Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nuvo On Hate Crimes

Nuvo's Laura McPhee takes a hard look at Indiana's culture of hate towards certain minority groups and the state's infamous status as one of only a handful of states without a hate crimes law. She opens her story by recounting a brutal beating of an Indianapolis black man earlier this year by white supremacists--another hate crime story which has gone unreported by the mainstream media. McPhee writes of Dexter Lewis' ordeal:

On the night of March 26, 2007, Dexter Lewis, a black male, was walking along Illinois Street in downtown Indianapolis, when he passed a group of three white males on the patio of Ram Restaurant at the Circle Centre Mall.

“Nice tattoo,” Lewis reportedly said to Eric Fairburn, as he passed.

“Nigger, don’t you dare stop,” Fairburn reportedly replied.

A few minutes later, as Lewis stood in front of the Steak ’n’ Shake on the corner of Illinois and Washington streets, Fairburn and his two companions approached and began beating him. Lewis eventually fell into the street, and the attack continued in the crosswalk. A witness yelled at them to “knock it off.” One of the attackers waved him off saying, “Back up, or you’ll get a piece of this too!”

The attack continued, according to witnesses, as the trio took turns holding Lewis down and punching his head repeatedly, simultaneously kicking him in the face and abdomen. A witness who saw the attack from inside the restaurant ran outside and yelled for the men to stop. As a crowd began to gather, the three men took off, but not before reportedly kicking their victim in the head one last time.

When they passed another witness, a woman who was already on her phone, one of the attackers yelled, “If you call 911, I’ll kill you.” Yet another witness followed the trio into the garage and watched them get into an SUV. He wrote down the license number and called the police. The vehicle was stopped by officers a short time later.

After Dexter Lewis regained consciousness, he was able to corroborate the identity of his attackers with more than one dozen witnesses. The three have been identified as Eric Fairburn, Josh Kern and Timothy Dumas. All three are members of the Vinlander’s Social Club, part of the Blood and Honour Council, a national syndicate of white supremacy groups, headquartered in Indianapolis.

On arrest documents, Dumas lists his official residence as 2507 English Ave., the Indianapolis “clubhouse” of the Vinlander’s Social Club. Fairburn is one of the founders of the VSC, which originated as the Hoosier State Skinheads.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, “The Vinlander’s Social Club is a hard-core racist skinhead group whose members, some of whom also belong to other racist skinhead groups, are active primarily in the Midwest and Arizona, although there are members in other states as well.”

The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office in Indianapolis originally filed misdemeanor battery charges against Dumas, Fairburn and Kern for the attack on Lewis. Prosecutors have since re-filed felony assault charges.

Kern is now out on bond awaiting trial on July 11. Dumas is now out on bond awaiting trial on July 16. Only Fairburn remains incarcerated. He will stand trial alongside Kern on July 11.

The hate crime beating of Lewis occurred on March 26. Just 15 days later the Indiana House of Representatives voted down hate crimes legislation sponsored by Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) by a 46-50 vote. The religious right, led by Advance America's Eric Miller and Micah Clark's American Family Association, bombarded legislators with homo-bigoted e-mails and telephone calls in an all-out effort to stop the legislation. Ironically, Marion Co. Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, a proponent of the hate crimes legislation, has made no effort to draw attention to Lewis' case. Frighteningly, Brizzi's office originally only charged Lewis' attackers with misdemeanor battery before later refiling felony charges against the three men.

McPhee's story takes a look at hate crime statistics in Indiana. She cites a 1999 Civil Rights Commission study which examined 130 hate crimes committed during the late 1990s. That report found the crimes were committed as follows:

  • 50% were motivated by racial bias;
  • 22% were motivated by bias against homosexuality;
  • 15% were motivated by bias against a particular religion; and
  • 13% were motivated by bias against a person's ethnicity.

The crimes varied in degree and included intimidation, arson, vandalism, assault, robbery and murder. Perhaps the most sobering statistic was the increased risk of a gay man becoming a victim of a hate crime in Indiana. On a per capita basis, according to the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, “Gay men are 400 times more likely to become a victim of a hate crime than individuals associated with any other group.”

McPhee also recounts the recent hate crime killing of Aaron Hall. "And while much of this focus questions why Indiana continues to not enact Hate Crimes Legislation, others are also beginning to question why so few Indiana media outlets are reporting the beating of Dexter Lewis or the murder of Aaron Hall," McPhee writes. She adds, "On June 6, Bloomington Alternative Editor Steven Higgs published an editorial asking why The Indianapolis Star has yet to cover Hall’s murder." “The case should have been big news,” Higgs contends. “Yet The Star left the Hall murder to the Jackson County media, the never-to-be-trusted Indianapolis and Louisville television stations and bloggers …"


Anonymous said...


And superb reporting all the way around. Thank you, Nuvo, and Gary.

Looks like Carl stuck his finger in the wind, Bayh-esque, and dfetermined this case needed a stronger filing.

This case would've made excellent fodder for Porter's crusade in the legislature.

Obob said...

not one of the banner moments of our house.

Anonymous said...

Laura McPhee is one of the coolest journalists in this city.

Anonymous said...

um. VSC is located in Knightstown. A check of their website will show that these skinshead give a PO box in Knightstown.

I live in knightstown, damn it.

Anonymous said...

HSS / VSC / Whatever have been active in the Knightstown and Muncie areas for awhile. They say they're a non political organization but their actions prove otherwise. Eric Fairburn / Wolf(e) is best known for his stint in RHOWA and his brief affair with Bianca Trump / Wendy Iwanow. The Anti Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center both have interesting articles on their group’s activities. It is horrible that Indianapolis has been compliant with the racist skinhead scene moving into the city.