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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 2, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 09
Lesbians charged with anti-Gay hate crime
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Lesbians charged with anti-Gay hate crime

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Three Lesbians have been charged with a hate crime in the beating of a Gay man in Boston.

Erika Stroud, her sister Felicia Stroud, and Lydia Sanford, reportedly the domestic partner of one of the Stroud sisters, allegedly punched and kicked the man in a subway station after his backpack bumped one of the women as they passed on a staircase.

According to prosecutor Lindsey Weinstein, the victim told police he believed the attack was 'motivated as a crime because of his sexual orientation' because the women 'called him insulting homophobic slurs.'

At arraignment, attorneys for the women said they can't be guilty of a hate crime because they are Lesbians.

Helene Tomlinson, the lawyer representing Sanford, told the judge her client is 'openly identified as a Lesbian ... so any [accusation of] homophobic [conduct] is unwarranted.'

She said the alleged victim was the aggressor and used racial slurs. 'He provoked them,' Tomlinson charged.

'They don't know what his sexual orientation is, just like he doesn't know what theirs is,' said Felicia Stroud's attorney, C. Harold Krasnow.

Prosecutors and the ACLU of Massachusetts said that regardless of the defendants' sexual orientation, they can still be charged with 'assault and battery with intent to intimidate,' if they used hateful language while assaulting the victim. If convicted they may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

Massachusetts law defines a hate crime as an assault or battery 'with the intent to intimidate [a] person because of [the] person's race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.'

Such a crime can add up to two and a half years to the defendant's sentence. If 'bodily injury' results - as it did in this case: the victim suffered a broken nose - up to five years can be added to the sentence.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, said prosecutors will have no problem proving the women committed a hate crime, even if they are Lesbians.

'The defendants' particular orientation or alleged orientations have no bearing on our ability to prosecute for allegedly targeting a person who they believe to be different from them,' he said.

ACLU attorney Sarah Wunsch said that being a member of a group does not preclude hatred against that group.

'Someone who is Jewish can be anti-Semitic,' she said. 'The mere fact that someone is a member of the same class doesn't mean they could not be motivated by hatred for their very own group.'

Other civil rights attorneys disagreed, however.

'My guess is that no sane jury would convict them under those circumstances, but what this really demonstrates is the idiocy of the hate-crime legislation,' said civil liberties lawyer Harvey Silverglate, an ACLU member who does not work for the group.

'If you beat someone up, you're guilty of assault and battery of a human being. Period. The idea of trying to break down human beings into categories is doomed to failure.' Civil rights attorney Chester Darling said that because the incident seemed to be a case of mutual combat, no charges should have been filed.



'No one should go to court. It's knuckle justice,' he said. 'It's a fair exchange.'

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