A Message From Luke

The following video was recorded in the event that Luke went to prison.   Luke tells us how he’d like to be supported, as well as things he’d like to be written about.

Advertisements

HuffPost Live: Queer Bashing & Fighting Back

The following video aired on HuffPost Live on August 22, 2014. It features Kat, a member of the support committee, talking about Luke’s case and how he can be supported; Renata Hill from the NJ4; Chai Jindasurat from NYC Anti-Violence Project; and media strategist Tiq Milan.

 

Luke in the PQ Monthly

The following article was posted to the PQ Monthly on August 19, 2014.

Man Sent to Prison for Defending Himself from an Anti-Gay Hate Crime


Daniel Borgen

By TJ Acena, PQ Monthly

Luke O’Donovan, a self-identified queer man, leaves a party and is attacked by a group of men. There are somewhere between 5 and 12 in the group, the men stomp on his head and body and stab him. Witnesses report that the men are yelling anti-gay slurs. O’Donovan has a pocket knife and manages to defend himself and escape. An hour later the police arrest him while he is being treated for his wounds. He is charged with five counts of felony aggravated assault and later one count of attempted murder. The maximum sentence he could face is 110 years in prison. None of the men who attacked him are charged with anything. O’Donovan agrees to a plea deal, two years in prison and eight years of probation. The sentencing judge, Judge Markle, thought the plea was ‘too lenient’ and added an (apparently) legal stipulation where O’Donovan is “banished” from Georgia during his probation.

That’s the story I got from a press release from O’Donovan’s support team. They have set up a website called Let Luke Go, where you can find more information about O’Donovan and how to support him. There is also a Change.org petition to have the charges against him dropped.

Obviously justice has stopped working in Georgia. Or at least in Judge Markle’s court. It’s depressing to think that LGBTQ people have a trend of being prosecuted for defending their lives from vicious attacks, the case of CeCe McDonald comes to mind, especially when you consider Georgia also has a ‘Stand your Ground’ law which seem to encourage people to protect themselves by any means necessary.

In case you were wondering why we haven’t heard a lot about this story, I’ll leave this quote from the Sacramento Bee:

O’Donovan’s case has received little media coverage in Atlanta or nationally. During the “victim impact statements” yesterday, Cheryl Mainor, mother of one of O’Donovan’s attackers, admitted to using her professional connections to suppress media stories about the case.

Luke Needs Our Help!

At sentencing, Judge Markle added the condition of criminal banishment to Luke’s probation.  For all eight years of his probation, Luke will be exiled from the state of Georgia, with the exception of one judicial district – that of Screven county, and in turn, his family and closest friends.  For more information on criminal banishment and the unusual nature of its inclusion in Luke’s sentence click here.

judgepostcard copyjudgepostcard copy2

 

All of Luke’s supporters are encouraged to print and fill out one of these postcards, or hand write their own, and mail them to Judge Markle, demanding that he remove the condition of banishment from Luke’s probation.

You can also download the postcard here.

Luke in the Huffington Post

The following article was posted to the Huffington Post on August 16, 2014.

Alleged Anti-Gay Hate Crime Victim Luke O’Donovan Sentenced To Prison For 2012 Attack

Family members, friends and a number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates are crying foul after the alleged victim of an anti-gay hate crime in Atlanta received a prison sentence.

Luke O’Donovan, 21, will reportedly spend the next two years in a Georgia prison, followed by eight years of probation, after agreeing to a plea deal on Aug. 11, Vice is reporting.

O’Donovan, who is identified in media reports as a “queer anarchist,” was charged with attempted murder and five counts of felony aggravated assault in a 2012 incident. O’Donovan had reportedly been attacked by at least five men, who shouted anti-gay epithets at him after seeing him dance with several men at a New Year’s Eve party.

As The Sparrow Project noted, O’Donovan defended himself with a pocket knife and fled the scene, and was arrested by Atlanta police hours later. In a situation that Vice writer Natasha Lennard compares to that of transgender activist CeCe McDonald, only O’Donovan was charged in the altercation.

Eyewitnesses cited by media at the time of the attack offered few details about the attack.

“Things were kind of starting winding down,” witness Lily Chambers told Georgia Newsday. “I mean, it was a late New Year’s party. And then all of a sudden, some stuff happened in the street, I guess.”

Added witness Cheryl Watt: “Someone got stabbed. It was just a blur.”

A group of O’Donovan’s family members, friends and supporters have called his case “the epitome of a hate crime.”

The Luke O’Donovan Support Committee added that “the demonization” of O’Donovan’s actions represented “a growing trend: criminalizing those who successfully defend themselves from hate crimes.”

Meanwhile, O’Donovan himself has released a statement through the committee, noting:

It is regrettable that anyone had to come to harm, but given the choice of whether to lose my life to a hateful attack or fight for the chance to live, I will always choose the ferocious refusal to go quietly into the night. This refusal was not fueled by hate for my attackers, but by my love for life.

It is this passion for life that came in conflict with my attackers, and this same passion that was arrested by the cops and is being punished by the courts. It is this passion that they are trying to chain, to cage, to rehabilitate me away from, but it is this passion that will pull my gaze — always forward — through the dark. I can already glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll be home soon.

 
 

Meanwhile, a group of self-described anarchists reportedly smashed windows and vandalized police cruisers in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on Aug. 14 to show “solidarity” with both O’Donovan and rioters in Ferguson, Missouri, according to Chapel Hill News.

At least one member of the group spray-painted a car with the words “For Luke,” the report noted.

Luke in Pink News

The following was posted in Pink News:

US: Atlanta man receives 10 years in prison for defending himself in anti-gay attack

The victim of an anti-gay attack in Atlanta has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges that he assaulted his attackers.

Luke O’Donovan was attacked on 13 December 2012 at a New Year’s Eve party after dancing with and kissing men throughout the evening.

He was beaten and stabbed by at least five men who shouted homophobic slurs at him during the altercation.

O’Donavan defended himself with a pocketknife, and escaped the incident. He received treatment for stab wounds and injuries to his head and body at the Atlanta Medical Center.

He was arrested by police hours later while receiving treatment and charged with attempted murder and five counts of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The Luke O’Donovan Support Committee issued a statement about O’Donovan’s sentencing, saying: “This is the epitome of a hate crime. Witnesses report seeing between five and 12 men attacking O’Donovan, stomping on his head and body, and stabbing him in the back while calling him a ‘faggot.’

“The demonization of O’Donovan’s actions is a part of a growing trend: criminalizing those who successfully defend themselves from hate crimes.”

The committee added: “O’Donovan’s defense team was only able to negotiate the 10-year sentence after video footage surfaced of one of O’Donovan’s assailants participating in an attack of a transgender woman on July 3.”

In May, two trans women in Georgia were assaulted and stripped, while a crowd of onlookers filmed and cheered the attackers on.

In June, an Atlanta man has turned himself in to police after attacking a cyclist and branding him a “faggot”.

In July, video of a violent attack involving a transgender woman in Atlanta has surfaced on the video sharing app Vine.

Luke in Digital Journal

The following article was posted to Digital Journal on August 14, 2014.

Victim of Anti-Gay Hate Crime Luke O’Donovan of Atlanta Sentenced to 10 Years for Self-Defense

Family and Friends Rally in Support while Attackers Remain Free

ATLANTA, Aug. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is being released by The Luke O’Donovan Support Committee:

Luke O’Donovan, survivor of a homophobic attack in Atlanta, GA, was sentenced to prison on August 12 through a negotiated plea deal that he accepted in order to avoid decades in prison, simply for defending himself from a violent attack.

After leaving a New Year’s Eve party on December 31, 2012, witnesses say O’Donovan, a 21-year-old student at Georgia Gwinnett College, was attacked and beaten by at least five men who yelled homophobic slurs during the fight. O’Donovan defended himself with a pocketknife and managed to escape. He was later treated at Atlanta Medical Center for stab wounds and injuries to his head and body. Witnesses report seeing between five and 12 men gang up on O’Donovan, stomping on his head and body, and stabbing him in the back while calling him a “f*gg*t.”

Police arrested O’Donovan within the hour while he was receiving treatment for his injuries. He was charged with five counts of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, to which one count of attempted murder was later added. O’Donovan faced up to 110 years in prison if convicted.

Four of O’Donovan’s attackers also required treatment at the hospital. Others remained on the scene of the fight to give statements to the police. None were charged for their role. From the outset, the facts of the case were biased by the mob nature of the attack and the complicity of some onlookers. The resulting demonization of O’Donovan’s actions fits into a growing trend of criminalizing those who successfully defend themselves from hate crimes.

O’Donovan’s defense team was able to negotiate the 10-year sentence after video footage surfaced of one of O’Donovan’s assailants participating in an attack of a transgender woman on July 3. O’Donovan will serve two years of the sentence in Georgia state prison and the remaining eight years on strictly supervised probation.

The arduous court proceedings have shown the court and the presiding judge to be biased and homophobic. During O’Donovan’s July 1 immunity hearing Judge Markle allowed the prosecution to use bigoted language in open court, asking every witness if the term “f*gg*t” was offensive or just a synonym for other “non-offensive” terms like “p*ssies,” “b*tches,” or “n*gg*r.” In his comments before sentencing, Judge Markle stated that the 10- year sentence is much too lenient, and despite agreeing to the plea negotiated by the Defense and the Prosecution, Judge Markle added an arcane, punitive stipulation effectively “banishing” O’Donovan from the state of Georgia during the eight years of his probation.

Homophobic and transphobic attacks in Atlanta are increasing in prevalence. Earlier this summer in Atlanta, a group of men accosted, beat, and stripped two trans women nude on a MARTA train. This came only one month before the videotaped assault of a transgender woman near to where O’Donovan was attacked.

O’Donovan’s support team are asking Judge Markle to remove the criminal banishment from Luke’s probationary conditions. Supporters can contact Judge Markle directly and send letters and books to Luke O’Donovan throughout his sentence.

For more information, go to: https://letlukego.wordpress.com.

SOURCE The Luke O’Donovan Support Committee

Luke in Creative Loafing

Luke O’Donovan receives 10-year sentence – and ‘banishment’ – for NYE altercation

The following article was posted to Creative Loafing on August 15, 2014.

Supporters of a man who says he was defending himself during an alleged homophobic attack at a New Year’s Eve party are asking a judge to revisit the terms of a 10-year prison sentence he agreed to as part of a plea deal he struck with prosecutors on Tuesday.

According to an Atlanta Police report, sometime after revelers rang in 2013, Luke O’Donovan was involved in an altercation at a Reynoldstown party with five to 12 people over “sexuality.” Supporters say the Georgia Gwinnett College student defended himself with a pocketknife after he was called homophobic slurs and attacked. According to the APD report, witnesses claimed that people who were later cut or stabbed by O’Donovan tried to “stop” him. O’Donovan then left the party to receive medical treatment at Atlanta Medical Center for stab wounds sustained during the attack, his supporters say. He was charged several hours later with five counts of felony aggravated assault and later charged with attempted murder.

The Luke O’Donovan Support Committee, which claims it includes O’Donovan’s friends, family, roommates, and others, is categorizing what happened to the 21 year old as a hate crime.

“Witnesses report seeing between five and 12 men attacking O’Donovan, stomping on his head and body, and stabbing him in the back while calling him a ‘faggot,'” the committee said in a statement today.

“The facts of this case were clearly biased due to the group nature of the attack and the complicity of some onlookers,” the statement says. “The demonization of O’Donovan’s actions is apart [sic] of a growing trend: criminalizing those who successfully defend themselves from hate crimes.”

The committee says Judge Todd Markle, who oversaw the case, and the court are homophobic for allowing the prosecution to use “bigoted language” in open court, “asking every witness if the term “faggot” was offensive or just a synonym for other “non-offensive” terms like “pussies,” “bitches,” or “nigger.” (Markle was not immediately available for comment on Friday. We’ll update if we hear back.)

A statement issued by O’Donovan after his sentencing, was posted on the group’s website:

My name is Luke O’Donovan. In the early morning of January 1st, 2013, I was attacked by a group of men at a party because of my sexuality. In an attempt to defend myself from the attack I thought could end my life I stabbed 5 of them, while also being stabbed 3 times myself. It is regrettable that anyone had to come to harm, but given the choice of whether to lose my life to a hateful attack or fight for the chance to live, I will always choose the ferocious refusal to go quietly into the night. This refusal was not fueled by hate for my attackers, but by my love for life. It is this passion for life that came in conflict with my attackers, and this same passion that was arrested by the cops and is being punished by the courts. It is this passion that they are trying to chain, to cage, to rehabilitate me away from, but it is this passion that will pull my gaze — always forward — through the dark. I can already glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll be home soon.

According to reports, O’Donovan will serve two years in prison and eight years on probation. Just before reading O’Donovan’s sentence, the support committee says, Markle added a punishment: banishment from all of Georgia except for Screven County while he serves on probation. The archaic practice basically exiles a person from a certain place. Georgia is one of more than 10 states where the punishment is allowed in some form.

The committee wants the judge to toss out the criminal banishment while O’Donovan is on probation.

Solidarity from the Netherlands

10499589_668387046587659_7725447499972076677_o

Queeresist held a demonstration through The Hague in solidarity with Luke.  They released this statement:

The United States government has a shameful record of turning a blind eye to violence against queer and trans people, while mercilessly locking up any queer or trans people who dare to defend themselves. Just at the beginning of this year, CeCe McDonald was released from a men’s prison in the United States; she had been sentenced to 41 months for defending herself from a racist and transphobic attack, and hers is only one case of many.


We are taking to the streets to spread word about Luke’s case in particular and the problem of homophobic and transphobic violence, with state complicity, in general. We are calling for all the charges against Luke O’Donovan to be dropped. We also want to send him a message of support and show our support for self-defense against homophobic and transphobic attacks.

10572136_668387186587645_7405045423240015624_o                              1522518_668386959921001_6654890022758720678_o

The demonstration started at the Koekamp, went on a route through the center of The Hague, and ended in front of the US Embassy.

Luke O’Donovan in Vice News

The following article was posted to Vice News on August 13, 2014.

Prison and Exile for Luke O’Donovan: A Price of Fighting Back Against Gay Bashers

By Natasha Lennard

Exile is not a punishment commonly doled out by the contemporary US justice system. Cages, not banishment, have long been the order of the day.

Not so for Luke O’Donovan. A 21-year-old queer anarchist living in Atlanta, O’Donovan learned on Monday that he will spend the next two years in a Georgia prison, and then the following eight years on probation in what can only be described as exile. While his sentence — which I will expand upon later — is peculiar, the ordeal that led to his receiving it is sadly too common.

O’Donovan was the victim of a homophobic attack by a group of men on New Year’s Eve. Having seen the young man dancing with and kissing other men at a party, a group of men numbering between five to 12 hurled homophobic slurs at O’Donovan and physically attacked him. According to his supporters, a number of witnesses saw members of the group stamp on O’Donovan’s head. O’Donovan himself released a statement Monday saying, “In an attempt to defend myself from the attack I thought could end my life I stabbed five of them, while also being stabbed three times myself.” One man required surgery following the fight, and no injuries were fatal. Only O’Donovan was charged — five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Facing up to a 110-year sentence if convicted by a jury, O’Donovan agreed to a plea deal Monday. He is far from alone in foregoing a trial by jury in fear of decades behind bars if found guilty. Approximately 95 percent of all criminal cases in this country end in plea deals. Prosecutorial overreach and aggressive minimum sentencing laws mean our legal system is structured to coerce admissions of guilt. “We understand Luke’s acceptance of the plea deal and his admission of guilt as the direct result of coercion by the State,” noted a statement from O’Donovan’s supporters.

As I see it, his case is the latest in a series in which LGBTQ individuals have been heavily punished by the legal system for daring to defend themselves in the face of discriminatory violence and abuse. Like CeCe McDonald, the trans woman who was jailed for fatally stabbing a man during a vicious transphobic attack on her and her friends, O’Donovan faced charges while his aggressors were deemed “victims.” In July, a judge denied O’Donovan immunity from his charges on self-defense grounds.

To shed some light on where the sympathies of the Atlanta court seemed to lie, the sentencing hearing on Monday included testimonies from the mothers of the men who attacked O’Donovan. Judge Todd Markle told O’Donovan outright that he would have liked to put him in prison for more time than the plea deal entails. The prosecution argued that the word “faggot” was as “non-offensive” as teasingly calling someone a baby.

To be clear, I write here in support of O’Donovan. If you smell a whiff of bias in my depiction of this case, I haven’t gone far enough: There should be a stench of anger at a system that defends queer bashers and punishes their victims. George Zimmerman claimed self-defense in shooting dead unarmed teen Trayvon Martin and was found “not guilty.” O’Donovan, himself stabbed three times, is imprisoned and sentenced to exile.

The exile stipulation in the sentence is unusual, and points again to Judge Markle’s desire to extract as much punishment as possible for O’Donovan out of the plea deal. Specifically, the stipulation demands that after he leaves prison, during O’Donovan’s eight years of probation he is banned from the state of Georgia except for one county, Screven. Since an individual on probation is also not permitted to leave the state in which he or she is sentenced, O’Donovan is effectively banished from everywhere in the world for eight years except Screven County — which, by the way, has a population of just over 15,000 and boasts “small town living.” The nearest cities, Savannah and Augusta, are 60 miles away and are outside the space O’Donovan in which will be permitted to exist.

Banishment laws, archaic as they seem, are on the books only in Georgia, Tennessee, and in Washington, D.C. Some legal scholars have described such punishment as cruel and unusual. On the whole, banishment is reserved for sex offenders, or deployed in efforts to keep gang members away from their bases. The decision to remove O’Donovan from his community for years after he serves prison time smacks of cruelty. Tellingly, the judge added the exile stipulation to the deal O’Donovan and the prosecutors had reached. To use a grimly appropriate idiom, the probation condition twists the knife in O’Donovan’s wounds.

Within months of videos emerging online showing two separate incidents in Atlanta of trans women being brutally beaten — stomped on, punched, and stripped — O’Donovan’s sentencing sends an insidious and troubling message to victims of queer and trans bashing — namely, don’t fight back. It is a message deserving of firm and collective rejection.

Even facing prison and exile, O’Donovan again asserted the importance of fighting back. In a post-sentencing statement he wrote: “It is regrettable that anyone had to come to harm, but given the choice of whether to lose my life to a hateful attack or fight for the chance to live, I will always choose the ferocious refusal to go quietly into the night.”

Since the institutions of justice align with homophobia and transphobia, the fight to end this violence also entails a fight against this justice system, this prison system; in short, the state.

Follow Natasha Lennard on Twitter: @natashalennard