News Round-Up: February 18, 2021

Fitness guru Joel Green
Fitness guru Joel Green
Fitness guru Joel Green (via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

InstaHunks: Fitness motivator Joel Green (above) encourages his crew to take a few moments every day to sit in silence and turn your full awareness inward to connect with your spirit. As we enter the second year of the pandemic, I find that really lands for me as my brain fog can get overwhelming at times. Anyone else?

Washington Blade: Pennsylvania State Rep. Malcolm Kenyetta announced on Tuesday evening his candidacy to run for U.S. Senate, setting himself out on a path that, if elected, would make him the first openly gay Black senator.

HBO Max: The acclaimed new UK drama It’s A Sin (from Queer As Folk creator Russell T. Davies) premieres today in the U.S. The series follows several young people throughout the 1980s and early ’90s as they experience the horrific toll of HIV and AIDS in the London gay community. All six episodes are available now on HBO Max, which requires a subscription, but the first episode is available for free on YouTube.

The Advocate: The Equality Act, which would ban anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination throughout the nation, was formally reintroduced in the House of Representatives Thursday. The act would amend existing civil rights laws to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The legislation passed in the House in 2019 with a bipartisan 236-173 vote but never got a vote in the Senate.

Instinct Magazine: Nearly three years after a gay couple was bashed after a Pride parade in Miami, the case still hasn’t gone to trial. Plus – it turns out one of the four attackers is gay?

The Gaily Grind: Chasten Buttigieg – husband to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg – shared a picture of the couple kissing on Wednesday in what appeared to be subtle shade following the death of far-right, homophobic radio host Rush Limbaugh, who had mocked the couple throughout last year.

Gay Bashing Victim Left With Severe Head Injuries

A gay man was brutally attacked on the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland, after kissing another man in a bar.

Christopher Haughey’s injuries to his head were so severe from the beating five staples were required to close the wound to his head.

The 31-year-old told Belfast Live he walked to the bus stop on Saturday afternoon after spending time in a nearby bar.

When he arrived at the bus stop, he realized he had a long wait ahead of him, so he walked to the other side of a building to eat food he’d purchased.

“I came back round the corner and I was attacked at the lights,” Haughey. “It was two people: They pushed me and then hit me with something over the head.”

He told the police he believes his assailants attacked him because they saw him kissing another man in the bar. “There’s no other reason why it would have happened.”

The police were called to the scene, and they transported him to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he was treated. But the assault left him shaken.

“It’s embarrassing that it’s happened, it’s humiliating,” said Haughey. “It really knocks your confidence. It’s embarrassing to lift your hand to anybody.”

The Police Service of Northern Ireland are investigating the incident, and are asking for help in identifying and locating the men.

The authorities ask anyone with information to call CrimeStoppers at 0800 555 111.

(source: Belfast Live)

LGBTQ Group Suspends Exec Director After Accidentally Honoring Men Accused Of Gay Bashing

SAVE executive director Tony Lima suspended after praising four accused gay-bashers

SAVE, South Florida’s longest serving organization dedicated to protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, is facing awkward questions after it appears to have honored four men accused of taking part in a violent attack on two gay men.

I reported on the attack when it occurred in May 2018 after the Miami Beach Pride Parade.

Dmitry Logunov and Rene Chalarca were severely beaten by four men as they walked home after celebrating LGBT Pride. Surveillance cameras captured the violent beating and helped lead to the four attackers’ arrests.

The four men – Pablo Reinaldo Romo-Figueroa, 21, Luis Alonso-Piovet, 20, Juan Carlos Lopez, 21, and Adonis Diaz, 21 – were soon arrested and charged with felony aggravated battery and could face up to 30 years in prison.

The Miami Herald reported at the time that Miami-Dade prosecutors also filed enhanced aggravated battery with prejudice hate crime charges.

All four pleaded not guilty to the charges and the cases are still pending.

The four men accused of the 2018 Miami Beach gay-bashing

South Florida Gay News reports that at the SAVE Champions of Equality gala two weeks ago on June 14, SAVE executive director Tony Lima recognized the four men telling the crowd they were “wrongly accused.”

In a Facebook video, Lima told SAVE supporters that the father of Lopez, openly gay Juan Lopez, reached out to SAVE weeks ago to arrange for his son to volunteer with the non-profit.

The father has maintained that his son could not have committed the violent hate crime and that he “loves LGBT.”

Since that time, Lima says the men have each spent a few hours volunteering with SAVE participating in tasks like data entry for the group. Additionally, the four purchased their own tickets to the annual gala.

In response, WLRN reports that SAVE has “placed Executive Director Tony Lima on paid administrative leave” while the organization conducts a thorough review of the episode. Lima has served as executive director for SAVE since 2013.

Terry Gonzalez-Chaveza, a spokesperson for the Office of the State Attorney, has issued a statement flatly denying any mistake in charging the men. “The defendants in the case are not wrongly accused,” said Gonzalez-Chaveza, according to SFGN.

Russell Cormican, a Broward County criminal defense attorney, told SFGN that the men may have decided to volunteer in an attempt at personal penance, or perhaps to ‘put their best face forward’ hoping it might help their cases.

SAVE also issued a statement via Facebook.

“We want to extend our deepest apologies first, to the victims, and equally, to the community for any insensitivity that may have been conveyed on our behalf by their attendance and mention at the gala,” read the statement.

“Our number one priority is to promote, protect and defend equality for all people, and it was never the intent of our organization to send a message that we in any way support, exonerate or justify the actions of these individuals.”

SAVE goes on to say the organization is “currently investigating this matter more thoroughly” and promises to provide “an update to our supporters and the community at large as soon as we gather all the appropriate information.”

Suspect Arrested In Salt Lake City Gay Bashing

A victim of a homophobic attack recorded his own assault in an 8-second video that’s gone viral.
Suspected gay basher in Salt Lake City assault (screen capture)

A man caught on video sucker-punching a gay man in Salt Lake City last weekend has been arrested.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that 22-year-old Carlo Alazo was charged Friday by the Salt Lake County district attorney with three misdemeanors – one for threatening to use a weapon in a fight and two for assault.

An 8-second video that captured Alazo appearing to punch the victim, Sal Trejo, was posted to

Twitter and went viral.

The incident occurred this past weekend around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning in downtown Salt Lake City in front of a bar.

The brief video begins with Alazo asking Trejo if he was gay.

“Are you gay, though?” Alazo asks on the video.

Trejo responded, “Oh, yes, I am.”

“Oh, then you’re gay,” Alazo replied.

According to Trejo, he began to reply, “Yeah, but you called me a [faggot],” but gets sucker punched before he could finish the sentence.

“He just messed with the wrong queers,” Trejo told The Salt Lake Tribune. “We knew that we would be able to find him because we have the resources and we have the support of the great community here in Salt Lake City.”

Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, the city’s first openly gay major, reached out to Trejo shortly after the attack.

And State Sen. Derek Kitchen, Utah’s only openly gay legislator, shared the video on Twitter writing at the time, “It’s time for the UT Legislature to act on hate crimes legislation.”

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill says he won’t be attaching hate crime enhancements because he believes it would be “nearly impossible for me to prove that intent” under Utah’s hate crime statute. Gill called the laws as written “unworkable.”

“I would have to show that the person involved in criminal behavior had the intent to deny a constitutionally protected right,” Gill added, such as free speech or religious expression, which doesn’t apply in this case. “It’s so burdensome, we don’t even go to it.”

Utah’s hate crime laws apparently have never been utilized successfully in court.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that a state Senate committee passed a bill this week that would strengthen the existing hate crimes law.

Salt Lake City Gay Bashing Recorded By Victim

A victim of a homophobic attack recorded his own assault in an 8-second video that’s gone viral.
Suspected gay basher in Salt Lake City assault (screen capture)

A victim of a homophobic attack recorded his own assault in an 8-second video that’s gone viral.

The incident occurred in Salt Lake City, Utah, this weekend around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

The video, shared by Sal Trejo on his Twitter account, begins with an unidentified man asking Trejo if he was gay.

“Are you gay, though?” the man asks on the video.

Trejo responded, “Oh, yes, I am.”

“Oh, then you’re gay,” the man replied.

According to Trejo, he started to reply, “Yeah, but you called me a [faggot],” but gets sucker punched before he could finish the sentence.

Watch the video below.

Trejo also posted a written statement which read:

My friends and I were assaulted by an intoxicated man last night as we left a bar in downtown SLC. It started with him approaching us out of the blue and making homophobic and misogynistic comments towards our group. We started recording him and asked him to leave, he wouldn’t, and then went on to hit me and shove one of our girlfriends. At this point we became verbally aggressive to protect ourselves. We called the police immediately. He then pulled out a knife and pointed it towards us while continuing to call us faggots. He eventually ran off, got into his car (in his intoxicated state) and drove on the light rail tracks until he sped off away from Main Street. This man is dangerous and needs to be held accountable for his actions. He drives what looked like a 2007 BMX X5. If you know who he is, please let me know so we may alert the police.

Trejo notes in his Twitter feed that Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski had contacted him on Sunday about the attack. Biskupski is the city’s first openly LGBT mayor.

State Sen. Derek Kitchen, Utah’s only openly gay legislator, also shared the video on Twitter and wrote, “It’s time for the UT Legislature to act on hate crimes legislation.”

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, state lawmakers have dragged their feet on enacting tougher hate crime laws.

Salt Lake City Police shared the video along with the request that anyone with pertinent information call 801-799-3000 and reference case 19-28822.

CNN: Chicago Police Believe Jussie Smollett Orchestrated ‘Assault’

Jussie Smollett

Update via CNN:

Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that Chicago Police believe Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate the assault.

The brothers, who were arrested Wednesday, were released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.” The sources told CNN that the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.

Chicago news anchor/reporter Rafer Weigel tweets:

********************************************

Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted an update to the ongoing investigation into the alleged assault on Empire star Jussie Smollett today.

Guglielmi tweeted  that the two individuals being questioned by police in the case were released without being charged. He also noted  that “detectives have additional investigative work to complete.”

Earlier this week, media outlets were reporting the CPD was looking into the possibility that Smollett faked the alleged attack.

But Guglielmi quickly responded to those reports calling them ‘unconfirmed’ and that the sources being used by those outlets were ‘uninformed and inaccurate.’

Two Men Arrested In Connection To Alleged Attack On EMPIRE Star Jussie Smollett

The Chicago Police Department has announced the arrests of two men in connection to the alleged homophobic attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett.
Jussie Smollett

The Chicago Police Department has announced the arrests of two men in connection to the alleged homophobic attack on Empire star Jussie Smollett.

According to CNN, the men are the same that were previously identified in surveillance video as “persons of interest.”

Tom Ahern, Chicago Police communications deputy director, told the press that the men are being viewed as “potential suspects,” but have not been charged at this time.

The men were taken into custody for questioning Wednesday night at O’Hare Airport as they returned from a trip to Nigeria.

One of the men previously pleaded guilty to aggravated battery in 2012, and was sentenced to 2 years of probation, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Earlier today, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said detectives “had probable cause that they may have been involved in an alleged crime.” Guglielmi didn’t specify what the alleged crime might have been.

“Interrogations will resume today with the two individuals and their attorney,” Guglielmi said in his statement. “While we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax.”

Smollett told the authorities that on January 29, he was attacked by two men who assaulted him, put a noose around his neck and poured an undetermined liquid on him. According to Smollett, the men used homophobic and racial slurs during the attack as well as yelling, “This is MAGA country!”

On Thursday, the CPD shared they had identified the two men, reportedly brothers from Nigeria, using surveillance cameras, public transportation records and corroborating info provided by Smollett.

Chicago news station CBS2 reports police raided the home of the two men finding bleach, shoes, electronics and more.

According to their lawyer, Gloria Schmidt, the men know Smollett as at least one of them has reportedly worked as an extra on Empire.

“They do know Jussie,” she told CBS2. “They have worked with him on Empire. My preliminary investigations show that on set it’s very tight. They’re all very cordial with each other, so they’re baffled why they are people of interest.”

There were conflicting press reports Thursday night as some outlets claimed the Chicago Police Department was looking into whether Smollett staged the attack himself and falsely reported the crime.

Among the theories was that Smollett might have faked the assault to raise his profile as his character on Empire was to be written off the series.

But Guglielmi announced via Twitter that media reports alleging the attack was a “hoax” were “unconfirmed by case detectives.”

The police spokesman added that media sources regarding the attack are “uninformed and inaccurate.”

Additionally, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released the following statement regarding the reports:

“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”

Conflicting Reports In The Media Regarding Alleged Assault On Jussie Smollett

There's rampant confusion in the media tonight as I'm seeing conflicting reports regarding the alleged attack on Empire star, Jussie Smollett.
Jussie Smollett on ‘Good Morning America’

There’s rampant confusion in the media tonight as I’m seeing conflicting reports regarding the alleged attack on Empire star, Jussie Smollett.

Chicago police confirmed that they are talking to two persons of interest in connection with the alleged attack.

Local news station ABC7 Eyewitness News reports police are investigating whether Smollett and the two men staged the attack allegedly because Smollett was being written off of Empire.

In a statement released Thursday, police said they identified the two people in surveillance photos and tracked them down using cameras, public transportation records and corroborating info provided by Smollett.

CBS2 reports police raided the home of the two men finding bleach, shoes, electronics and more.

And, according to CBS2, the men know Smollett as they’ve reportedly worked as extras on Empire. That information came from their attorney, Gloria Schmidt.

“They do know Jussie,” she told CBS2. “They have worked with him on Empire. My preliminary investigations show that on set it’s very tight. They’re all very cordial with each other, so they’re baffled why they are people of interest.”

However…

As these reports began to circulate, Chief communications officer for the CPD, Anthony Guglielmi, tweeted that media reports alleging the attack was hoax are “unconfirmed by case detectives.”

Guglielmi added that media sources regarding the attack are “uninformed and inaccurate.”

Additionally, 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment released the following statement regarding the reports:

“The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”

I don’t know what is or isn’t true here, so I’m just reporting what I’m seeing.

Jussie Smollett Speaks To GMA About Alleged Late Night Attack

‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett speaks to GMA about alleged gay bashing

In his first interview since he told police he had been the victim of a late night attack in Chicago, actor/singer Jussie Smollett says he’s disappointed some doubt his story.

“I have to acknowledge the lies, and the hate,” the Empire star told Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts. “And it feels like if I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me much more – a lot more.”

“And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country right now,” he added.

Police continue to investigate the suspected hate crime that Smollett says happened on January 29 around 2 a.m. as he left a Subway restaurant.

The 36-year-old actor says two men yelled homophobic and racial slurs to get his attention, then put a noose made out of white rope around his neck, poured a liquid on him Smollett says was bleach, and then beat him. Smollett says the men yelled, “This is MAGA country” during the attack.

He was later treated for bruised ribs and injuries to his clavicle bone at a hospital.

Smollett says he thought if he told the truth, then, “That’s it – that’s the truth.” But, then as he began to hear doubters, he came to feel, ”Oh, it’s not necessarily that you don’t believe that this is the truth, you don’t even want to see the truth.”

“For me, the main thing was the idea that I somehow switched up my story, you know? And that somehow maybe I added a little extra trinket, you know, of the MAGA thing,” Smollett told Roberts. “I didn’t need to add anything like that. They called me a fag, they called me a n*gg*r. There’s no which way you cut it. I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae.”

He explains he didn’t immediately call the police out of a sense of pride, saying, “We live in a society where, as a gay man, you are considered – somehow – to be weak, and I’m not weak. And we, as a people, are not weak.”

When asked why he thought he was targeted, Smollett surmises it’s because, “I come really really hard against 45. I come really really hard against his administration.”

Smollett says he believes the image of two people found on surveillance cameras by the police are his attackers, saying “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that that’s them – never did.”

And moving forward, he says he “will never be the man that this did not happen to. I am forever changed.”

And Smollett has a message for the LGBTQ community. “I want a little gay boy, who might watch this to see that I fought back.”

“Learn to fight; learn to be a fighter,” he continued. “I’m not advocating violence, at all. If you are going to die, fight until you do. Cause if you don’t fight, you have no chance.”

Shortly after Smollett’s interview aired, Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted that authorities have found the persons of interest captured on surveillance cameras around the time of the alleged attack and they are being questioned.

Guglielmi emphasized the two are “not considered suspects at this time as they are currently being questioned by detectives.”

He added, “We remain in communication with the alleged victim.”

Austin: Four Men Arrested In Late Night Gay Bashing

Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry

Four men have been arrested in connection with the brutal homophobic attack in downtown Austin last month that sent the two victims to the hospital.

According to NBC affiliate KXAN, the four suspects are:

• Frank Macias
• Miguel Macias
• Kolby Monnell
• Quinn O’Connor

All four face two counts of second-degree felony assault.

According to KXAN, a second-degree aggravated assault charge, if convicted, could result in a prison sentence of two to 20 years. If a hate crime finding was successfully proven on top of that, the sentencing range would increase to five to 99 years in prison.

Officials say social media played a part in identifying some of the suspects by matching physical descriptions as well as tattoos, as well as surveillance footage from nearby buildings.

Frank Macias, Quinn O’Connor, Miguel Macias, Kolby Monnell (l-r)

Additionally, a few days after the attack was reported, the police received a crime stoppers tip naming Frank Macias and another individual.

The victims, Spencer Deehring and Tristan Perry, told police they were walking down the street holding hands when a man called them a homophobic slur. When they asked what he had said, the man began calling them ‘faggots’ and called previously-unseen men who joined in the attack.

The four reportedly followed the couple taunting them with homophobic slurs.

When Perry attempted to verbally defend himself, he says he was punched by a muscular man with long, blond hair. Falling to the ground, the four joined in punching and kicking him.

When Deehring tried to defend Perry, they turned on him as well.

The attack ended when a passerby happened to see the assault.

Both men were transported to a hospital to be treated for serious injuries.

Deehring positively identified Macias in a police lineup. And according to reports, Macias then implicated his brother and the two other men.