Luke to be Released July 25th

On July 25th at 9 am Luke O’Donovan will walk out of Washington State Prison after serving two years there.  We are thrilled to see our friend free from behind prison walls. He is in high spirits and very excited to be released. As many of you who have been in touch with him know, he has occupied his time with a rigorous workout routine, lots of reading, and correspondence with all those who took the time to communicate with him.

Unfortunately he will not be allowed to return to his home and life in Atlanta. Due to the judge adding a banishment condition to his probation, Luke will have to move all the way to the West Coast for the next eight years, or until the conditions of his probation are changed. Moving forward, here are some ways to continue to support Luke as he starts life on strict probation.

  • Money– Luke will need money in order to cover his living expenses while he gets on his feet and moves his belongings and life to the West Coast. He will also need money to cover the probation and drug testing fees that he will be subject too.
    You can donate or set up recurring donations here Donate Button

  • Care Packages– Luke will need lots of little things, like clothes to rebuild his wardrobe, delicious vegan food, and other items that you are not allowed to have in prison. If you would like to send a care package please email letlukego@gmail.com to work out details on where and what to send.
  • Solidarity and Support- Throughout Luke’s case and subsequent imprisonment the support and solidarity he has gotten has been overwhelming. From the solidarity marches and actions to the mountain of mail and the hundreds of postcards sent to the judge we have been thrilled by all those who have taken action for him. Once things are more clear we will begin trying to get his banishment condition appealed, check back for updates. For now any and all actions are appreciated.  As Luke’s new living situation isn’t worked out yet we can’t provide contact info at this time, but email us at letlukego@gmail.com if you want to get in touch.

Luke is set to be free from prison, but there is still a lot to do. Thanks everyone for your past and future support.

-xxx

 

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Luke To Be Released July 25th

On July 25th at 9 am Luke O’Donovan will walk out of Washington State Prison after serving two years there.  We are thrilled to see our friend free from behind prison walls. He is in high spirits and very excited to be released. As many of you who have been in touch with him know, he has occupied his time with a rigorous workout routine, lots of reading, and correspondence with all those who took the time to communicate with him.

Unfortunately he will not be allowed to return to his home and life in Atlanta. Due to the judge adding a banishment condition to his probation, Luke will have to move all the way to the West Coast for the next eight years, or until the conditions of his probation are changed. Moving forward, here are some ways to continue to support Luke as he starts life on strict probation.

  • Money– Luke will need money in order to cover his living expenses while he gets on his feet and moves his belongings and life to the West Coast. He will also need money to cover the probation and drug testing fees that he will be subject too. You can donate or set up recurring donations here
  • Care Packages– Luke will need lots of little things, like clothes to rebuild his wardrobe, delicious vegan food, and other items that you are not allowed to have in prison. If you would like to send a care package please email letlukego@gmail.com to work out details on where and what to send.
  • Solidarity and Support- Throughout Luke’s case and subsequent imprisonment the support and solidarity he has gotten has been overwhelming. From the solidarity marches and actions to the mountain of mail and the hundreds of postcards sent to the judge we have been thrilled by all those who have taken action for him. Once things are more clear we will begin trying to get his banishment condition appealed, check back for updates. For now any and all actions are appreciated.  As Luke’s new living situation isn’t worked out yet we can’t provide contact info at this time, but email us at letlukego@gmail.com if you want to get in touch.

Luke is set to be free from prison, but there is still a lot to do. Thanks everyone for your past and future support.

-LSC

 

Luke in Creative Loafing

The following was posted to Creative Loafing on October 2nd, 2014:

Why do Georgia judges banish defendants?

Despite debate over rehabilitative benefits, some judges include punishment as part of sentencing

HIT THE ROAD: A Fulton County judge's punishment for Luke O'Donovan's role in an incident that took place at a 2013 Reynoldstown party was to serve probation in Screven County.

LUKE’S SUPPORT COMMITTEE

HIT THE ROAD: A Fulton County judge’s punishment for Luke O’Donovan’s role in an incident that took place at a 2013 Reynoldstown party was to serve probation in Screven County.

Georgia’s constitution bans all kinds of old-fashioned things. Think slavery, court-ordered whippings, and imprisonment for debt. But the document also has a line that discusses punishment of scofflaws by kicking them out of town.

Every year, judges across the state tell defendants that part of their sentencing, typically after serving time in prison, includes packing up their bags and moving somewhere far, far away — provided they don’t bar someone from living in Georgia, one of the few states that still allows bizarre, albeit constitutional, punishment. And no one’s in much of a rush to do away with the practice, which has little known rehabilitative benefit, if any.

To James Cantwell, it’s an “archaic” punishment. Cantwell and a group of others are aiming to get a banishment order lifted from their friend Luke O’Donovan.

O’Donovan was sentenced to two years in prison — followed by eight years of probation in Screven County — by Fulton County Judge Todd Markle for a controversial incident at a 2013 Reynoldstown house party. Six people were injured, including O’Donovan. His friends say he was fighting back with a knife against up to a dozen men whose anti-gay slurs and physical attacks were enough to make O’Donovan fear for his life. The prosecution says O’Donovan had been kicked out of the party and came back angry and armed.

Of everyone who went to the hospital, only O’Donovan faced charges. He took a negotiated plea deal and was sentenced in August. The deal didn’t initially include being exiled to Screven County in East Georgia after finishing his prison sentence, says Cantwell. He says an angry Judge Todd Markle, who was overseeing the case, imposed the banishment himself.

Screven County Sheriff Mike Kile says he did not hear of the sentence until months afterward, whenCreative Loafing contacted him for comment. Kile says he doesn’t even know how O’Donovan would get to the 14,000-population east Georgia county, since there’s no bus line running there from Atlanta.

“I doubt seriously he could find a job. There’s not a whole lot of places to live in the county … especially coming in here out of the blue,” said the sheriff. He added that the state parole board prefers to release parolees to somewhere that they have a home. Kile doesn’t like O’Donovan’s chances starting afresh in Screven anyway. “He’s going to come out here with 25 dollars in his pocket … he’s going to wind up in the county jail pretty soon.”

But what is more likely to happen is O’Donovan may become an exile to South Georgia or leave the state.

Banishment from the state of Georgia was forbidden by the 1877 state constitution and has survived all subsequent edits. There’s no record of how many people Georgia courts banish each year from counties and even certain police zones. But more than two-dozen defendants have argued that the punishment is unreasonable or serves no rehabilitative purpose. In all cases but one, the punishments have been substantially upheld.

The state’s high courts have found banishment to be useful for several reasons. For one, it protects the victims, kind of like a restraining order with a huge radius. For two, it’s supposed to sever the wrongdoer from their network of cronies, thereby reducing the chances of reoffending.

The Georgia Supreme Court has heard plenty of arguments against banishment on the grounds that it’s unconstitutional, cruel, unusual, or disproportionate. But because the state Constitution says banishment “beyond the limits of the state” shall not be allowed, the state Supreme Court says banishment is OK, though judges should instead limit the parolee to a judicial circuit where he or she has access to the needed rehabilitative services. (O’Donovan’s original banishment to Screven had to be changed to a banishment to the swampy five-county Southern Judicial Circuit along the Florida border, Cantwell says.)

In reality, however, most banishees choose a home in one of the other 49 states rather than in an unfamiliar Georgia county, says Atlanta attorney McNeill Stokes, an opponent of banishment. The punishment is “unnecessary, and it’s just ludicrous,” he says, and fits no pattern of rehabilitation.

Nor is it necessarily always enforced. David Nathan Thompson lived with his mom in DeKalb County for two years in contravention of an order to stay in South Georgia. His parole officer in Columbus required no more than a phone call every month. Thompson became a legal resident of DeKalb again earlier this month, when a judge accepted a plea from his mother, Andrea Davis, that her son be allowed to live at home among a supportive network of family and friends — not in 11 years of exile.

“We’re on a mission now, and his life will start over,” Davis says.

Thompson admits that in 2004, as a 20-year-old, he fired a gun toward the Fulton County home where relatives of his late father lived. The young man was skipping his bipolar medication. He’s since been diagnosed with mental illness so severe that he has been designated as a disabled person. Family and friends keep tabs on him with visits and phone calls.

He took a plea deal to serve eight years in prison, followed by a year’s house arrest and then 11 years banishment to Ware County. The prison sentence was later reduced to four years. He was arrested while on parole but also got his banishment area enlarged to all of South Georgia. Though he and his allies say his stepfamily is getting special treatment, no judge yet thinks the principle is necessarily wrong.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams earlier this month decided Thompson must not leave DeKalb County for the next year and must live with his mom. If Thompson lives a productive life during that time, the judge may allow the family to consider a group home option for the young man.

“I have heard no reason from the defense as to why it is necessary for Mr. Thompson to be in any other counties,” Adams says. “I appreciate the constitutional arguments that have been raised. … However, they, in the court’s eyes are not any more compelling than the need to ensure that the citizens of the state are safe.”

As for O’Donovan, Cantwell said he was surprised that “the concept of banishment could even happen.” It may be another legal challenge to banishment in the works.

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 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

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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.

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