Gay Student Files Hate-Crime Lawsuit After Attack

FingerMADISON, WISCONSIN – A Wisconsin college student is suing two fellow students he claims beat him up because he is gay.
The suit, filed Thursday in Grant County Circuit Court, may mark the first time Wisconsin’s hate crime statute has been used in a state civil case.
According to the lawsuit, Brett Timmerman, an openly gay student who attended the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and a female friend were standing outside a restaurant in July 2005 when Oden A. Waite and Enove Q. Urias confronted him. They yelled, called him a derogatory name and told him to go back to Madison, the suit says.
Timmerman said Thursday he had never met the men but recognized one of them from school.
“So I turned around and said, ‘I don’t know why you’re saying those things to me. I’m just like you,’ ” Timmerman recalled. “And then I got beat up.”
Urias slapped Timmerman, while Waite spit in his face and hit him in the head, the suit says. Waite then wrapped an arm around Timmerman’s neck and knocked him to the ground, rupturing his eardrum, according to the lawsuit. Waite was on top of Timmerman when the police arrived, the lawsuit says.
“I thought there was a good chance I might be killed that night,” Timmerman said. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
Waite was convicted of a municipal disorderly conduct violation. Urias was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct, according to online court records.
The fact that neither Urias nor Waite was charged with a hate crime was one reason Lambda Legal, a national gay rights organization, took on the case as a civil matter, said attorney James Madigan, who represents Timmerman.
“One of the problems with hate crimes laws in some respect is that sometimes it’s . . . harder to prove, so prosecutors just make a deal and cop a plea to get this over with,” he said. “We suspect that’s what happened on this case.”
Wisconsin’s hate crime statute, allowing for both criminal and civil actions against perpetrators of hate crimes, took effect in 1988. Since then, it has not been used in a civil case and has been used only rarely in criminal cases, Madigan said.
Timmerman, now 23, has moved out of Platteville and is finishing his final college class through independent study while working in sales.
Timmerman filed a federal lawsuit against Urias and Waite last fall, accusing them of conspiring to deprive him of his rights. U.S. District Judge John Shabaz dismissed the suit in March, saying Timmerman had no evidence of conspiracy.
Neither Waite nor Urias could be reached Thursday.
Tyler Kieler, an attorney who represented Waite in the federal lawsuit and on the disorderly conduct matter, said Timmerman’s allegations have no merit.
“We are confident that the state civil court process will once again vindicate Mr. Waite and clear him of any wrongdoing,” Kieler said.
from The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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