The State of Illinois has indicted 18-year-old Brett VanAsdlen for the "hate crime" of pushing a homosexual, Steven Velasquez, backward to the ground, allegedly causing trauma. Under Illinois’ enhanced hate crimes penalties, Brett is charged with a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to three years in prison.
WCIA-TV News in Champaign, Illinois and numerous homosexual websites quote Velasquez’s claim that Brett, with no provocation, verbally abused him. Velasquez charges that he was then violently attacked because of his sexual orientation.
As I related in my April 30 alert, “Christian Teen Arrested for ‘Hate Crime,” Brett’s side of the story is very different. Brett’s mother, desperate to counter what she considered vicious media lies, called me and poured out her heart. Here is my resume of what she told me, quoting my April 30 alert:
…on April 12, he [Brett] and a friend saw two homosexuals leaning on each other and holding hands, walking toward them on the sidewalk. ‘Look at those two guys holding hands,’ Brett said to his friend and walked past them…the next thing he knew, one of the homosexuals (whom he perceived to be drunk) had grabbed him by the shoulder, putting his face up to Brett’s and repeatedly shouting, ‘What did you say?’ Brett told him to go away several times and then pushed him. The homosexual fell over backwards. On his back, the homosexual told his partner to call the police. In 8 minutes, four officers arrived. Two interviewed Brett and his friend and assured them there would be no problem. Brett had been physically accosted and detained, clearly an assault. The other two officers interviewed the homosexual, who was taken to the hospital.
Brett told his parents that, contrary to prevailing media reports, Velasquez did not lose consciousness before being taken to the hospital.
On Thursday May 1, Brett was indicted in open court. Yesterday, May 6, the judge set July 1 as the preliminary hearing that may allow the state to present its case against him.
In last week’s e-alert, I called for telephone protest to the district attorney, chief of police, and mayor of Champaign. The following day, overwhelming response from my subscribers swamped the phone lines to Champaign city government. This protest continues, augmented by right wing and free speech websites that posted my article. Many local residents who know Brett as a gentle and considerate Christian teen, including members of his church, are also calling in outrage.
Brett’s lawyer has vehemently forbidden the VanAsdlen family to discuss the case publicly. I and other Christian/conservative media, including Peter La Barbara’s Americans for Truth, disagree with this strategy. (Read Peter’s excellent on-the-scene analysis.) Considering the legal and media forces against Brett, we believe his plight should receive as much publicity as possible. The popular and homosexual media are already convicting Brett in the court of public opinion. They are teaching the public as fact that Brett is a hate criminal.
Massive protest must still descend on District Attorney Julia Reitz at (217) 384-3733. Ask her to drop her unfounded hate crimes indictment. Lovers of freedom should also protest to WCIA-TV News, which has already aired at least two inflammatory, one-sided stories against Brett. Although they recently published a brief article giving Brett's attorney a few lines, their journalistic ethics are in the gutter. Call WCIA-TV at (217) 373-3650.
Brett is a clean and aspiring young Christian teen at the beginning of his life. He is a talented athlete awarded a baseball scholarship. (Brett proved himself runner-up Most Valuable Player.)
Unless we support him vocally, there is an excellent chance he could face up to three years in prison. The rest of his life would be blighted with a felony conviction as a “hate criminal.” He would be barred from voting. The possibility of a career in professional sports or even as a coach would be seriously impaired. Suspended from the baseball team because of his arrest and facing possible imprisonment, with his future in jeopardy, Brett is already suffering punishment.
What about his parents? Mrs. VanAsdlen told me her husband is “devastated” at what is happening to his son. In addition to $10,000 bail they have already put up (and undoubtedly a similar retainer fee to their lawyer), she says they may have to pay at least $40,000 to defend Brett. (In Canada, legal costs against a hate crimes charge average $170-200,000.)
In October 2004 I encountered a very similar situation in Philadelphia. Having appeared on several radio broadcasts with Michael Marcavage of Repent America, I helped give exposure to his unjust arrest and persecution by the local Landsdowne City Council -- for publicly reading the Bible in a town council meeting! Next thing I knew, Philadelphia D.A. Lynne Abraham, in collusion with Chief of Police Tiano, arrested Michael and ten other Christians for the “hate crime” of peacefully witnessing and singing a hymn to homosexuals during Philadelphia’s “Out Fest” gay pride event. Penalty: 47 years in prison and $90,000 fine each.
Immediately, I booked Michael on many more national talk shows with me. I coined the term “Philadelphia 11” and did at least 100 interviews in the fall of 2004. Michael and his lawyers also did many. Even though the largest new right organizations were agonizingly slow in effectively bringing this outrage to public attention, we compensated for their inaction and let the whole world know that 11 beleaguered Christians in Philadelphia were now threatened with imprisonment for peacefully sharing the Gospel.
In short, the national and international protest we helped generate so wearied the Philadelphia prosecution that Lynne Abraham was undoubtedly relieved when, after receiving a tongue-lashing from a higher court, her case was thrown out.
The same can happen in Champaign, Illinois. Lovers of freedom must continue to protest this outrage. The homosexual lobby and TV media in Illinois are already showing powerful determination to make up the public’s mind. You must counter it with protest and truth.
Fortunately, before Brett’s lawyer was able to force a blackout on comments by the VanAsdlens, Brett’s mother gave me a very detailed account of what happened, as Brett had related it to her. After writing my April 30 account of Brett’s side of the story, I faxed it to Mr. and Mrs. VanAsdlen. They told me it was perfectly accurate and encouraged me to distribute it widely. Until the preliminary hearing on July 1, my article may be virtually all the public will know of what really happened the night of April 12.
But that’s enough. As controversy heats up, the salient facts to remember are that Brett’s comment concerning the homosexuals (whatever it was) was made to his friend, not to the homosexual. Brett was accosted, entitling him to push his assailant away. Even if Brett had used “hate speech” and physically assaulted Velasquez, that should be considered a misdemeanor. A police officer told the VanAsdlens that similar “disorderly conduct” occurs at least 30 times every night on the large campuses of Illinois, usually without charges being filed. But now, under the triple penalty hate crimes system, a misdemeanor is elevated to a felony – a crime against society, possibly putting a teenager behind bars for three years.
Why protest the VanAsdlen indictment? Because, under accelerating local and state hate crimes arrests, the next “hate criminal” the media vilifies may be your son or daughter…or you.
Rev. Ted Pike is director of the National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog organization.
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