St. Maarten police looking for help in hate crime investigation

By Associated Press


Dick Jefferson

Two New York journalists attacked by three men with tire irons outside bar; one victim suffers possible brain damage

PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten Police have appealed to the public for help in the investigation into an attack on two New York journalists, who were beaten with tire irons outside a bar on the Dutch side of this Caribbean island in what the victims described as an anti-gay hate crime.

Investigators in St. Maarten published a newspaper advertisement Monday seeking witnesses or other information about the attack, which left the two Americans with serious head injuries.

“We do not take the ill-treatment of any person, whether resident or visitor, lightly, and we are pursuing this matter to find the suspects,” police spokesman Johan Leonard said.

Dick Jefferson, 51, and Ryan Smith, 25, who work for CBS, were outside a bar with several friends early on April 6 when three men attacked them and started hitting them with tire irons.

Jefferson, a senior broadcast producer for CBS’ national evening news, said the attackers yelled anti-gay slurs at his friends earlier in the evening.
Both victims were flown to Miami for medical treatment.

Smith was in intensive care and may have suffered brain damage, said Jefferson, who was treated and released Sunday.

Jefferson faulted St. Maarten authorities for not collecting witness testimony on the night of the crime or pursuing other leads.

“The police were and are still trying to ignore this situation,” he said from the Miami hospital where Smith was being treated.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign Fund, sent a letter to the Netherlands’ ambassador to the United States, Boudewijn Johannes Van Eenennaam, urging the island’s government to investigate the attack more thoroughly.

“Hate crimes are a devastating reality that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people face all too often. These acts are most certainly used to instill terror throughout an entire community of people,” Solmonese wrote.
“A failure to conduct a full and complete investigation to apprehend a hate crime perpetrator not only allows prejudice to fester but keeps citizens and tourists at risk,” Solmonese’s letter continued.

“I certainly hope that the government of the Netherlands understands the seriousness of this crime and will take immediate steps to ensure a full and complete investigation,” he said.

St. Maarten, a popular Caribbean tourist destination, is shared by France and the Netherlands.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 14, 2006.

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