April 24, 2010

Gay-rights group offers support to attacked teen

By Mary Meehan

A Kentucky gay rights group has offered financial support to the family of the Jackson County teen whose classmates have been charged with kidnapping and attempted murder in a case police have deemed a prank pushed too far.

The Kentucky Equality Federation, an all-volunteer group, held a news conference in Lexington on Friday to encourage classifying as a hate crime the actions of three Jackson County High School students who have been accused of trying to push Cheyenne Williams, who is openly gay, off a cliff.

Kentucky State Police investigating the incident have said they have found no evidence that the case is a hate crime.

But Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, said police officers don't have the final word on what should be considered a hate crime.

According to state law, there is no "hate crime charge," but the sentencing judge may determine whether the primary motivation for a crime is hate. If that determination is made, additional penalties may apply at sentencing, said Allison Martin, spokesman for the Kentucky Attorney General's office.

There is a federal hate crimes statute.

Palmer said members of his group will be attending Monday's hearing for the charged teens. They also have offered to help pay legal expenses if Williams' family wants to push for a hate crime designation or pursue a civil lawsuit where hate as a motivation could influence a monetary judgment.

He said that since Williams' story came out, his group has received complaints of hate-inspired acts of discrimination from 18 young people in 11 counties.

In the Jackson County case, Ashley Sams and Corinne Schwab, both 18, and a 17-year-old student have been charged with attempted murder and kidnapping. The 17-year-old has not been identified because of her age. The alleged assault took place April 16. Sams and Schwab each have been released on a $25,000 bond.

Read more: http://www.kentucky.com/2010/04/24/1237266/gay-rights-group-offers-support.html

Copyright 2010 Lexington Herald-Leader.

April 23, 2010

Mother & advocacy group say incident was a hate crime

Controversy continues to build over an incident at an eastern Kentucky high school that some call a hate crime.

State police have said they believe the arrest of three Jackson County High School seniors for kidnapping and attempted murder may have been the result of a prank on a friend.

That student’s mother isn't buying it and now an advocacy group is stepping in.

The Kentucky Equality Federation says what happened to the Jackson County High School student, Cheyenne Williams, was most definitely a hate crime, despite what police are saying.

Jordan Palmer with the KEF, a member of the Lesbian and Gay association says he's done investigating of his own and says since the alleged murder of Williams by three of her classmates.

Palmer says, “They gave her six months to change her sexual orientation, did not change of course so because she did not change orientation they took the action they took.”

Williams allegedly broke free from the three seniors in question after being kidnapped and taken to Flatlick Falls, where she says they tried to push her over.

Despite all that happened Palmer says Williams is willing to fight and says so is his and his organizations.

Palmer also says his organization will help the victim's family, a civil lawsuit if necessary.

Cheyenne Williams' mother says her daughter will not return to Jackson County High School.

Dee Johnson told the Lexington Herald Leader Williams has enough credits to graduate and it would not be safe to go back to school.

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Gay Advocacy Group Says Attackers Pact Gave Cheyenne Williams 6 Months To Stop Being A Lesbian

By Paula Brooks

A gay rights advocacy group says the Kentucky lesbian student who was kidnapped by three of her classmates and taken to a remote area 60 miles south of Lexington, Ky., where they beat her and tried to push her off a cliff – did it because of a pact made by her assailants to make Cheyenne Williams change her sexual orientation.

The group also says that this is not the first incident of its kind at Jackson County High School.

In a statement released today by the Kentucky Equality Federation, who is now, per the request of the victim's mother, the sole spokesman for all media outlets regarding the attack, said Corinne Schwab and Ashley Sams, both 18 and a 17-year-old girl — not named because she is a minor — told the victim they had given her six months to change her sexual orientation.According to KEF, the assailants made this pack between themselves and the Williams was never made aware of this until the day of the assault.

Williams was taken to Flat Lick Falls, a remote area about 60 mile southeast of Lexington, Ky, on the pretext they were taking her to a job interview last Friday afternoon, where they beat, and choked her and then attempted to push Williams off a 50-foot cliff.

Williams allegedly broke free by fending her attackers off with a stick.

However during the struggle a large rock was thrown at her by the attackers, and in trying to dodge it, she fell back on several large rocks injuring her back. The attackers eventually took Williams to a near by restaurant and dropped her off, warning her not to say anything.

The Kentucky State police issued a news release Tuesday that says Williams was "taken against her will to the Flat Lick Falls area" where she was assaulted and that the other three girls "attempted to push her over a cliff, which could have resulted in serious physical injury or death."

State Police Detective Joie Peters said, all the girls have been friends since sixth grade and school officials say that there has never seemingly been a problem between them. One of the alleged attackers roomed with Williams on a senior trip to Key West, Fla., and the Bahamas three weeks ago.

However, Det. Peters said this week, he has not uncovered evidence the attack constituted a hate crime and it appears the incident began as a practical joke that got out of hand.

According to Kentucky Equality however this incident was anything but a prank, and say that Williams now cannot sleep at night, and has been prescribed medication for anxiety, nightmares, and inability to sleep, and added that Ms Williams is seeing a professional therapist for counseling about these events.

Kentucky Equality also say Williams has problems with her back as a result of the attack and has been prescribed medication for back pain as well and will likely have to undergo physical therapy.

Williams never had any of these problems before the attack, according to the statement.

Williams mother also said Thursday she is concerned her daughter wouldn’t be safe if she returned to finish her senior year and will not allow her to return to Jackson County High.

In an interview today, Richard T. Jones, the Kentucky Equality Federation Special Assistant to the President for Communications and Administration, told LGR that Kentucky Equality Federation will be providing the family financial assistant to file a civil suit also for pain, suffering, and mental anguish and that KEF does not agree with the state police assessment that the assault on Williams was not a hate crime.

"They gave her six months to change her sexual orientation, it did not change of course, so they took the action they took," said Jones.

Jones also noted that is not the call of the state police to determine if a hate crime has occurred, "Contrary to the statements the Kentucky State Police have made, under KRS 532.031, only a Judge may determinate if a hate crime occurred when a person or persons commit a criminal offense based on race, religion, disability, ethnicity, or sexual orientation," said Jones.

Jones also told LGR that this is not the first time KEF has received complaints from Jackson County High School and said there had one particular incident several years ago, when a student said he was bringing a gun to school to kill two lesbian students who had been dating.

"We are aware that school officials have stated that they had no knowledge of any threats before the incident on April 21, 2010 with Cheyenne Williams but this is not the first time incidents and threats have happened at Jackson County, there have been several complaints originating from this school", said Jones.

Jones also said if the Judge does not rule this a hate crime under the laws of the Commonwealth, KEF will try to elevate this to a federal level under the new hate crimes law signed last year by President Obama.

However according to Jones, Kentucky Equality Federation will bring all available political pressure to bear to get the Commonwealth's Attorney to treat this as the hate crime it is.

"We know what is on the tape which the prosecutor will not allow the media access to," said Jones.

Copyright © 2010 Lez Get Real.

Gay student won't return to high school

MCKEE, Ky. —- The mother of a gay teenager says her daughter won't return to Jackson County High School after an incident in which she claims three other girls tried to kill her.

Dee Johnson told The Lexington Herald-Leader her daughter, 18-year-old Cheyenne Williams, has enough credits to graduate and it would be unsafe for her to return to classes.

Two classmates, Ashley Sams and Corinne Schwab, who are both 18, are scheduled for arraignment Monday on attempted murder and kidnapping charges. The other girl implicated is a juvenile.

Williams says her classmates tried to push her off a cliff April 16, and Johnson says her daughter was attacked because she is gay.

Kentucky State Police, however, determined that the incident was not a hate crime.

"It began as a prank of some sort," said Kentucky State Trooper John Hawkins. "It definitely is not a hate crime."

In an e-mail to Jackson County schools officials on Friday, the Kentucky Equality Federation disputed that the incident was a prank and asked for assurances of safety for gay students.

The three suspects have long been friends with Williams, and school officials weren't aware of any problems among them before Friday, said Tim Crawford, an attorney for Jackson County High School.

The three suspects offered Williams a ride to a job interview Friday afternoon, Crawford said. During the ride, Williams found out the interview was being delayed by two hours, and the four then went instead to Flat Lick Falls.

Williams' family alleges that the three attacked Williams at the falls and tried to push her off a 50-foot cliff, state police said. The area of Appalachia is about 60 miles southeast of Lexington and borders the Daniel Boone National Forest.

Crawford said Williams' mother told him the girls forced her back into the car, took her home and threatened her not to say anything.

Johnson said her daughter was attacked because she is openly gay and that the attack was linked to a gay awareness event earlier in the day.

"It was a hate crime," Johnson said in a brief interview with The Associated Press at her home Wednesday.

Crawford said school officials learned about the incident when Dee Johnson complained to them on Monday.

He said some students at the high school last Friday recognized the "Day of Silence" anti-violence event promoted by the national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Alliance, but he said the four girls were not involved.

He said some students protested the event by wearing stickers that said "Gay is not the way," but they were later confiscated.

Crawford said the four friends attended a senior trip with about 60 students to the Bahamas and Key West, Fla., at the end of March.

Gay student won't return to school after attack

(Wave3 - Louisville NBC Affiliate) 

MCKEE, KY (AP) -- The mother of a gay teenager says her daughter won't return to Jackson County High School after an incident in which she claims three other girls tried to kill her.

Dee Johnson told The Lexington Herald-Leader her daughter, 18-year-old Cheyenne Williams, has enough credits to graduate and it would be unsafe for her to return to classes.

Two classmates, Ashley Sams and Corinne Schwab, who are both 18, are scheduled for arraignment Monday on attempted murder and kidnapping charges. The other girl implicated is a juvenile.

Williams says her classmates tried to push her off a cliff April 16.

In an e-mail to Jackson County schools officials on Friday, the Kentucky Equality Federation disputed statements that the incident was a prank and asked for assurances of safety for gay students.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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