Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Trial Of Gay Hate Crime Victim D.J. Bell On Charges Of Child Kidnapping Begins September 22nd In Salt Lake City

Yes, you read the headline correctly - a man considered a possible gay hate crime victim is actually going on trial himself - for suspected child kidnapping. Fourteen months after five men invaded the home of D.J. Bell and brutally assaulted him and his partner Dan Fair on the mistaken notion that he was detaining two neighbor children against their will, the wheels of justice finally turn. You can read more about the background of this case on the Injustice801 website, which advocates on Bell's behalf. You can also review all previous posts on this case HERE, with the most recent post appearing first.

According to a KSTU Channel 13 report, the final jury was selected on September 21st. The trial is scheduled to begin on September 22nd and end on September 25th. Bell is accused of two counts of first-degree felony child kidnapping and one count of second-degree felony burglary. The presumed sentence for child kidnapping is 15 years to life in prison. Dan Fair has not been charged with any crime. KSTU news video embedded below:


To recap the incident: It grew out of a Tongan extended family party on the Fourth of July in 2008. Bell and Fair lived next door to this Tongan family, and apparently had a good relationship with them, since they were invited to join the party. After the party continued into the wee hours of the morning, Bell told police he found two children, ages 2 and 4, awake and fussy, so he took them over to his house so they could sleep on the couch.

As the party subsided, the mother came looking for her kids. When the mother found the children inside Bell's house, she got into a verbal altercation with Bell that was loud enough to wake up his partner, Dan Fair, who was sleeping in another room. The mother began hitting Bell before taking the children and leaving. As she was leaving, the mother warned the men they had better lock their doors. Moments later, as many as five adult relatives broke down a door, invaded and trashed Bell's home, and brutally beat the two men. The assailants then chased Bell out of his own house and continued the assault outside, where Bell's throat and toe were sliced with broken glass and his head was slammed on the sidewalk. Supposedly, the attackers were yelling anti-gay epiteths during the attack. Fair, who has not been charged in the alleged kidnapping, was also beaten and a large TV was thrown onto his head; he suffered a broken eye socket and his forehead was split open badly enough that doctors had to use staples to put it back together.

The woman, identified as Tapululu Latu, who is the mother of the two-year-old girl and the aunt of the four-year-old boy, has since told the media she doesn't deny people in her house were responsible for beating the two men, but said they were only trying to protect the children. She said she knew Bell was gay, but said his sexual orientation had nothing to do with the attack. She insists that if the couple who took their children were a man and a woman, she would have reacted the same way. But she now regrets the fact that Bell and Fair suffered such a severe beating. Part of the reason the neighborhood may have been so edgy is because seven-year-old Hser Nay Moo was kidnapped and killed not far away in April 2008.

The Salt Lake City Weekly offers more details. Supporters of Bell will be gathering outside the courthouse during the trial. City Weekly interviewed one of the supporters, Megan Pedersen, who believes the investigation of the beating was totally inadequate.

It's bad enough that Bell is being charged with child kidnapping; it's overkill, but it deserves a hearing. What's unconscionable is that no one has been charged with the assault on Bell and Fair. Both these guys had their home invaded, trashed, and were injured severely enough to require hospitalization, and yet none of the assailants were charged with a crime. Bell and Fair have not been able to return to their home for fear these thugs will finish the job. The fact that D.J. Bell is gay and worked as a professional drag queen, raising money at times for charitable causes, should not be an issue. Vigilantiism is unacceptable in civil society.

With the available evidence, I don't see how a jury could possibly find D.J. Bell guilty of child kidnapping.

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