Gay Hate Crime Case Ends in ‘Not Guilty’

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

March 21, 2007

After hearing Denton’s first gay hate crime case in many years, a petit jury of six members decided on a “not guilty” verdict in The State of Texas v. George Clifton Young.

The charge against Young — misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury — carries a maximum of a one-year prison sentence. Trying the case as a hate crime could have added six months to that sentence.

The two-day trial centered on the events of Dec. 3, 2005, when Denton Mental Health/Mental Retardation employee Chris McKee was allegedly beaten in the Fry Street area and verbally harassed with slurs about homosexuality. He later identified Young as the attacker, but testimonies during the trial caused the jury to question that identification.

The defense’s main argument rested on Young’s misidentification, but also pointed to discrepancies between McKee’s statement to police, his letter to the editor of the North Texas Daily and his MySpace journal entry.

The night of the incident, McKee, an open homosexual, and his friend, Sherry Stewart, went bar-hopping, starting with Cool Beans and ending up outside the Fry Street Tavern. After exiting the bar at about 2 a.m., McKee said he kissed a male friend on the cheek.

McKee said he immediately heard snickering over his shoulder, which he assumed was because of the kiss. He and Stewart ignored the remarks and began walking toward her car parked on the street.

McKee and Stewart said they continued walking, but started to hear slurs about “this faggot” from the two men behind them, who were discussing “kicking his a–.”

McKee and Stewart got into the car, with Stewart in the driver’s seat and McKee in the passenger seat. However, before McKee could shut the door, one of the men, described as tall and thin, grabbed the car door, held it open and swiftly kicked McKee twice on his upper leg. McKee said he struggled to call 911 on his cell phone, which he held in his left hand, and hold the car door shut with his right hand while the man was pulling on the door.

Then, the other man came over, who was much larger and stronger, and pulled the car door open before slamming it on McKee’s wrist. McKee said he shouted at the two men that he had called police, and they ran off in opposite directions on Fry Street.

Stewart said in her testimony that she followed one of the men north on Fry Street, and McKee said he followed the other, who was running south on Fry Street. A police officer riding a bicycle who had heard the 911 dispatch came up to McKee, and he lost sight of the person he had been following. The other, thinner man was never identified.

More police officers came to the scene, and McKee and Stewart said they described to them what had occurred. The officers told them to call if they ever spotted either of the men again. The two drove back to Stewart’s apartment and took pictures of McKee’s injuries at about 6 a.m.

Ten days later, McKee and Stewart said they were back at the bars on Fry Street. They saw Young, whom they believed to be the attacker who slammed the car door on McKee’s wrist, and called the police.

“The police officer said, his exact words were, are you 300 percent sure this is him,” McKee said. “And I said ‘yes, sir, I absolutely am.’ He said he’d write a report.”

Stewart said she recognized the man from his voice.

On the morning of Thursday, March 8, the day the trial started, TV media interviewed an anxious McKee outside the Denton Courthouse on McKinney Street. County Criminal Court No. 2. Judge Virgil Vahlenkamp, heard the case throughout that day and Friday.

The state, represented by Susan Piel and Charles Orbison, called McKee, Stewart and other witnesses to testify about the events that occurred on Dec. 3.

However, in his opening remarks, defense attorney Coby Waddill said that McKee’s motivation during the trial was not pursuing justice but promoting a homosexual agenda.

“I think it goes to motivation about why he’s here to testify,” Waddill said. “I made the argument in my opening statement that he [McKee] has motivation over the cause of the direction of homosexuals.”

During the trial, Waddill also pointed to discrepancies between McKee’s MySpace journal entry, his submission to the Daily about the incident and his original statement to police.

Key testimonies came from Young’s coworkers. One of them testified that during the night of the attack, he stayed with Young, and others testified that he came to work at about 5 a.m. The defense’s main argument, supported by this testimony, was that McKee misidentified Young as his attacker.

After the verdict was released, Jamie Beck, assistant to the district attorney said McKee had his day in court.

Students Question Free Speech Policy

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

Nov. 15, 2006

Students protesting the free speech policy on October 10 peacefully disbanded on the condition that they would have a personal meeting with Dean of Students Kenneth Ballom, who broke up the protest with the help of NT police.

That meeting took place the following week. Ballom, Associate Dean Ona Tolliver, the Gay and Lesbian Association of Denton, National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance and Young Conservatives of Texas all met to discuss some changes to the policy.

“It was a very productive meeting where they presented a proposal and we discussed various issues related to policies,” said Ballom, “I assured them [the student protest group] that when the process of review begins at some point their input and
involvement would definitely be encouraged and I would call upon them when the time arrives.”

District Judge Samuel Cummings ruled in favor of Texas Tech University student Jason Roberts in September 2004, stating that Tech’s free speech policies were “unconstitutional.” Robert’s request to protest the sinfulness of homosexuality outside the free speech forum was denied by the Center for Campus Life.

At the time, the center stated they denied the request, not in an effort to regulate free speech, but to avoid construction near the student union building.

Nonetheless, Tech’s free speech policy was revoked after the ruling, and a new one was implemented in time for the current school year.

“Expression can take place anywhere as long as it doesn’t impede on normal day-to-day operations,” said Ethan Logan, associate director of Tech’s Center for Campus Life. “Your expression is protected as long as it doesn’t infringe on anybody else’s right.”

Now, Tech has more free speech areas in more prominent parts of the campus and they allow all forms of constitutionally protected speech. In the previous version, both unconstitutional parts of speech (defamation, obscenity and fighting words) and “insults,” “ridicule” and “personal attacks” were prohibited

“We basically have free expression areas,” Logan said. “We don’t censure, but we do restrict the space. That is designed in place to protect the institution. We haven’t had any problems at this point.”

The policy has been rewritten to accommodate the recent court ruling, which also required Tech to “more narrowly” describe its restrictions on free speech.

“I think it’s something in any public school university that free speech is a right that the
students are given,” said Ryan Worley, external vice president for Tech’s student government association. “I think it’s important to recognize that right—we are granted that right. At the same time, I think it’s important to work with your administration, and that’s what the students realized at Tech.”

Tech’s current policy is now similar to NT’s, and they both define the purpose of the free speech area and its uses in similar terms. However, while Tech’s policy is considered a step in the right direction, NT students are not necessarily satisfied with theirs.

“We feel like a lot of policies are unfair,” said Sarah Burnett, Marshall junior and vice president of GLAD. “Also, the regulations now say that you have to stay in the free speech area, and people have to come in the free speech area…and that policy is a little unfair. It’s not that we want to harass people, but a lot of times people don’t feel comfortable approaching the table, and we want to be able to approach people in a friendly way.”
While NT’s policy did not have many of the problems Tech’s did, since it had more prominent free speech areas and it did not forbid constitutionally protected speech, it is still undergoing a system-wide review by the legal department and the student development office. A revised copy of the free speech policy will probably be presented in the spring.

Most colleges and universities in Texas have had free speech policies since the 1980’s. They were first intended to organize and expand student’s rights by establishing an outlet for student voices.

Today, they mainly serve to protect the university’s first order of business: education. Since NT is a public institution, the government has the right to regulate time and manner in order to maintain peace and function.

Therefore, the designated free speech areas serve to keep demonstrations from disrupting classes, maintenance and other parts of the university’s daily business. If protests were allowed anywhere, such as inside buildings, it would be considered a breach of peace and would compromise the institution’s primary function.

Broken Silence

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

April 28, 2006

The three young women who embraced each other on the rooftop of Cool Beans on Wednesday night seemed like normal girls. They smiled and giggled as they spoke to each other. It’s hard to imagine that just an hour before, their pain-stricken faces appeared on a movie screen as they described the sexual abuses they encountered as children in the documentary “Broken Silence.”

Grapevine senior and director David Alvarado and a team of volunteers from Texas Filmmakers created the movie to share the stories of survivors in their own voices.

Sugarland senior Tara Lynn Smith will never forget the feel of her stepfather’s hands the night he tried to molest her. She will never forget her older sister’s tears the night Tara confessed the incident, only to find the same man had been abusing her oldest sister for six years. She will never forget the day the court punished him for his abuses – 10 years probation and not one night in jail.

In the documentary, which premiered Wednesday night at the Movie Tavern, Tara dropped a clay pot to symbolize the effect the abuse had on her family. The shattered pieces lay at her feet as she tried to explain what it was like to move on.

Florence senior Rebecca Stafford sat on a rock on a green rolling hill, hugging her knees to her chest. She looked into the camera as she explained that even though speaking out against her grandfather’s abuse of her divided the family, it had been worth it. She said she wished parents had been more aware of the symptoms of child abuse.

Sixteen-year-old Joanna Ludlow seems to have confidence and a poise beyond her years. But as she recalls the memory of being raped by a “family friend” in the upstairs bedroom, fainting and then awaking to the sight of blood, her composure slips. Her counselor taught a valuable way of coping with the memories – Joanna will draw pictures of “him” and throw them into a fire, and then cut up and mutilate wieners before throwing them into the pit, too.

 “You have to speak about it – to help yourself, and to help other people,” Alvarado said. “The more that you’re silent, the more it’s going to continue. Sexual abuse happens behind closed doors. And it’ll stay there until you step out of it. On the other end, you’ll find hope and healing, you’ll find support, and you’ll be leading an example for others who don’t know the necessity of taking a stand.”

Alvarado, a film major, decided to increase awareness of child abuse through a documentary once befriending and later dating a survivor. He also learned of other abuses within his own family.

“It was kind of hard for me to understand at first why a child wouldn’t tell,” Alvarado said. “I was watching the ‘Vagina Monologues’ and one of the girls on there said something that really connected, to me. She said, if it’s one in three girls [that will be sexually abused], and one in seven boys, then everybody knows somebody who was sexually abused as a child. Well, it made sense to me. I was sitting right next to one.”

From there, Alvarado found the rest of the crew through an online database offered as a service through Texas Filmmakers. The cast members he found through a survey and posting flyers up throughout Denton.

“At this point in my life, I feel like everything happens for a reason,” Tara said. “I feel like there was some reason I randomly went into Art Six one day and saw the flyer. It all fell into place.”

The first interview occurred in September, and Alvarado now has 24 hours of footage. There will be three cuts of the film – a feature film, a 32-minute short version and a 13-minute child advocacy video. The rough version of the short film debuted at Movie Tavern to a full house of 300 people.

“I felt very proud,” Smith said. “I’m really happy with the turnout. I feel like a better person now that I’ve done this. I think this has opened up other things. It was just amazing to me.. I think I’ll always be an advocate, and I can’t say that I ever said that before being apart of this film. Now, I’m like, wow, I’m a survivor. I need to tell my story.”

After the film, representatives from Men Against Violence, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, the Child Advocacy Center, Court-Appointed Special Advocates and Bikers Against Child Abuse spoke about the issues presented in the film. This discussion was taped and will be added on the end of the film for future audiences.

“I want people to be enraged when they see it,” Smith said. “I want them to be inspired to do something. Whether it be to talking about it, sharing their stories, going to counseling. The general thing is that I want people to talk about it and to be more aware of it. I want everyone to realize that it is a problem with everyone in society. It affects everyone and people don’t really take that in.”

The film’s website,, offers more insight to the film and its cause.

“People think that child molestation happens from the weirdo that jumps out of the bushes,” Lynnette Nadeau, publicity manager for “Broken Silence,” said. “That’s not the case. The child molester comes in through your front door at your invitation. It is almost always somebody that know the family, that knows the child very well. And that’s what makes this such an insidious thing.”

Often times, this makes the reporting process difficult for the child and the family.

“And that is why, when the child makes an outcry, a lot of times people are reluctant to believe it,” Nadeau said. “They’ll say, “Oh, Pastor Bob did this to you? Are you sure?” And then that’s when the child thinks to themselves “well, maybe I’m the one who’s crazy, maybe it didn’t happen, maybe I misunderstood it, maybe it was okay.” Going through the process, for a child, of reporting their abuse is traumatic. The abuse is traumatic and resolving it is traumatic.”

While statistically, Nadeau said, one in four girls and one in seven boys has been sexually molested, these facts only come from reported cases.

“One of the favorite tactics of a child molester is to tell the child, ‘if you let me do this to you, then I wont hurt your sister or your brother,’” Nadeau said. “The perpetrator will tell the child that by acquiescing to their demands, they won’t hurt the other siblings. Often times that one child becomes the focus target or victim, until that child reaches  a certain age, at which point the child loses attractiveness for the perpetrator. And then indeed they go on to prey on the other siblings. And then it is at that point that the first child that was injured will come forward.”

Since children are taught to obey authority figures, reporting them is an extremely difficult, but necessary, task.

“On average, a pedophile will have molested eight different children before they are caught the first time,” Nadeau said. “They are finding more and more, they are coming to understand, that there is little you can do the cure a pedophile. There is no cure. It is their preferred partner for sex, is a child.”

“Broken Silence” points to prevention as the main solution to child molestation. The more society is aware of and speaks out on the issue, the better equipped they are to stop it.

“It was the same thing happening to the people who went through it, it was the same circumstances, and I just assumed it had to have the same solution,” Alvarado said. “Because that’s how you get past it yourself, that’s also how you prevent things from happening in the first place. You have parents who are educating their children, you have organizations that are backing up the ones that this is happening to, and the sooner you get people in to help these children –the sooner the better. And you can see that in the interviews. The way they’re dealing with things, it’s almost like you can gauge how much and how negatively it affects them by what the family did. It’s almost like who was there to help them made the difference in how they deal with it.”

The documentary, and the team who created it, hopes to help those who went through abuse themselves, as where as educate those who haven’t.

“What we want people to come away with is if you’ve been sexually abuse, you’re not alone,” Nadeau said. “The only way to heal is by coming forward. The other thing that will help you to heal is to know that there are thousands of other people who’ve been through what you’ve been through. And there are organizations and agencies now who are able to help you get through this. By maintaining silence, you allow these perpetrators to continue hurting other children.”

Coretta Scott King, 78, Dies in Sleep

By Pamela bond

North Texas Daily

Feb. 1, 2006

CLICK HERE to see a PDF of the newspaper page this story was printed on

CLICK HERE to see a PDF of the newspaper page this story was printed on continued

During his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. dedicated himself to the fight for justice and equality for all. After his death, he left behind a legacy in the civil rights movement, which Coretta Scott King spent the rest of her life trying to uphold.

Now, she has left behind a similar legacy. King, an honorary graduate of NT, died in her sleep yesterday at the age of 78.

Her dignified and persistent struggle for civil rights after the death of her husband earned King the unofficial title of “the first lady of the civil rights movement.”

Last August, King suffered a serious stroke and heart attack which kept her out of the public’s eye. Her last public appearance was in celebration of her husband’s birthday, two weeks ago in Atlanta, Ga.

King was born in Perry County, Ala., on April 27, 1927. As a girl, she picked cotton to help her family during the Depression and later attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where she worked as a waitress to pay for school.

King met her husband while practicing vocal studies at the New England Conservatory of Music. Martin was studying to be a Baptist minister at Boston University.

King told the Associated Press that on their first date, he told her, “You know, you have everything I ever wanted in a woman. We ought to get married someday.” They were pronounced man and wife a year and a half later.

After moving to Montgomery, Ala., Martin became the minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and in 1955 led a bus boycott. The boycott became famous for Martin’s nonviolent approach to social change, and for the late Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat.

Throughout his endeavors for the civil rights cause, King stood by her husband. When Martin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, she was at his side. When he marched from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery to gain support for voting rights in 1965, King marched too.

After Martin died on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., King dedicated her life to her husband’s cause.

“I’m more determined than ever that my husband’s dream will become a reality,” said King (Associated Press – Atlanta).

In 1986, King successfully lobbied for her husband’s death to be recognized as a national holiday, and in 1969 she opened the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta to combat the issues of hunger, unemployment, voting rights and racism.

“After Dr. King died, she found her own voice and perpetuated the method of using nonviolence for social change,” said J. Todd Moye, assistant professor of history and former director of the Tuskegee Airmen Oral History Project for the National Park Service. “The national recognition for her husband’s holiday and the institution of the King Center established her in her own right. She will always be remembered for the playing the role of Dr. King’s widow with dignity, but she really found her own voice too.”

While Martin continues to be known for his role in the civil rights movement, King has also spoken out about her husband’s convictions to nonviolence.

“She kept reminding America that Dr. King opposed military involvement,” Moye said. “A lot of people remember him for his dream of black and white children playing together, but he also opposed Vietnam. She has very forcefully spoken against Iraq, knowing that her husband would not agree with the war.”

Last February, King spoke at NT’s eight annual Equity and Diversity conference. Her speech emphasized the importance of education, nonviolence and voting.

“Educate your mind, but also educate your heart,” King said, according to a March 1 article of the NT Daily. “Do excellent not only in your school work, but also in your personal integrity.”

At the end of her speech, the department of equity and diversity presented King with an honorary doctorate degree in Humane Affairs to recognize her contributions to civil rights.

“I am deeply honored and humbled by this recognition,” King said, according to a March 1 article of the NT Daily. “I hope that I can continue to make myself worthy … as an honorary member to the University of Northern Texas.”

Despite her accomplishments, King’s life also had its share of controversy. In January, the book “At Canaan’s Edge” by Taylor Branch once again presented Martin’s confessed infidelity while King was recovering from a hysterectomy.

On Thursday, King was visiting family in California when she was taken to the Santa Monica Health Institute in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, where she eventually died. She was battling advanced ovarian cancer and doctors at the institute cited respiratory failure as the official cause of death.

King is survived by her four children. Martin III is president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was co-founded by his father. He and his brother Dexter now run the King Center. Bernice is a Baptist minister and Yolanda, an actress, will be speaking at NT’s ninth annual Equity and Diversity conference February 22-24.

Victims of Abuse Remembered

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

Oct. 27, 2005

CLICK HERE to see a PDF of the newspaper page this story was printed on

As each name was called out, white-faced men and women stepped forward, lit candles in their hands.

But the names called were not their own – they were the names of all the women killed by abuse last year in Texas.

One hundred fourteen names were read, and 114 people stood up last night to honor them at Denton County Friends of the Family’s annual candlelight vigil.

“We’re here tonight not just to honor the hundreds that have died, but the thousands that have survived this as well,” Tiffanie Coleman, community education coordinator for Denton friends of the family, said.

During the vigil, held at the courthouse on the square, Joe Mulroy, councilman at large for precinct 6, announced October the official “violence awareness month” for Denton County.

NT student Tabitha Crowe danced to the poem “I Got Flowers Today,” and afterwards Coleman read off the names of abuse victims, two of whom were from Denton County.

As each name was read, a representative for the victim came forward and together they formed a circle.

“As I look around I see the white faces that represent those women that, as we call them, were lost in the battle – the battle that happens every day,” Coleman said.

Then, from the middle of the circle, they released 25 butterflies, representing the 25 years Friends of the Family has been servicing the community.

“We’ve had the opportunity to serve and witness the transformation of victims of relationship violence,” Coleman said. “Please know these butterflies, in their flight to freedom, represent the thousands of women and children who flew so high, they survived.”

Veda McGregor, a survivor of abuse, told her story at the vigil.

“With people like Friends of the Family and a good support system of friends and family and church family, there really is hope for those of us,” McGregor said. “We don’t have to take it anymore. You don’t have to be silent anymore. There are laws in place. There’s a whole support system in place so we’re not dangling out there feeling hopeless and helpless.”

Friends of the Family has a 24-hour hotline available for those in need: 940-382-7273 or 800-572-4031, or visit

“I prefer to call myself a ‘victor’ instead of a ‘victim,’” McGregor said.