Target: Bryan Taylor, Prosecuting Attorney for Canyon County
Goal: Punish the killers of a gay man by charging them with a hate crime.
Allegedly beaten and abandoned on the pavement, a gay man was killed in Idaho. The victim, Steven Nelson, was a promising young staff member at Boise State University who is mourned by classmates and former professors alike. Nelson’s rassailants lured him into meeting them by advertising themselves as male escorts. The attackers beset Nelson, “throwing him onto the ground, choking and beating him,” reports KTVB. The report continues that one of the assailants even told investigators that his companions “kicked the victim with steel-toed boots about 30 times as he lay on the ground.”
Authorities have apprehended the suspects in the attack and are forming a prosecution against them. Despite that progress though, none of Steven Nelson’s attackers face hate crime charges. That omission on the part of prosecutors is surprising in light of the circumstances and brutality of Nelson’s killing. Reports indicate that Steven Nelson was only attacked after he attempted to take his assailants up on their solicitation. Moreover, he was lured into the whole situation by an advertisement explicitly for gay sex. Rather than recognizing Steven Nelson’s tragic killing as hate-motivated, prosecutors have chosen to focus entirely on the robbery the attackers perpetrated, where they stole Nelson’s wallet, keys, and clothes and coerced him to give them his credit card pin number.
Achieving justice should mean prosecuting the crimes that were committed, not those easiest to prove. Urge prosecutors to recognize that Steven Nelson was targeted and victimized due to his sexuality. Demand that Mr. Nelson’s killers answer to hate crime charges.
Dear Mr. Taylor,
Steven Nelson was left to die, beaten, bleeding, and naked on the pavement. Nelson was allegedly targeted by his assailants; they posted an advertisement advertising escort services and allegedly only began their attack when Nelson took them up on his solicitation. One of the attackers described the savagery of the attack, telling investigators that one of his peers kicked Mr. Nelson roughly 30 times with steel-toed boots. Despite the circumstances of Mr. Nelson’s death, your prosecutors have so far declined to press hate crime charges against his assailants.
By focusing only on the robbery aspect of the killing and discounting the attackers’ apparent decision to prey on Steven Nelson’s sexuality, you and your staff are contributing to the underreporting of anti-gay hate crimes. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human rights notes that underreporting poses a serious problem because it distorts national statistics on the prevalence of hate crimes.
Part of achieving justice for Steven Nelson, and protecting similarly vulnerable members of the LGBT community, is prosecuting the crimes that were committed against him, not just those that are easiest to prove. Please recognize that Mr. Nelson was targeted and attacked because of his sexuality. Hold his killers accountable for their act of hate.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Yumi Kimura