Tuesday, September 25, 2007

FREE THE NEW JERSEY 4!

I found the story of the women known as "the Lesbian 7" (now the New Jersey 4) rather hard to believe... I mean you know, "rampaging lesbians"? The last ones I remember seeing were in the movie THE WARRIORS.

Nonetheless, that is how the prosecution presented these women, and the tabloids obediently went apeshit, complete with unflattering, spazzy photos and purple-prose descriptions of "the seething, Sapphic septet" (who writes this stuff? John O'Hara? Raymond Chandler?) --bringing to mind the attack of the nymphos in SHOCK CORRIDOR.

A bit of a sexual thrill, then, yes? Is it also sexually titillating to put these uppity, physically-capable gals in their place?

All of the above?

BRAWL & BAWL: GANG-BASH LESBIAN WAILS AT SENTENCE
By Laura Italiano, NY Post


June 15, 2007 -- The pint-sized ring leader of a gang of seven rampaging lesbians collapsed shrieking in a Manhattan courtroom yesterday as a judge sentenced her to 11 years in prison for the brutal beat-down and stabbing of a man who promised to turn them "straight" in Greenwich Village last summer.

"Noooo!" 4-foot-11, 95-pound Patreese Johnson wailed after learning her startling sentence - the highest several defense lawyers had ever heard of for a nonfatal stabbing.

"No!" she sobbed. "Please! Nooooo!"

Johnson, 20, fell to the courtroom floor and was carried out kicking and screaming.
She and her three co-defendants, who were also sentenced yesterday, were convicted of second-degree gang assault during a sensational trial in April.

Renata Hill, 25, was sentenced to eight years in prison; Venice Brown, 19, got five; Terraine Dandridge, 20, got 31/2.

The gang's remaining three women are serving six-month prison terms after pleading guilty to lesser charges in the attack on Queens filmmaker Dwayne Buckle, 29.

Johnson had been additionally convicted of first-degree gang assault for stabbing Buckle in the gut, and could have received anywhere from five to 25 years.

The women claimed they attacked Buckle in self-defense after he lunged at them during an argument in which he allegedly said sex with him would turn them straight.
Surveillance video belies that story, the prosecutor said in court.

It shows at a brief lull in the brawl - and then the seething, Sapphic septet striking anew.

"They didn't run away," Assistant District Attorney Sharon Laveson told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin. "They didn't call the police. They were not fearful. They were emboldened."

Buckle claimed on the witness stand he merely said hello to Johnson, who he told jurors was "the slightly pretty one" in the group.

The women took the stand to counter that Buckle actually said, "I want some of that," as he pointed to Johnson's crotch.

Whatever Buckle may have said doesn't matter, the judge said.

"Insulting words, stupid words . . . don't justify criminal conduct, don't justify hurting a human being, don't justify group assaultive conduct," he said.

Not quite.

Here we have another account, from One People's Project:

FOUR WOMEN CONVICTED OF ATTACKING HOMOPHOBIC AGGRESSOR
Written by One People's Project
Sunday, 29 April 2007

Oh, this is just flat out wrong. A few years ago in Newark, NJ, a 15-year-old girl named Sakia Gunn was killed by a man trying to hit on her and her friend. He got pissed when she said she was a lesbian. Last year the same thing happened again, and although the four girls in this case were also from Newark, this time they were in Greenwich Village in New York City when they were approached by another man who attacked them when the lesbians spurned him. The difference was they kicked his ass. It should have ended there, but instead of the man, Dwayne Buckle going someplace to lick his wounds and learning a lesson from all of this, it is four of the women who are going to pay. A few weeks ago, they were convicted of gang assault and are looking at 25 years. For defending themselves. It was insanity in the courtroom when the verdict was read, and needless to say there are a lot of angry people. These women need support, and they need to go back home. They don't deserve to be treated as if they were the villians in this case. The only villian here is Buckle, who if his Internet Movie Database profile is of any indication is going to go on with his career as if nothing wrong. Nope, sorry. We are going to be on this one. Like one of their lawyers said, this is not over.

Four young women from Newark were convicted of gang assault April18 in the beating and stabbing of an independent filmmaker in Greenwich Village last summer, the jury rejecting their contention that they were defending themselves against an anti-lesbian attack.

But one of the women, Patreese Johnson, 19, was acquitted of attempted murder, the most serious charge in the case. Prosecutors said she had stabbed the filmmaker, Dwayne Buckle, in the abdomen with a steak knife that she carried in her purse. Ms. Johnson contended that she had only tried to cut Mr. Buckle’s arm to keep him from choking two of her friends.

Along with gang assault, the jury found Ms. Johnson, who is 4-foot-11 and weighs less than 100 pounds, guilty of first-degree assault, which carries the same penalty of 5 to 25 years in prison as the attempted murder charge.

The young women sobbed and wailed “No-oo!” “Mommy!” and “I didn’t do it!” as Justice Edward J. McLaughlin of State Supreme Court in Manhattan ordered them jailed until their sentencing next month, but it was almost impossible to tell who was saying what as they were led away in handcuffs by court officers.

Ms. Johnson, who worked as a night cashier at Wal-Mart, turned and mouthed “I love you” to a sister, brother and cousin in the spectator seats.

The trial attracted attention because both sides, though in opposite ways, framed the case as a bias attack involving lesbians and a straight man. The other three defendants, Renata Hill, 25; Terrain Dandridge, 20; and Venice Brown, 19, were convicted of second-degree gang assault and face 3 ½ to 15 years in prison.

Mr. Buckle, 29, of Queens said he was sitting on a fire hydrant and handing out DVDs of one of his films outside the Independent Film Center at Avenue of the Americas and West Third Street just before 2 a.m. on Aug. 18 when the women walked by him and he made a flirtatious remark.

He testified that they then attacked him without any physical provocation on his part. While recovering at St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan, he told The New York Post that he had been “the victim of a hate crime against a straight man.”
The defense scoffed at the idea that Mr. Buckle was just sitting on the street trying to promote his films.

The women contended that Mr. Buckle made crude sexual advances, and when they told him they were not interested because they were lesbians, he spat at them, threw a cigarette and tried to choke two of them.

Ms. Johnson’s lawyer, Alan Lippel, said the jury appeared to believe at least some of her testimony. “I think they were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that she intended to kill the guy,” Mr. Lippel said.

Susan V. Tipograph, who, along with Laurie Cohen, represented Ms. Hill, said after the verdict, “We’re disappointed.” She said that although “nobody takes any satisfaction in what happened,” the four women had come to New York to have a good time and never anticipated anything like what happened.

Ms. Tipograph’s presence on the defense team was, perhaps, one indication of the passions stirred by the case. Although she often defends obscure indigent defendants, her clients have also included former Black Panthers and Lynne F. Stewart, the leftist lawyer convicted in 2005 of aiding terrorism by smuggling messages out of prison for a client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.

Ms. Tipograph said she had volunteered to defend Ms. Hill pro bono after learning through the National Lawyers Guild that the young woman was seeking a lawyer. “It was pitched as it is,” Ms. Tipograph said. “She was one of a number of women who had gotten harassed on the street.”

But she added: “I certainly didn’t get involved in this as part of a cause. She was a decent young woman in a jam, calling out for some help.”

Many of the defendants’ female supporters in the courtroom wore long robes and head scarves, and Mr. Lippel said that his client’s sister was a practicing Muslim.
“It’s not over,” said Kevin G. Roe, a lawyer for Ms. Dandridge, saying the defense would appeal.

The jury of 10 women — many of them not too much older than the defendants — and two men, reached its verdict after only about five hours of deliberations.

The defense contended that a mysterious man in a pink shirt, shown in a surveillance videotape joining the brawl, had actually stabbed Mr. Buckle.

The police searched for the man in the pink shirt but never found him, a police officer testified.

And finally, some political background from Imani Henry:
On Aug. 16, 2006, seven young, African-American, lesbian-identified friends
were walking in the West Village. The Village is a historic center for
lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) communities, and is seen as a safe haven
for working-class LGBT youth, especially youth of color.

As they passed the Independent Film Cinema, 29-year-old Dwayne Buckle, an
African-American vendor selling DVDs, sexually propositioned one of the
women. They rebuffed his advances and kept walking.

“I’ll f— you straight, sweetheart!” Buckle shouted. A video camera from a
nearby store shows the women walking away. He followed them, all the while
hurling anti-lesbian slurs, grabbing his genitals and making explicitly
obscene remarks. The women finally stopped and confronted him. A heated
argument ensued. Buckle spat in the face of one of the women and threw his
lit cigarette at them, escalating the verbal attack into a physical one.
Buckle is seen on the video grabbing and pulling out large patches of hair
from one of the young women. When Buckle ended up on top of one of the
women, choking her, Johnson pulled a small steak knife out of her purse. She
aimed for his arm to stop him from killing her friend.

The video captures two men finally running over to help the women and
beating Buckle. At some point he was stabbed in the abdomen. The women were
already walking away across the street by the time the police arrived.
Buckle was hospitalized for five days after surgery for a lacerated liver
and stomach. When asked at the hospital, he responded at least twice that
men had attacked him.

There was no evidence that Johnson’s kitchen knife was the weapon that
penetrated his abdomen, nor was there any blood visible on it. In fact,
there was never any forensics testing done on her knife. On the night they
were arrested, the police told the women that there would be a search by the
New York Police Department for the two men—which to date has not happened.
After almost a year of trial, four of the seven were convicted in April.
Johnson was sentenced to 11 years on June 14.

Even with Buckle’s admission and the video footage proving that he
instigated this anti-gay attack, the women were relentlessly demonized in
the press, had trumped-up felony charges levied against them, and were
subsequently given long sentences in order to send a clear resounding
message—that self-defense is a crime and no one should dare to fight back.

Imani asks the pertinent question, which was on my mind: Why were these young women used as an example?

At stake are the billions of
dollars in tourism and real estate development involved in the continued
gentrification of the West Village. This particular incident happened near
the Washington Square area—home of New York University, one of most
expensive private colleges in the country and one of the biggest employers
and landlords in New York City. The New York Times reported that Justice
Edward J. McLaughlin used his sentencing speech to comment on “how New York
welcomes tourists.” (June 17)

The Village is also the home of the Stonewall Rebellion, the three-day
street battle against the NYPD that, along with the Compton Cafeteria
“Riots” in California, helped launch the modern-day LGBT liberation movement
in 1969. The Manhattan LGBT Pride march, one of the biggest demonstrations
of LGBT peoples in the world, ends near the Christopher Street Piers in the
Village, which have been the historical “hangout” and home for working-class
trans and LGBT youth in New York City for decades.

Because of growing gentrification in recent years, young people of color,
homeless and transgender communities, LGBT and straight, have faced curfews
and brutality by police sanctioned by the West Village community board and
politicians. On Oct. 31, 2006, police officers from the NYPD’s 6th Precinct
indiscriminately beat and arrested several people of color in sweeps on
Christopher Street after the Halloween parade.

Since the 1980s there has been a steady increase in anti-LGBT violence in
the area, with bashers going there with that purpose in mind.
For trans people and LGBT youth of color, who statistically experience
higher amounts of bigoted violence, the impact of the gentrification has
been severe. As their once-safe haven is encroached on by real estate
developers, the new white and majority heterosexual residents of the West
Village then call in the state to brutalize them.

And then there is the sensationalist matter of the so-called "hate crime" against a straight, professional man--a moviemaker, no less--the sort of upper-crust, artist-type fellow they WANT in the Village these days:

According to court observers, McLaughlin stated throughout the trial that he had no sympathy for these women. The jury, although they were all women,
were all white. All witnesses for the district attorney were white men,
except for one Black male who had several felony charges.

Court observers report that the defense attorneys had to put enormous effort
into simply convincing the jury that they were “average women” who had
planned to just hang out together that night. Some jurists asked why they
were in the Village if they were from New Jersey. The DA brought up whether
they could afford to hang out there—raising the issue of who has the right
to be there in the first place.

The Daily News reporting was relentless in its racist anti-lesbian misogyny,
portraying Buckle as a “filmmaker” and “sound engineer” preyed upon by a
“lesbian wolf pack” (April 19) and a “gang of angry lesbians.” (April 13)
Everyone has been socialized by cultural archetypes of what it means to be a
“man” or “masculine” and “woman” or “feminine.” Gender identity/expression
is the way each individual chooses or not to express gender in their everyday
lives, including how they dress, walk, talk, etc. Transgender people and
other gender non-conforming people face oppression based on their gender
expression/identity.

The only pictures shown in the Daily News were of the more
masculine-appearing women. One of the most despiciable headlines in the
Daily News, “‘I’m a man!’ lesbian growled during fight,” (April 13) was
targeted against Renata Hill, who was taunted by Buckle because of her
masculinity.

Ironically, Johnson, who was singled out by the judge as the “ringleader,”
is the more feminine of the four. According to the New York Times, in his
sentencing remarks, “Justice McLaughlin scoffed at the assertion made by …
Johnson, that she carried a knife because she was just 4-foot-11 and 95
pounds, worked nights and lived in a dangerous neighborhood.” He quoted the
nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never
hurt me.” (June 15)

All of the seven women knew and went to school with Sakia Gunn, a
19-year-old butch lesbian who was stabbed to death in Newark, N.J., in May
2003. Paralleling the present case, Gunn was out with three of her friends
when a man made sexual advances to one of the women. When she replied that
she was a lesbian and not interested, he attacked them. Gunn fought back and
was stabbed to death.

For more information, and to send messages or other support to the women, please see FIERCENYC, an organization fighting to keep this case in the public eye and dedicated to achieving real justice for these 4 women.

16 comments:

belledame222 said...

actually I believe the straight dude in question was black. other than that: yeah.

DaisyDeadhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DaisyDeadhead said...

Thanks Belle, I corected it. I regret I didn't emphasize the fact that it was an all-white jury, but at least it was mentioned in the text quotes...

Wanted to add another link: QWOC: It's not the oppression olympics, but...

Manju said...

"And then there is the sensationalist matter of the so-called "hate crime" against a straight, professional man--a moviemaker, no less--the sort of upper-crust, artist-type fellow they WANT in the Village these days:"

ok, we know buckle is black, but was he a "professional," "upper-crust," "artist type." he was selling dvds on the street. i think i know the type, and it doesn't sound like he was sipping cosmos while debating aesthetics in fellini films.

now, from what i've heard, there sounds like reasonable doubt here, and i'm pretty conservative when it comes to justifiable force during self-defense. but the facts should matter more than an ideological narrative. luckily, buckle doesn't play lacrosse.

DaisyDeadhead said...

"but the facts should matter more than an ideological narrative"

The whole "lesbians attack innocent film-maker-artiste while he is just trying to make an honest buck" is ALSO an ideological narrative, you realize? I am presenting my alternative narrative to the dominant narrative that has obviously prevailed in this case.

I covered "reasonable doubt" in my last Phil Spector post. The problem with that concept, is that it presupposes reason. If jurors are already unreasonable, as they tend to be about race and/or gender, then anything "reasonable" has already gone out the window.

Manju said...

"The whole "lesbians attack innocent film-maker-artiste while he is just trying to make an honest buck" is ALSO an ideological narrative, you realize?"

i don't think there's much ideology there. that's more a titillating man bites dog story. not every day you hear of a gang of violent lesbians.

but the narrative of evil developers controlling the DA in hopes of raising their property values strikes me as ideological, which is not to say its wrong, but just that we must be vigilant towards ideologues who avoid inconvenient facts.

such as, the guy was black, lived in queens, one of the women confessed to the stabbing, and there is a video. i don't automatically buy that the all-white jury was racist and homophobic (especially since the victim is black, spent 5 days in the hospital, and i'm sure the average bigot fears the black man over everyone else) and already some bloggers have left out some pertinent facts.

but, nonetheless, i'm suspicious. a misogynist harassing a bunch of lesbians sounds believable to me, as opposed to vice versa. but people don't always live up to their stereotypes. so i'd like to see the video.

DaisyDeadhead said...

i don't think there's much ideology there. that's more a titillating man bites dog story. not every day you hear of a gang of violent lesbians.

I consider any supposedly "titillating" news story, particularly one that has been made as public as this one has been, to be ideological as well. Who gets titillated and why that is the agenda-setting tabloid story of the week, IS an ideological issue.

but the narrative of evil developers controlling the DA in hopes of raising their property values strikes me as ideological, which is not to say its wrong, but just that we must be vigilant towards ideologues who avoid inconvenient facts.

such as, the guy was black, lived in queens, one of the women confessed to the stabbing, and there is a video.


The video is repeatedly referred to in my post. Obviously, many people saw it and drew various conclusions from it. And okay, I'll bite: what does the fact that this guy lives in Queens have to do with anything? I've always assumed MOST people who work/make movies in NY do not actually live there, and are the "bridge and tunnel" crowd of legend...and this means--?

Why was this confession kept out of court? Which one confessed?

i don't automatically buy that the all-white jury was racist and homophobic (especially since the victim is black, spent 5 days in the hospital, and i'm sure the average bigot fears the black man over everyone else) and already some bloggers have left out some pertinent facts.

I don't think anyone has escaped indoctrination re: racism and homophobia, so this is where we differ.

As for bloggers leaving out facts--how did you like the New York Post's account of the "seething Sapphic septet"? You call that an unbiased account? Bloggers can hardly do worse.

but, nonetheless, i'm suspicious. a misogynist harassing a bunch of lesbians sounds believable to me, as opposed to vice versa. but people don't always live up to their stereotypes. so i'd like to see the video.

You don't have to see the video to come to the conclusion that the sentence is unduly harsh, even if you believe they "attacked" him without any reason--which is pretty fantastical stuff, as far as I am concerned (see SHOCK CORRIDOR reference)...

Casdok said...

What is it with people???!
Why cant they just accept difference?

manju said...

"And okay, I'll bite: what does the fact that this guy lives in Queens have to do with anything?"

i was countering the notion of hime being "upper crust." also, his colourful language on the stand counters this.

"Why was this confession kept out of court? Which one confessed?"

Not sure. there is a lack of reliable sources on this story, so i'm personally still skeptical. but i got this form wcbstv:
http://wcbstv.com/local/local_story_101212618.html

"Assistant District Attorney Sharon Laveson told the jury in opening statements that surveillance video will show that Johnson pulled a steak knife from her purse and stabbed Buckle with it.

Johnson admits she slashed Buckle with a knife but says she did it in self-defense, according to papers filed by prosecutors at her arraignment. Johnson's statement says she pulled out her knife after Buckle grabbed her arm and spat on one of her friends.

"As I got my knife, Renata hit him for spitting," Johnson's statement says. "Then everyone jumped in because he is a man. Then some young men had helped us. After that we walked away. I admit I did cut him one time for my own safety."

DaisyDeadhead said...

Interesting. I wonder who the "young men" were, and why they decided to jump in?

Anonymous said...

"even if you believe they "attacked" him without any reason--which is pretty fantastical stuff"

i agree. but why is it fantastical to us? lets face it, in part b/c of stereotypes. women, lesbians included, aren't stereotypically considered predators or aggressors. but men are, especially young black men.

if the victim were an old chinese woman, i'm sure the lesbians wouldn't be getting as much support as they are. and, of course, if the victim were a rich white man, they'd get even more support b/c of the tawana brawley/duke lax narrative (b/f the cases fell apart).

but, he's a young black not-so-wealthy man. so even if we accept that the all white w.village jurors harboured hidden bias, how are we to explain that they rendered a verdict in complete contradiction to stereotypical behaviour?

in other words, if they were biased, wouldn't they have seen reasonable doubt since its more plausible that the young black man was the aggressor. but ywt they saw him as the victim.

i suspect the video was convincing. but i could be wrong.

Manju said...

oops, i'm anonymous above

DaisyDeadhead said...

i agree. but why is it fantastical to us? lets face it, in part b/c of stereotypes. women, lesbians included, aren't stereotypically considered predators or aggressors. but men are, especially young black men.

Nope. Same reason I believe that Lana Clarkson did not kill herself at Phil Spector's house: there is no history of anyone EVER committing suicide at a stranger's house. Common sense; it has never happened before.

You think 7 women out on the town from New Jersey (i.e. in an unfamiliar neighborhood) just decide to whomp on some guy for fun, putting their own plans for the evening on hold? Huh? Has that EVER happened before?

if the victim were an old chinese woman, i'm sure the lesbians wouldn't be getting as much support as they are.

And you think old Chinese women are likely to say "I want some of that" when pointing to women's crotches?

and, of course, if the victim were a rich white man, they'd get even more support b/c of the tawana brawley/duke lax narrative (b/f the cases fell apart).

Cut the race baiting. (Where's OJ? About time he showed up for a cameo!)

but, he's a young black not-so-wealthy man. so even if we accept that the all white w.village jurors harboured hidden bias, how are we to explain that they rendered a verdict in complete contradiction to stereotypical behaviour?

Are you an American? Do you fully understand the racial politics and accompanying history of black/white in this country? I ask since you spell BEHAVIOUR like someone who doesn't actually live here.

If you have no direct experience of race in the USA, what actual study of American racism have you engaged in?

Have you ever studied the stats of how often white juries convict black defendants? Do you think it is acceptable, in a country that promises A JURY OF YOUR PEERS, to have a jury composed of people who are NOT your racial peers?

in other words, if they were biased, wouldn't they have seen reasonable doubt since its more plausible that the young black man was the aggressor. but ywt they saw him as the victim.

i suspect the video was convincing. but i could be wrong.


I personally have no sympathy for men who pick fights. Sorry, fresh out. Got more than he bargained for, huh?

Obviously, we gotta keep the streets safe for sexist assholes to make their nasty insults and follow women for blocks. I mean, what is the world coming to, if men don't have the basic freedom to do that?

alphabitch said...

it's my understanding that the video shows the woman pulling a knife (a 99-cent serrated steak knife) from her purse, attempting a coupla times to stab his arm, and failing. There's also some scuffling slightly off camera (during which, sure, she may indeed have slashed his liver). The video also indicates that one of the two men who came to the aid of the women also pulled a knife, a much larger one, and one rather more likely to inflict the injuries Mr. Buckle sustained. Unfortunately the two men were never identified or questioned, and no forensic examinations were done on either of the two knives shown in the video.

I couldn't read a lot of the articles I found, Daisy. The whole 'seething Sapphic septet' thing, and the 'When petite lesbians attack' headlines just make me mad anymore.

But I totally love it that Bill O'Reilly picked this one up as an example of gangs of armed lesbians menacing America. I can't watch him on TV, either, on account of I'm afraid he'll have an aneurysm one of these days, and I just don't want to watch that on TV.

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