account of the investigation yet made public.
The application describes an elaborate arson device of gasoline-soaked rope strung through both floors of the house, with intermittent piles of gasoline-soaked rags and socks on it. Gasoline had been poured or spread down the stairwell and on furniture in the living room.
The application adds, “Each arson investigator who has reviewed the case has stated that it would have taken a considerable amount of time to soak the rope in gasoline, drape the gasoline soaked ropes in the manner found, soak the rags, strategically place the rags, and then do the multiple fire starts.”
The application notes that some of the items appear to have been taken from the house or garage, that an outsider would not have known where they were stored, and the device would need to be set up in the dark with the house’s occupants sleeping nearby.
State AIDS funding tightens
Columbus—Ohio has cut $1.4 million from its AIDS Drug Assistance Program, a move mirrored by dozens of other states across the country.
As caseloads increase and funding is cut, states have attempted to make up the shortfalls in a number of ways, including restricting new applicants to ADAP, instituting waiting lists, pooling their resources to buy large amount of AIDS drugs at discount prices, encouraging people to sign up for Medicaid and restricting the specific drugs that are allowed under the state-federal joint program.
One of the reasons for the increase in caseloads is the success of ADAP and the drugs it dispenses, which have vastly increased the lifespan of people with AIDS.
Budget tightening is not restricted to governmental agencies, however. The AIDS Taskforce of Cleveland announced on August 19 that it was cutting two paid positions, the receptionist and one of two development assistants. The slack from the two cuts will be picked up by volunteer staff at the organization.
The move reduces administrative overhead from 9.4% to 8.6%, well below the national average of 11-15%. The cuts will bring additional financial savings to the organization, which reduced costs last year when it merged with the AIDS Housing Council, eliminating some tasks and positions that were covered under both agencies when they were separate.
Ypsilanti vote is back on
Ypsilanti, Mich.—The Michigan Court of Appeals on August 14 reversed a lower court decision striking an anti-gay referendum from the city’s November ballot.
Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Donald Shelton had earlier ruled that the initiative, which would revoke protections in the city charter on the basis of sexual orientation, must be removed from the ballot. Shelton decided that the petitions used misrepresented the organizations behind the drive and that the referendum, if successful, could invalidate all civil rights protections in the city charter.
Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza and a right-wing activist, was one of the main financiers of the petition drive, started before the group claiming responsibility was formed.
The appellate court ruled that the city clerk does not have the authority to remove the initiative from the November 5 ballot, as Shelton had ordered.
The court did not, however, rule on the issues of whether the petitioning group, Ypsilanti Citizens Voting Yes for Equal Rights Not Special Rights, had violated election law by misrepresenting themselves and their petitions to voters, or on the effect the referendum would have on the rest of the civil rights protections extended in the city charter.
City recognizes visiting partners
New York City—The City Council approved a bill August 15 extending domestic partnership rights to legally sanctioned same-sex couples visiting New York.
Supporters said the bill was needed because such couples are sometimes denied rights taken for granted by gays and lesbians in the city, such as hospital visitation.
New York already has a domestic partner registry. The law is intended to cover gays from cities such as Los Angeles that have domestic partnership laws and nations such as Holland which recognize gay marriages. It also recognizes civil unions from Vermont and two Canadian provinces.
Visitors would have to show a certificate indicating they have legally registered their relationship.
The bill must be signed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The measure passed 34-7.
Group tries to revive marriage ban
Boston—Supporters of a ballot question that would make same-sex marriage unconstitutional in Massachusetts said August 15 that acting Gov. Jane Swift is required to call the legislature back into session to vote on the amendment.
Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage filed a motion with the state’s high court August 16, demanding a clarification of what Senate President Thomas Birmingham must do if that occurs.
Last month, the state House and Senate voted to adjourn a joint constitutional convention without taking a vote on the voter-initiated amendment. The move, which effectively killed the measure, sparked anger from people who said the legislature was circumventing the voter initiative process.
In their complaint, the ballot supporters ask the Supreme Judicial Court to “clarify for the entire state” whether Birmingham acted illegally in allowing the convention to be adjourned.
The state constitution requires the governor to call the legislature back into joint session if it fails to take final action on an amendment before adjourning, Pawlick said. Opponents of the question argue, however, that the vote to adjourn was a final action.
To go on the ballot in November 2004, the marriage question would have needed approval by 25 percent of state lawmakers this session and again during the 2003-2004 legislative session. To adjourn the session in July, opponents needed the support of only half of the lawmakers.
Comic has teen bashing story
New York City—The comic book company that created Superman and Batman has a cutting-edge new story line: a gay teenager is the victim of a hate crime.
DC Comics’ Green Lantern #154 hits newsstands in September--with main character Terry Berg beaten almost to death on a street.
Terry emerged as a gay character in 2001 in issue #137, which was cited by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation as the year’s best comic book. Terry is a sidekick to Kyle Rayner, a.k.a. Green Lantern.
“Terry came out because he had a crush on Kyle. Who wouldn’t? He’s tall, with all those muscles,” says cartoonist Judd Winick, who created the gay character at the suggestion of DC comics editor Bob Schreck.
If there’s a lesson in dropping gay issues into Green Lantern, one of DC’s flagship titles, “it might be that it would be great for young people to see that the Green Lantern doesn’t care that Terry is gay. He’s a person,” says the writer. “Terry represents acceptance. And now, in this hate crime, we’re discussing the worst side of the gay issue.”
Teens reunited with mom
Houston—An August 19 agreement between a mother and her two teenage daughters would reunite them after the girls ran away from home in a protest to their mother’s homosexuality.
Kimla Green and her two daughters, ages 16 and 17, went into a family courtroom in Houston because the two teens had asked a judge to declare them independent following objections they had to their mother’s gay “lifestyle.”
The teens had not been in their Missouri City home since July 4. They have been living with an aunt.
Under the deal, La Kenna, 17, and Shanicola, 16, will once again live with their mother so long as she doesn’t “do anything” in front of the girls. In exchange, the girls would no longer attend the Body of Christ Ministry in southeast Houston, which Green said had brainwashed her daughters into thinking her being lesbian was wrong.
The deal still needs to be approved by a judge in Fort Bend County, where the case was transferred. A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 28.
Gym named for Sept. 11 hero
San Francisco—The Recreation and Parks Department on August 15 approved naming a city gymnasium after Mark Bingham, a gay passenger on hijacked United Flight 93 that crashed in rural Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
Bingham used to play basketball at the Eureka Valley gym. He was part of three national championship rugby teams as a student at the University of California Berkeley, and he played for the San Francisco Fog--the city’s first gay rugby team.
“It is believed that [he] demonstrated the highest level of valor and heroism by sacrificing his life,” Recreation and Park Department supervisor Dan McKenna said.
Reports from relatives of those on Flight 93 who spoke to their loved ones before the crash indicated that a number of passengers, including Bingham, were organizing resistance to the hijackers, which investigators believe led to the crash. Officials believe the terrorists intended to fly Flight 93 into the White House or the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Hate crime charged in Pride Day beating
Tampa, Fla.—A man accused of beating up three men who were leaving a gay pride party last month has been charged with hate crimes, a prosecutor said.
Devin Scott Angus, 21, of Clearwater now faces three counts of aggravated battery evidencing prejudice and four counts of battery evidencing prejudice in connection with the July 7 attack, prosecutor Pam Bondi said.
“The prejudice bumps [the felonies] up to first degree, so the penalty on them doubles,” Bondi said.
The aggravated battery charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years each. The battery charges carry a maximum of five years each.
The assault allegedly happened on the last day of PrideFest, a six-day event in Tampa and St. Petersburg celebrating gays and lesbians.
Sonny Gonzales, 34, and Stephen Hair, 25, had just left a party at the Florida Aquarium and were walking with a friend to their limousine when Angus yelled an anti-gay slur at them, police said. Angus then dropped his pants and screamed obscenities at the three before punching and kicking them, police said.
Gonzales suffered had lacerations on his scalp. Hair suffered a skull fracture, a broken nose and front tooth. Scott Boswell, 24, suffered a split lip.
Angus is currently free on $6,000 bail.
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