Speaking of Ms. Mary Bono. My partner, at the time, Tony Orr and I had a very bad interaction with her when we were testifying before the House Judiciary Committee and trying to assist in getting a Federal Hate Crimes Law passed. It is bad enough to be violently attacked simply for being gay. For us to come forward, testify about it and try to ensure others didn’t experience the same judicial injustice we experienced, and then be accused of lying about how our case was handled by Ms. Bono was most definitely adding insult to injury. From the congressional record:
“Ms. BONO. Our staff has been in contact with the DA’s that handled your case, and we were informed that you and your partner, Mr. Beauchamp, were, ”less than cooperative” throughout your investigation and that you refused to work with the DA appointed to your case.
Is this true?
Mr. ORR. That is patently untrue.
Ms. BONO. Can you explain then for the committee the circumstances surrounding your interaction with the DA?
Mr. ORR. Certainly. The ADA who handled our case, Stephen Hightower, never contacted us. We never heard from him. The only time I heard from anyone from the assistant district attorney’s office—excuse me—from the district attorney’s office was when I called victim witness.
It was only through my background in criminal reporting that I was able to track down what happened.
Ms. BONO. I understand though that a standard form letter was sent to all victims asking for medical records and documentation of injuries for purposes of restitution.
Did you mention or present documents to the DA’s office at the time of your——
Mr. ORR. We never received that letter. We never received that letter. We did send documentation to the DA’s office. We did call and ask why no one had been in contact with us.
I checked with them every month.
Ms. BONO. Thank you. You know, I guess once again as the hearing goes forward I hope I can truly—yes, sir, go ahead.
Mr. ORR. Can I add one more thing?
Ms. BONO. Yes.
Mr. ORR. I would like to add, though, that after Stephen Hightower had made his deals with our assailants, I spoke with Brian Crane. He is the first assistant district attorney for the Tulsa County Prosecutor’s Office, and he himself told me that this was not handled in the fashion that it is usually handled in.
Bill LaFortune, the district attorney at that time, later resigned, not over that, but he just resigned, so he is not even in the office anymore, but Brian Crane can speak to what I just said.
Ms. BONO. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
Ms. Bono wasn’t aware that it wasn’t the first hate crime I had experienced in Oklahoma. It simply was a straw that broke the camel’s back with me. I had already been victimized several years before when I was an officer for the “United Methodists for Lesbian and Gay Concerns” and had experienced death and arson threats from a hate group. I made the mistake of publishing my name and number on a flyer for the “United Methodist for Gay Concerns Thanksgiving Celebration.” My previous partner, and I had glass bottles broken in our drive way, our window shot out with a pellet gun, and I’ll never forget one of the many menacing warnings for our daring to have that Thanksgiving celebration from a man with a nasally southern drawl, “How dare you have a Thanksgivin’ Dinner! I’m gonna come there and shoot you queers, cut the lesbian’s heads off, cut off your dicks and stuff your cocks down their throats!” Nice, huh? That one was almost funny in all its glorious ignorance.
Fortunately, Tony slammed the lid on Ms. Bono’s little line of questioning. Thank God it was him testifying. I was so damned nervous I couldn’t even remember my name. I used to have flashbacks all the time of the beating. Every single time the subject was brought up, I would experience vertigo and panic attacks. It took a long time for me to be able to work through the pain, and come to terms with that attack.
During Tony’s testimony, I just could not believe Mary Bono tried to entrap Tony by aggressively accusing us of lying when we were there as victims, and simply testifying before a congressional committee to try to get a Federal Hate Crimes law passed.
I sincerely hope Pougnet wins. Palm Springs deserves someone more progressive and less willing to further victimize hate crime victims by basically accusing them of lying when testifying before congress. You can donate to Pougnet’s campaign here.