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.