Waymon Hudson

Mistrial in California Hate Crime Case

Filed By Waymon Hudson | June 19, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Aleksandr Shevchenko, California, hate crimes against LGBT people, Satendar Singh

A mistrial has been declared in the murder trial of Aleksandr Shevchenko, accused of the anti-gay hate crime killing of Satendar Singh in Sacramento in July, 2007. satendar_singh.jpgSingh, 26, died as a result of head injuries received during an attack in which Shevchenko used racial and anti-gay slurs.

According to The Sacramento Bee:

After more than four days of tense deliberations, the jury of seven women and five men could not agree on whether the defendant was involved in the confrontation because he believed Singh was gay. The panel emerged before noon and told Judge Gary S. Mullen that they were "irrevocably deadlocked" on the hate- crime allegation that Aleksandr Shevchenko, 22, faced for his role in last year's fight. The Sacramento man was found guilty on two misdemeanor counts: disturbing the peace and simple assault for throwing a bottle. He could face a maximum sentence of about nine months in jail when he returns to court on July 11. It remained unclear Wednesday whether the District Attorney's Office would re-try Shevchenko on the controversial hate-crime charge.


The facts of the case seem to point beyond "disturbing the peace" and "simple assault." According to The LGBT Hate Crimes Project:

Around 8:00 p.m., Singh's group was leaving the area when some of th men from the Russian group confronted them. in the parking lot. A friend of Singh's, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, said the confrontation began when two members of their group returned from a nearby bathroom when two men from the Russian group "saying something" to them.

The men were angry that two of the men in Singh's group allegedly kissed each other, and they demanded an apology. Singh's friends denied anyone kissed and refused to apologize. That, they said is when the homophobic and racist taunts - such as "Sodomites" and "7-11" - began. One of the men threatened them, saying, "If there weren't any park rangers here you'd see what I would do, we're waiting for you."

At that point, Singh responded to the insults, and the two men turned on him. According to witnesses, the two men said to Singh that they belonged to a Russian evangelical church and that he should go to a "good church" like theirs. According to several witnesses, the men sent their wives and children home and called for several more Slavic men on their cell phones.
When members of Singh's group - which included a pregnant woman - tried to leave the men blocked them with their bodies. The woman said to the men that she didn't want to fight them, and one of them said to her "We don't want to fight you either, we just want your faggot friend."

One of the Russian men then threw a beer into the face of a member of Singh's group, and then "sucker punched" Singh. As Singh fell to the pavement, the two men ran away. Singh struck his head on a concrete sidewalk when he fell.

As Towleroad points out, "As in Stephen Moller's murder of Sean Kennedy in South Carolina, another killer is likely to get off easy."


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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | June 19, 2008 5:29 PM

Waymon, I'd like to weigh in on this a bit, but will admit that I haven't looked at the Sacramento Bee article linked to or otherwise done any independent research as to the exact nature of the charges that the jury could not reach resolution on. At first blush, it would seem that since death resulted, there would at least have been some form of voluntary/involuntary manslaugher involved. Was there, and if not (if you know) why not? But my basic question is whether or not the California hate crimes statute in question essentially made guilt or innocence under the law's definition predicated on a finding of antigay "animus", or whether this was an "enhanced penalty" situation. It sounds like the former, but I'm not sure. Can you help me here?

From the Scramento Bee article:

"hate-crime enhancement, which would have made the disturbing-the-peace charge a felony and could have brought up to three years in prison."

Well;
We can expect no legal support in areas where homophobic communities decide to attack and murder us.

They assaulted him, they called for help to assault him, and they killed him.
They would not permit people to walk away peacefully.

This is what America, the "Christian Country" would look like, something that would make the Inquisition look tame by comparasion.

Doing a beat-down gay bashing assault is "disturbing the peace." Killing him in the process is of no import.

It is time for us to arm ourselves on a widespread basis.
With legal consequences like these, we are people waiting to become victims of violence.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | June 19, 2008 6:35 PM

What jumped out at me here was the religious comments. Once again the religion "of peace" that preaches "God's love," has led to the violent death of a gay person.

I know that a number of Bilerico's readers and contributors are Christian--and I know there are different forms of Christianity. I want to be respectful. The frequency of incidents like this, however, and the constant drumbeat of homophobic pronouncements made by various Christian clergy and church hierarchies make it almost impossible for me to feel sympathy toward this religion.

Why was this man not charged for murder? Forget any implications of motive, if his actions led to murder it makes no difference if the victim was gay or straight.

The end result is the same, one more dead person, brother, father, lover, man.

The outrage that a murderer can walk away scott free after a homicide is an issue not exclusive to our community.

Alli's version of tuff on crime McGruff style: Murder, rape, = Life in prison (period) .

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | June 19, 2008 8:27 PM

I have to basically agree with Alli if in fact all he was charged with was some aggivated form of assault. Either there is something in the specific factual background of the case that simply isn't being dealt with or the homophobia is in the charging decision and not a facet of the trial process, or maybe a bit of both. It may also depend very much of what instructions the jury received. If in fact they were constrained to deal with assault, and the jury had a problem with finding, beyond a reasonable doubt, the exact nature of the motivating factor, because it meant the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony, I can see such a result obtaining without necesarily indicting the jury itself of homophobic behavior. That's in no way excusing what appears to be a miscarriage of justice. It tells me that as sometimes happens, a particular case ought not to become a "poster child" for a particular cause because of its own somewhat unique and perhaps untypical factors.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 19, 2008 9:18 PM

Over one hundred thousand Slavic immigrants have settled in California, most near Sacramento. Many of them belong to Slavic 'old believer' sects. Their churches are steeped in ‘old world’ fascism.

If you know what pogrom means then you know who these people are. They actively collaborated with the Nazi’s, joined the SS as auxiliaries and served as camp guards. They gleefully joined the Nazi’s wholesale murder of millions of Soviet POW’s.

In Sacramento they organize skinhead mobs to physically attack GLBT students at Day of Silence actions and used the same techniques to organize a mob of racist and homophobic thugs to murder Singh. Singh’s killer, Andrei Vusik, fled to Russia with the aid of his family and coreligionists and none of them have been charged with aiding a fugitive. Aleksandr Shevchenko should have been charged as an accessory to murder but he'll walk with a slap on the wrist.

A way has to be found to sue these ultraright churches just like the Southern Poverty Law Center did when they sued and broke the back of the KKK. A Federal hate crimes law like the one the Democrats junked would be a big help in these situations.

How many more murders and beatings before we get one? How many have to die while so the Democrats can pander to bigots?

Perhaps Bill's explanation of Vusik's flight explains why none of the others were charged with murder. I'd be interested in knowing more though.

Bil Perdue said: "Over one hundred thousand Slavic immigrants have settled in California, most near Sacramento. Many of them belong to Slavic 'old believer' sects. Their churches are steeped in ‘old world’ fascism.

Are we not supposed to be beyond such a prejudicial broad generalizations?

I find this line of thinking hypocritical and counter productive to the advancement of the LGBT community.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | June 20, 2008 2:39 AM

Alli, before you go any further defending these depraved christian bigots check out the article titled “Anti-Gay Movement of Immigrant Fundamentalist Christians Threatens Western States” By Casey Sanchez. The first paragraph reads “Russian-speaking Christian fundamentalists, mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, have formed a ferocious anti-gay movement in the western U.S.”

Then Google and you’ll find dozens of other articles, including several in the Sacramento Bee and the SF Chronicle. These Slavic religious bigots are bankrolled by native born bigots.

http://www.alternet.org/story/64336/

or

http://www.jewsonfirst.org/06bprint/gr089p.html

where you’ll read “

Jade Baranski, a 20-year-old lesbian who lives in midtown Sacramento, was present when the Sacramento City Unified School District board voted in April to support the Day of Silence. Hundreds attended the meeting to speak on both sides of the issue; many Slavic parents urged the board to vote no.
As Baranski and some friends celebrated outside the board room, "these two older (Slavic) women, probably in their 50s or 60s, turned to us and, puh" -- Baranski mimed spitting -- "right at our feet. It was atrocious." She said she experienced a similar shock at the June protest spurred by the Kuehl legislation. She and a friend, she said, were encircled by Slavic men and women who stood inches away screaming at them for committing "sodomy."
"I was shaking. I was walking away thinking, 'If anyone is going to hurt me, it's going to be someone from this community,' " she said. “

If you really want to get a feel for the depravity of their bigotry subscribe to the SacBee and read their comments in the open forum. If you’re not terrified by their venom you’re in a coma.

As for their connections with the Nazi’s I’ve read scores of books on Russian and Soviet history, the holocaust, Stalinism and the Nazi invasion of the USSR. The same themes are repeated in many of those books. They relate the deep connections between the orthodox and roman catholic cults, the old believers and fascism and anti-Semitism. Hit the library if you want to find out the truth.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 20, 2008 5:31 AM

The essential natural nature of humankind is goodness.

When religion gets involved it all goes sour. In this case I should think the prosecutor will have pressure on him to resubmit charges of a hate crime considering differences in race, religion and societal custom. I presume local media and politicians will have appropriate pressure placed upon them.

Maura as to arming ourselves to the teeth, it is not a solution, it is only an escalation.

robert, self preservation is the most basic instinct.

if the "good" people of religion can't get us to hate ourselves enough to commit suicide, all too often they want to help us along. and unfortunately, our kindness and tolerance are interpreted as weakness - it only intensifies their predatory nature.

i, too, believe that all humans are basically good. and that you can find good in anyone if you look for it. anyone. but i KNOW there are bad people. history proves that over and over, time after time. i have also experienced the dark side of human nature on a personal level, as i am sure most have. bullies need to be beaten, in the courts...and in the streets. "all that is necessary for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing."

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 20, 2008 8:32 AM

In those ways that we are better we shall succeed. I myself have hurt others when they threatened ours, but it is not a proud thing I carry in my memory. As stated, the prosecutors gonna have to move and the "Bee" article indicated as much.

Thank you for the post Waymon.

When extremist religion-motivated bigotry becomes violent, it is terrorism regardless of the particular faith of those involved.

If we are sincere about a war on terrorism, don't we have to also say that which is motivated by Christians as well as those of the Islamic faith?

The purpose of terror is to intimidate, and these bullies need to be sued. There may be other responses as well if it doesn't end.

James Baldridge | June 20, 2008 9:11 AM

What I can never understand is why do those who attend a "good church" such as these claimed can be so full of rage and hate.

I didn't understand the murderers of the Crudades, the witch hunts, the lynchings of blacks by "good Christian folks" and I don't understand this.

Christ, if you believe he existed, taught love, understanding, peace, and forgiveness.

Even if you loathe what we are, can never understand or accept us as fellow humans on this planet with the right to live, love, and be happy just like everyone else, even then, Christ taught us to "cast not the first stone" and to "love thy brother as thyself" and all that.

What part of Christianity ever preached "kill the different" and "destroy the unbeliever?" Humanity has corrupted to the nth degree a beautiful peaceful, joyous thing, as we corrupt everything, I guess. I just hope, and yes, even pray (I am very spiritual, if not Christian, myself) that someday love will really conquer all.

Waymon,

I normally enjoy your posts, but I'm afraid you've caused some unnecessary confusion with this one.

First, although the Sacramento Bee article doesn't state what the original charges against Shevchenko were (they may have been simply the misdemeanor charges he was convicted on, plus the hate crime allegation), it is clear that this was NOT a "murder trial." Shevchenko was not charged with murder (or any other homicide, such as manslaughter) in the death of Singh because he was not the cause, directly or indirectly, of Singh's death. As the article states:

"Shevchenko and his friend Andrey Vusik confronted Singh, and Vusik allegedly hit Singh in what was described in court as 'the punch of the century.' * * * Vusik, authorities said, left the country, and the FBI is still looking for him."

Shevchenko, on the other hand, was charged because he "threw a bottle at members of Singh's party who were running after him after Singh was punched." He claimed self-defense, which the jury rejected.

These quotes from The LGBT Hate Crimes Project article that you cited also confirm that Vusik, not Shevchenko, was responsible for causing Singh's death:

"A warrant has been issued for Vusik's arrest, and he is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Evidence did not show any intent to kill Singh, but police believe Vusik threw the fatal punch"

"Law enforcement officials said that Shevchenko did not throw the punch that brought about Singh's death, but that he contributed to the crime."

There is no doubt that, as you say, the overall incident involved more than just "disturbing the peace" and "simple assault." It does not appear, however, that Shevchenko himself was involved in more than that, other than making some homophobic slurs, which the jury could not agree were the motive behind his crimes.

I do not condone anything that Shevchenko, Vusik or the others responsible for this incident did and share your condemnation of homophobic and transphobic attacks, verbal and physical, everywhere. However, I don't think it advances the cause of enacting adequate hate crimes protections to misstate the facts of a clearly reprehensible incident or Shevchenko's involvement in it. Doing so simply makes us vulnerable to the accusation that we are "crying wolf," instead of simply pointing out the genuine risk of assault that we all face every day.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 20, 2008 1:17 PM

James, "What part of christianity preached kill the different?"

That would have been:

The Inquisition

The Crusades (nine major ones over 200 years)

The Protestant Reformation

The establishment of the Church of England and the dismantling of the monestaries by Henry 8th

The counter reformation under "Bloody Mary" in England

The hundreds of years Jews were held in bondage by popes who had the first ghetto for Jews in Rome

The many pograms of the Orthodox church directed against Jews and Muslims

The pograms continued by the Russian Czars

The conspiracy between the Russian Orthodox church and the Communist party including reporting on what believers said in the confessional

The concordat of Pope Pious with Hitler

So you see, they have had a little practice in discrimination against other people. Sad, but true.

James Baldridge | June 20, 2008 2:52 PM

Yeah. All that.

Humanity just can't seem to leave well enough alone. Basic tenets are always added to, adjusted, reinterpreted (usually in favor of the interpetor's socio-spritual prejudices), and corrupted.

Makes me very sad.

I guess "love one another and be as godlike as possible" is just to easy. We intrinsically over-complicate things, and screw it all up.

Sigh.