Tuesday, April 03, 2007

South Bend Man Nearly Beaten To Death In Apparent Hate Crime

A little-noticed item from the South Bend Tribune deserves more attention. Jose Contretas was nearly beaten to death by a co-worker with a metal pole after making "kissing gestures" and "blinking eyes" at the suspect. Remarkably, police don't believe this was a hate crime. On April 1, the Tribune first ran this brief item (not available online):

A 21-year-old South Bend man is in critical but stable condition at a hospital after he was struck with a pole on Friday by a co-worker at a workplace in the 1900 block of West Sample Street, police said.

The suspect, a 54-year-old man, told police the victim was making "kissing gestures" and "blinking his eyes" at him before he hit him in the back of the head with a metal pole, police said. The victim was found on the ground "shaking as if having a seizure," police said.

Another brief item ran in today's Tribune , indicating that police now believe the attack was not motivated by hate based upon the victim's perceived sexual orientation; rather he was just fed up with the victim's antics. The Tribune reports:

A 21-year-old man who was beaten with a metal pole remained in critical condition, police said Monday afternoon. Jose Contretras was taken Friday to Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center with life-threatening injuries.

A 54-year-old man was arrested immediately after the 1 p.m. incident at A.J. Wright, 1902 W. Sample St. Both men reportedly were unloading a freight truck when Contretras began making "kissing gestures" and "blinking his eyes" at the suspect, who threatened to hurt him if he didn't stop, according to police reports. When the victim continued, the suspect allegedly grabbed a metal pole and struck him in the back of the head.

When police arrived, Contretras was bleeding heavily and seizing. He was rushed into surgery for a severe head injury Friday afternoon.

Police do not believe the crime was hate-related, they said Monday. The suspect reportedly had been training Contretras throughout the week and was angry at his repeated antics, the suspect told police

Beating someone over the head with a metal pipe seems to be a rather extreme reaction to the horseplay of a co-worker. It may well be that the accused lashed out at his victim because he interpreted his gestures to imply he and not the victim was gay. Either way it appears the attack was motivated by the perception of someone's sexual orientation.

A big hat tip to the South Bend-area AI reader who passed this item along to me.


Anonymous said...

>Either way it APPEARS the attack was motivated by the perception of someone's sexual orientation. (emphasis added)

This is a great example of why "hate crimes" legislation does not work. The most you can say about this and most other similar situations is something about APPEARANCE. The bottom line is you really don't know what the motivation is.

What we DO know is that it is illegal to beat somebody - regardless of their sexual orientation. So, prosecute this guy to the fullest extent of the law. He deserves it. Sexual orientation should not matter at all.

If you're not convinced of that - and I bet most people on this blog will not be - then consider the exact same situation but pretend the victim was, instead, a fat, ugly woman. Would this guy deserve any worse of a penalty for beating a homosexual man? I, for one, don't think so.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Again, if you were familiar with our criminal laws, you would understand degree of guilt can be inferred from a person's actions in light of the circumstances. A hate crime law simply establishes a degree of culpability for purposes of punishment. If you don't like that, then we need to scrap our entire criminal justice system because it's replete with those types of provisions. Let's get rid of the law enhancing the crime when the victim is an elderly person, a child, a pregnant woman or a police officer--all covered under current Indiana law for enhanced sentencing.

Anonymous said...

Still, it seems homophobia is alive and well in South Bend...

Anonymous said...

"Either way it appears the attack was motivated by the perception of someone's sexual orientation."

How so? Sounds like it was motivated by horse play or continued unwanted sexual advances. Either way, answering back with a pipe swing is way too much!!!

Anonymous said...

AI, your 11:38 post confirms exactly what the critics of "hate crimes" are most adamately concerned about. The 11:32 post expresses another concern about trying to read a criminal's mind in order to understand his motivation. But your response defends putting people in different classes. You don't argue that it's okay for the criminal justice system to read people's intentions; rather, you argue that it is okay to classify vicitims and to change punishments accordingly. That's what you do when you compare crimes against a homosexual to crimes against "an elderly person, a child, a pregnant woman or a police officer." The extra punishments involving those groups are driven by the type of people contained in those groups, not the motivation of the offender.

With that in mind, what is the jusification for having stronger sentences for crimes against homosexuals? You've abandoned the "hate" argument and are now focused on classes of people. So, what is the reason for creating special protections for this class?

I agree with earlier posts: this guy ought to be prosecuted for the crime he committed. And my opinion does not change one bit based on the sexual orientation of the victim. Why does it change in your mind? Again, you've already abandoned the "hate" arguement. So why the special protections for a particular class? What makes a crime against you worse than the same crime against me?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Contreras got hit because he was making fun of his attacker's apparent gayness. Is it a hate crime to attack homophobes?