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April 14, 2006

CBS newsmen gaybashed on Dutch Caribbean island

Philipsburg, St. Maarten--A researcher for CBS News was the victim of a savage gaybashing on this Caribbean island on April 5, as he vacationed with his boyfriend and some friends.

Ryan Smith, 25, a native of Sandusky, and his boyfriend, Justin Swensen, had been at a popular local bar while their friends were at a nearby casino.

In the bar, some men started verbally harassing Smith and Swensen after they hugged. While their harassers were ejected by bar staff, the men waited outside for the couple when they left to return to their hotel.

�Some of the local guys in the bar were sitting across from us,� Swensen told ABC News. �They started making fun of us. We really did nothing to provoke them.�

Dick Jefferson, a senior broadcast producer for CBS News, saw Smith being attacked when he returned from the casino and tried to intervene. He was knocked unconscious by a blow from a four-way tire iron.

Jefferson said that St. Maarten police have beeny unwilling to investigate the attack.

�The police response has been no police response. The best way I can explain the police response is when the detective finally came after three phone calls to get my report, he asked, �Why should I even bother talking to you? Are you guys even going to file charges? You are just going back to America,� � Jefferson said. �Police were totally indifferent to the situation, the crime, or to the seriousness of it.�

The 6� 7� Smith was still in intensive care six days later in a Miami hospital, unable to speak coherently with severe head trauma. Doctors believe he has a long period of rehabilitation ahead of him.

Police in St. Maarten, a Dutch colony 150 miles east of Puerto Rico, published an advertisement in a local newspaper on April 10 asking for witnesses to step forward. Both Swensen and Jefferson believe they can identify their attackers, should they see them again.

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