But Carroll vigorously denied that he was giving anything but a full and accurate account of the night his friend was fatally injured.
"After the fact, and after you have had enough time to calm down and reflect, you are more able to give the most accurate account," Carroll said.
After the attack, Mora fled into the car Vanegas was driving. He was quiet and confused. Later, as Vanegas desperately tried to drive him back to his mother's house, Mora kept attempting to get out of the car while it was moving through bad parts of town, announcing that he "wanted to die." He made Vanegas stop at a liquor store so he could get some beer. He dropped the bottle in the parking lot and, when people made fun of him, he walked over to a fire station and banged his head violently on the door, according to Vanegas' testimony.
Vanegas finally got Mora home, where he proceeded to argue with his parents after waking them up. Again it was a diatribe of self-hatred, according to Vanegas. He then went on a rampage in the house, breaking things and punching out walls.
The next day, Mora could not remember a thing. Neither he nor Vanegas was aware that the attack the previous night happened in front of a gay leather bar. Indeed, the Loading Dock is not in a traditionally gay neighborhood, or an area known for gay men to cruise. The Loading Dock doesn't even look like a bar from the outside.
If a reasonable jury hears the case, they will see it for what it is: a general, unspecified rampage by a disturbed, drunken man who uttered an anti-gay epithet because it was part and parcel of the vernacular of the angry and the drunk.
To prove a hate crime, the DA's Office will have to establish that the primary motive for the attack involved anti-gay prejudice. Defense attorney Dunlap says there is no evidence of anti-gay bias other than the epithet. The court record seems to bear out his contention. I called the prosecutor handling the case, and she would not talk. DA spokesman Clarence Johnson said the prosecutors might have evidence of anti-gay bias not presented at the preliminary hearing, but when I pressed him on this point, he admitted that he really didn't know if they did or not.
Mora's previous two convictions are for drunk driving. He has no track record that I could find, official or otherwise, of insulting, hurting, or disdaining gay people.
The testimony does not show any particular anti-gay intent on Mora's part that evening. He did not go looking for gay men to beat up. When he did run into one, the meeting appears to have been happenstance. He did not cruise the Castro with a baseball bat. Hell, he wasn't even driving the car. Nor was he choosing a gay destination. He wanted to go to Harry Denton's.
The attack itself was not repetitively brutal. Most hate crimes are attended by savagery, by overkill.
Ultimately, all the DA has to go on is the utterance of one word.
Peter Keane, dean of the law school at Golden Gate University, says that one epithet is generally not enough for a reasonable jury to infer hate as a motive beyond a reasonable doubt.
So why is Hallinan bringing a second-degree murder case, which requires a wanton disregard for human life, and adding a hate crime enhancement, which adds up to three years to the potential sentence, in a situation where a guilty plea for the appropriate charge of involuntary manslaughter and up to five years in prison has been offered by the defense?
I believe he is playing it this way because he needs to play it in this fashion, given who he is and what he has to accomplish in the next five months.
He's running for re-election. He's always been more of a politician than a lawyer. Gay power being what it is in San Francisco, existentially speaking, Terence Hallinan has little choice but to ignore the law, ignore the facts of the case, and play to a righteously angry constituency.
I asked Jennifer Rawkoski, of Community United Against Violence, the gay rights group most responsible for a spate of publicity that has all but turned Mora into the moral equivalent of Matthew Shepard's murderer, what evidence there is, other than the utterance of the epithet, that made this a hate crime for her and her group. After all, the state must prove that the primary motive for a crime involves hatred of members of certain protected classes of people.
I was asking about raw evidence. Not conjecture. Not feelings.
This is what she said:
"There was just a wide universal understanding that this case had an impact beyond the individual, that hearing of this attack in San Francisco [her emphasis] created a sense of alarm and fear that rippled through the community and is not something that in San Francisco we tolerate and is appropriate behavior."
In other words, the gay community was pissed off, and, therefore, evidence didn't matter, and the integrity of a law meant to stop hate crimes didn't matter. All that mattered was mass opinion. All that mattered was politics.
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