Musician Says Attack On Her Was Hate Crime, DA Disagrees
Last Updated: 1406 days ago
Rhythm Turner, lead singer in a local band, is gay, and told the I-Team she was attacked because of it."This has really been something that's really changed my life," she said.Turner said the attack happened outside Canes Bar and Grill in Mission Beach. Turner was hugging her girlfriend when a 21-year-old man walked up, told the two women to kiss and eventually threw a punch when they refused to do so."He ended up assaulting me. He left me with some fractures in my face," Turner said.Officers arrested the man, who would have faced stiffer penalties if he was charged with a hate crime."The detective had initially told me that it was going to go down as a hate crime," said Turner.The hate crime charge never happened, and Turner's attacker pleaded guilty to felony assault.Turner worries her attack was not taken as seriously as it shoudl've been.Statistics show hate crimes have been declining over the last nine years. In San Diego County, reported hate crime events dropped from 235 in 2000 to 124 in 2008. While the numbers don't lie, they don't always tell the full story, either.Civil rights attorney James McElroy, who tracks hate crimes with the Southern Poverty Law Center, told the I-Team that he believes hate crimes are on the rise but some cases fall through the cracks."I think sometimes DA's get a little timid when it comes to charging hate crimes," McElroy said.San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis counters that she aggressively pursues hate crimes."Those cases that are coming to us, 91 percent of those cases are actually filed on," said Dumanis.That's a better record than her predecessor, who filed 72 percent of the cases presented to the district attorney's office as hate crimes.The district attorney's office decided Turner's attack wasn't a hate crime because they couldn't prove to a jury it was "substantially motivated" by bias against gays."It was not motivated by hate," Dumanis told the I-Team.The attacker, Vinzen Williams, was drunk, used no slurs, had no affiliation with anti-gay groups and punched after Turner told him something to the affect of, "(expletive) off", according to the district attorney's office."He got the easy way out, basically," said Turner.Williams pleaded guilty to a first strike and will spend up to one year in prison when he's sentenced Sept. 10.