Monday, October 5, 2009

South Salt Lake Gay Assault Victim D.J. Bell Denies The Kids Were In His Bedroom, Says He Will File A Civil Suit Against His Assailants

Gay assault victim D.J. Bell spoke out to the Utah media on October 5th, 2009. Not only did he deny that the two kids were ever in his bedroom on July 4th, 2008, but also said he will definitely sue his attackers and may sue the South Salt Lake Police Department. You can read all previous posts on the D.J. Bell trial HERE, in inverse chronological order.

In an interview on KSL Channel 5, Bell said that on the night of the party, he couldn't find his cat, so he propped open the front door and left it open. He asked his neighbors if they'd seen his cat. When he went back home, he saw the two neighbor's kids standing in their front yard. Bell said one of the kids asked for Kool-Aid, so he told them to wait there and he would go get some from his house. The kids followed him but didn't come inside. He turned around and saw them in the doorway. He gave them the drink and said that's when Lulu Latu, the mother, found the kids and screamed. Bell then said, "And before I could say one word, I was attacked. She swung at me several times, hit me around the head and neck, smacked me into my refrigerator where I started to fall down." KSL news video embedded below:

Video Courtesy of KSL.com



Since this post, the Salt Lake Tribune has also published a story, and they render a slightly different account. To ensure all the available information is presented, I have posted it below:

Bell... said Monday that after partying until dawn with his neighbors, he went home, refreshed his drink and was heading back to say good night when he saw two children -- a 2-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy -- in his yard. The boy asked, "Is that Kool-Aid?" Bell said he laughed and told the boy he couldn't have any of his alcoholic drink, but would get him some Kool-Aid from the house.

Bell said he filled two glasses and turned to see the children on his doorstep. After the children finished the Kool-Aid, Bell put the glasses in the sink and said, "Let's go find your mommy." At that moment, the girl's mother, Lulu Latu, arrived, started screaming obscenities and hit Bell, knocking him into the refrigerator.

As Latu left with the children, Bell said she called him a pedophile, uttered a sexually oriented slur and told him to lock his doors because her family would be coming when they learned the children had been in his house. Bell claimed the children remained in the doorway and never actually entered his home. Moments later, someone broke a window trying to get into Fair's room. Bell, who tried to hold the front door shut, was dragged outside and his head was beaten against the concrete of his carport.


A separate Salt Lake City Weekly interview provides more information. According to the article, Bell has not yet decided whether or not to sue the South Salt Lake Police Department, but he definitely will sue several of the individuals who attacked him. Bell has already engaged the civil attorneys who will handle the case, but they've not been publicly identified. According to a September 30th City Weekly story which I missed, Bell believes two of his assailants were particularly vicious. While he thinks some should be prosecuted for aggravated assault, there are two in particular he would like to see brought up on charges of attempted murder. There was one female at the party that was calling them off (most likely this was Lisa Aiono, who testified on Day Two of the trial that she went over to Bell's house but did not participate in the attack; she also testified that her husband, Ricky Peace, did participate). Some stopped and walked away, but two of them did not. Lulu Lapu's husband, Ieti Mageo, does have a criminal history of violent home invasions.

Thus, it can be considered likely that Lulu Latu, Ieti Mageo, and Ricky Peace at the very least will be named defendants in any suit filed by D.J. Bell. Note that this is only speculation at this point.

It's worth noting that any talk of suing the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office has ceased. This is because both Roger Kraft and Susanne Gustin, Bell lawyers, defended the DA's office's handling of the case, saying the failure was in South Salt Lake Police for conducting a shoddy investigation. In addition, Kraft mentioned that the DA is now investigating to determine whether or not to charge Bell's assailants, so it would be inopportune to pass judgment upon them at this time. Kraft later said that he and District Attorney Lohra Miller are actually personal friends. When he and Gustin met with Miller personally once during the case and opined that Bell would be acquitted, Miller agreed that an acquittal was quite likely, but refused to drop the case nonetheless.

South Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Snyder told the Tribune on Monday: "We stand by the investigation." Snyder added that his department last year screened charges in both the child kidnapping case and the assaults on Bell and Fair with prosecutors. But this is disputed, according to a new Deseret News story, which reports that Susanne Gustin faulted the police for not sealing the two houses off as crime scenes, not calling out the crime scene unit, not gathering enough physical evidence or conducting sufficient interviews. In addition, Bell's sister, Emily Gammell, who lived in Bell's house with her husband, and Chris Swan, another roommate who was not there when the melee broke out, both said South Salt Lake police turned down their requests for help and refused to stop the neighbors from continuing to threaten them. Swan further states that although he has cops in his extended family, he doesn't trust Utah cops.

How did D.J. Bell afford his robust legal team? Bell told City Weekly that his parents had to leverage their home and used up all their savings, and now they're "flat broke". He was lucky enough to get attorneys that believed in him, and who showed it by taking the case at a much lower rate. The entire investigation staff worked for free. Two expert witnesses did it for free, and one did it for merely a nominal fee.

Justice will only be fully served in this case if Bell's assailants are indicted, tried, and convicted of aggravated assault and burglary, at the very least. Attempted murder may be a bit of a stretch, since the prosecution would have to show homicidal intent in advance. His assailants, brutal though they were, were simply tanked up on too much firewater and lost their sense of reason and proportion.

2 comments:

Injustice 801 said...

Your coverage on this has been amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts....especially so early on when not many people were on the same page!

Deseret Dawg said...

Glad to help. It didn't take long for me to see that it was a sanctity-of-the-home issue. A man's home is his castle; likewise a woman's home.

I do hope that the Tongan family involved will one day come to their senses and figure out why their reaction was so wrong.