Gay Rights Activists Question U.S. Attorney on Tony Hunter Case
Chris Farris and Todd Metrokin, co-chairs of local activist group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), are questioning U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor's handling of the Tony Hunter case. In September, Hunter died from injuries he sustained in an altercation outside Shaw gay bar BeBar; Last month, Robert Hannah was arrested in relation to Hunter's death and charged with involuntary manslaughter in the case.
In a letter addressed to Taylor, Farris and Metrokin criticized the attorney's office's assertion that "Mr. Hunter's death stemmed from an 'altercation' with the defendant that the victim sexually assaulted the defendant prior to the defendant's attacking him." The GLOV representatives called the allegation "absurd," unsupported and against "common sense."
"[G]ay men do not approach random men on street corners and grab their crotches—to believe this version of events, based solely on the self-serving words of someone facing murder charges, is to succumb to homophobic bias," the letter reads.
Jeffery A. Taylor
United States Attorney's Office
555 4th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20530
Dear Mr. Taylor:
We are writing to express our serious concerns about the case being handled by your Office involving the death of Tony Randolph Hunter near 8th and N St, NW. The case is US v. Hanna (there may or may not be an "h" at the end of the name).
Mr. Hunter and a friend of his were brutally attacked by 4 men on September 7 as they were walking to a local gay bar. They had just come from a gospel concert. Mr. Hunter was left in a coma and eventually died. The second victim, as the police report notes, had visible bruising around his face from the attack. The police noted that this was a bias crime in their report, and the police have ruled out robbery as a motive.
There seems to be a conclusion by your office and the MPD (as noted by the Chief of Police's claim at the press conference announcing the arrest that Mr. Hunter's death stemmed from an "altercation" with the defendant) that the victim sexually assaulted the defendant prior to the defendant's attacking him. The only evidence that has been provided to support this absurd allegation are (1) the self-serving words of the defendant and (2) the testimony of someone who is apparently a friend of the defendant.
On the other hand, there is a mountain of evidence against this claim — there are witnesses in the arrest affidavit who claim the attack was random. More importantly, there is the statement by the second victim of the attack. Finally, there is common sense: gay men do not approach random men on street corners and grab their crotches – to believe this version of events, based solely on the self-serving words of someone facing murder charges, is to succumb to homophobic bias. This is especially true in this case, where the allegation is that Mr. Hunter walked up to a group of 4 strangers at night in a dangerous neighborhood on his way into a gay bar with a friend to meet other friends who were waiting for him. It is non-sensical in every way.
The defendant was initially charged with voluntary manslaughter instead of second degree murder, presumably because of the "altercation" that preceded the attack. In relying on testimony and evidence your Office provided at a preliminary hearing in the matter, the judge reduced the charge to involuntary manslaughter, and ordered the defendant – a man clearly responsible for the death of innocent Tony Hunter — released on home arrest. Accordingly, the version being put forth by your Office has real consequences.
We would also note that the arrest warrant makes no mention of the second victim or of the other 3 attackers. In fact, at this point, it is not clear whether anyone in your Office is even looking for the other 3 attackers. More striking, no one from your Office contacted the second victim until after the preliminary hearing — after the judge reduced the charge. This again is non-sensical.
We write to ask that you personally intervene to be sure that this case is being handled appropriately, and that no one in your Office is allowing homophobic prejudices and bias influence their handling of the case or their acceptance of the defendant's version of events. We also write to ask that you be sure someone is looking to take the other three attackers off of our streets.
This murder comes against the backdrop of what appears to be a sharp increase in attacks on the gay and lesbian community in this City. It is urgent that your Office treat the cases that come to you aggressively, fairly, and — most importantly — without bias.
Chris Farris & Todd Metrokin