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Teen facing 'hate crime' count over spat

Posted By -NO AUTHOR- On 05/08/2008 @ 12:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled

Two college-age men have a verbal disagreement on a public street that escalates to the point one allegedly grabs the other while hollering at him and the other allegedly pushes him away. Now the one accused of doing the “pushing” is charged with a felony hate crime and could face years in jail, according to Peter LaBarbera of the activist group Americans for Truth.

It’s what happens when “hate crimes” laws are added on top of laws against behavior such as grabbing and pushing, LaBarbera told WND.

“This is where the rubber meets the road in ‘hate crimes,’” he said.

Although authorities have declined to comment on the situation, Ted Pike of the National Prayer Network, who talked with the mother of one of the participants, said she told him the case developed like this:


“The police department of Champaign, Ill., is reported to be under pressure from higher authorities to increase its quota of hate crimes convictions. Brett VanAsdlen, an 18-year-old Christian college student on a baseball scholarship, didn’t know this. On April 12 he and a friend saw two homosexuals leaning on each other and holding hands, walking toward them on the sidewalk. ‘Look at those two guys holding hands,’ Brett said to his friend and walked past them. According to Brett’s mother, the next thing he knew, one of the homosexuals (whom he perceived to be drunk) had grabbed him by the shoulder, putting his face up to Brett’s and repeatedly shouting, ‘What did you say?’ Brett told him to go away several times and then pushed him. The homosexual fell over backward. On his back, the homosexual told his partner to call the police. In eight minutes, four officers arrived. Two interviewed Brett and his friend and assured them there would be no problem. Brett had been physically accosted and detained, clearly an assault. The other two officers interviewed the homosexual, who was taken to the hospital.”

Pike noted that the accuracy of that account cannot be presumed, because the mother is sympathetic to her son, who then was charged with a felony “hate crime.”

“It is conceivable to this writer that young VanAsdlen might have made an untoward or derogatory comment about the homosexual couple, sparking the confrontation. But there is no law against speech critical of homosexuality (yet) and if it is true that Velasquez grabbed Brett, then perhaps he was the real aggressor,” Pike wrote.

LaBarbera said he talked with VanAsdlen’s mother, Rona Lee, and she confirmed the account, “although she did not say what exactly Brett said to the homosexual couple.”

He reported she confirmed her son did not initiate physical contact with the other participant in the dispute, 20-year-old homosexual University of Illinois student Steven Velasquez.

“She said Velasquez was yelling at Brett and ‘in his face’ and that Brett told him twice to get away from him before pushing him away,” he said.

But VanAsdlen now faces a Class 4 felony hate crime, changed from aggravated battery, over the incident.

“The critical question is: Why did he push Velasquez and who was aggressor?” LaBarbera asked. “VanAsdlen’s family says it was Velasquez who – after Brett made a comment about Velasquez and his homosexual partner – first ‘got in Brett’s face,’ to which Brett responded by pushing Velasquez away.”

Rona Lee VanAsdlen told WND in an interview today that she’s been asked by legal counsel not to talk about the specifics of the case.

But she said the case is a trial for the family.

“We’re just getting persecuted here, I guess, and we have to fight,” she said. “I just ask for prayers. My son will really have to fight and prove his innocence.”

She identified the state’s “hate crimes” as the problem.

“This would never have even been an event if this was another heterosexual male and he had a conflict with, and that’s just unfair,” she said. “I am a conservative Christian, and my son is. All we are doing is asking for prayers and support from people that may be opposed to this sort of thing happening.

“This has just uprooted our whole life, and I don’t know that it’ll ever be the same. I don’t know that, even if everything is dropped, that it’ll ever be the same,” she said.

Velasquez was not charged in the incident.

The punishment for VanAsdlen, however, already has begun. He’s at Parkland College on a baseball scholarship but was suspended from the team pending the outcome of the case, officials said.

Athletic Director Rod Lovett told Americans for Truth the decision was “internal” and regarded the college’s athletic code of conduct. He confirmed VanAsdlen will have the opportunity to seek reinstatement when the case is over.

“He’s a typical 18- or 19-year-old kid,” Lovell told LaBarbera.

Americans for Truth said it’s clearly a case of “He said, he said.”

“But the special treatment of it thus far illustrates why conservatives and traditionalists oppose ‘hate crimes’ laws as fundamentally unfair and open to abuse,” LaBarbera said.

He said if convicted of a felony, VanAsdlen would face further penalties besides the potential of jail time of being banned from voting and could be prevented from ever being hired as a teacher or coach, one of his goals.

“The true danger of hate-crimes laws is selective prosecution and unequal protection under the law. If a homosexual were to push an obnoxious Christian onto the ground, or things got out of control after a verbal spat, would he be facing a felony hate-crime conviction and possible jail time in Champaign, Ill., right now?” LaBarbera asked.

 


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