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

 

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.

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 Accepts Plea Deal – Two Years in Prison, Eight Years Probation and Exile

Today, Luke accepted a negotiated non-cooperating plea deal and was sentenced to two years in prison and eight years of probation. As a last minute addition to this plea deal, Judge Markle added that Luke was to be banned from the state of Georgia, save one county, for the duration of his probation. Luke was taken away from us to prison immediately after court.

This end to the case surprised many of us. It was only two weeks ago that we were alerted to the fact that Luke’s trial would begin this soon. After that notice, events continued to unfold rapidly and chaotically.  The prosecution officially offered Luke this plea deal last Thursday.  Luke was placed in a very difficult position, facing decades in prison if convicted by a jury. He decided not to risk such a long sentence, but rather to accept the manageable sentence of two years in prison, and eight years of probation.

For those who are unfamiliar with plea deals, the conditions of a plea are negotiated between the prosecution and the defense prior to court. The judge is expected to sentence the defendant according to those agreed upon conditions, but has the ability to alter that sentence once the defendant has entered a guilty plea. If the judge’s sentence is different from the agreed upon conditions, the defendant then has the opportunity to change his plea and take the case to trial.

When Luke and more than fifty of his supporters entered court together this morning, we expected Luke to be taken away on the negotiated conditions. The prosecution began with an articulation of the incident from their point of view, which included equating the word “faggot” with the “non-offensive” sentiment “babies”, and painting Luke as a malevolent aggressor. Following this, Luke’s attackers and their family members were given time to speak. Three of the attackers spoke extensively about their medical conditions following the New Year’s incident. Their mothers then went on the stand to appeal to the judge for a harsher sentence. Throughout, the prosecution indignantly dismissed the portrayal of the incident as a queer-bashing. The crux of this trial centers on whether or not Luke was queer-bashed. While the prosecution maintains that Luke’s attackers aren’t homophobic, a recent video showing one of the “victims” standing by, laughing, while a transwoman was beaten in Little 5 Points reveals their true character.

When the time for sentencing came, Judge Markle revealed what side he was on: not ours. He went so far as to explicitly state that he was “having second thoughts” as to whether he should have allowed the plea deal at all.  The two years of prison time that Luke will serve is remarkably low given the 110 years of prison he faced.  The judge said that he allowed the plea deal only because he had previously stated that he would back whatever agreement the defense and prosecution made.  Judge Markle then sentenced Luke to the pre-negotiated plea, but added several conditions: According to Judge Markle, following his prison time, Luke will be banned from the state of Georgia, with the exception of Screven County; his probation cannot be terminated early at any point; he is not eligible for non-reporting probation; any probation violations are to be referred to Judge Markle; and Luke will be forced to undergo weekly drug and alcohol tests for the full eight years. While Luke could have chosen at this point to change his plea and move on with a trial, he chose to enter into the prison system under Judge Markle’s stipulations.

We understand Judge Markle’s addition of harsher conditions as a direct attempt to intimidate Luke out of the plea deal and into a trial, which would have carried with it the risk of 110 years of prison time.  We understand Luke’s acceptance of the plea deal and his admission of guilt as the direct result of coercion by the State.  Furthermore, we understand the banishment from the state of Georgia as a direct attempt by the judge to separate Luke from the power and strength of his supporters.  The fact that Luke is surrounded by an impressive community of support was absolutely obvious to anyone in court today, including the judge.  There wasn’t a single spare seat in the sections set aside for Luke’s supporters.  It is the role of the state to separate each of us from one another, and the judge was clearly interested in extending his reach as far into Luke’s life as possible — not only will Luke be separated from us in prison, he will be separated from those of us in Atlanta for many years after his release.

We are deeply saddened by the fact that Luke was taken away from us.  As always, we believe that Luke is not guilty of the crimes with which he has been charged.  Nevertheless, as Luke remains strong on the inside, we will do our best to remain strong on the outside.  For us, this means that we will continue to support Luke in every way possible, including continuing the struggle against the greater social context that allows events like the attack on Luke to occur daily. He has asked that we publish the following statement on his behalf:

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.

Luke will enter the prison system first at Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, GA, where he will spend the first thirty to sixty days of his sentence. He will then be transferred to Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, GA for between thirty and sixty days, during which his long-term location will be determined. Luke will serve out the remainder of his sentence — between twenty and twenty two months — at a location that is yet unknown to us.

Going forward, our support and yours will be needed in a number of ways:

We need to raise a large amount of money over the next two years.  Because he has chosen to remain vegan while in prison, Luke will need as much commissary as possible in order to purchase extra food. He will also need money for telephone calls, stamps, and other amenities. We encourage everyone to choose a recurring donation, as we will need to send him money every week. You can donate here.

Please, please, please write to Luke. One of the worst parts of prison is the isolation, so we must do everything we can to keep him as connected to his community and supporters as possible. We encourage folks to organize letter writing nights so they can write to Luke (and other prisoners if they so choose) together. He will appreciate all supportive communication he gets. We will release his address at Fulton County Jail as soon as we get it. Please keep in mind that he will be transferred twice in the next six months, so his address will change. We will post updated addresses as soon as we get that information.

Luke has compiled a list of books that he would like to receive. [We will link to this list as soon as it is online.] These books must be sent from a publisher, so you can order them on Amazon or an online publishing/bookselling site. Please keep in mind that Luke may not be able to take his books with him during his transfer from one facility to the next, so we will need to send him books at various points over the next two years.

Thank you for all of your support. We will continue to update everyone with all new information we receive.

In love and in rage,
the support luke defense committee

Luke’s Invitation to Court

The Attacks on the Atlanta LGBTQ Community Continue

Luke O’Donovan, a queer Atlantan, was attacked and viciously beaten by a mob of men screaming homophobic slurs at a New Year’s Eve party in Reynoldstown on January 1st, 2013.  Luke tried to defend himself with a pocket knife and managed to escape, though he was rushed to the hospital with several stab wounds.

The case has moved slowly through the court system. Luke faces five charges of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one charge of attempted murder.  Last month, Luke had a self-defense immunity hearing.  Luke was denied immunity, but the defense feels that the hearing went well for Luke.

At the immunity hearing, the prosecution made a series of ludicrous claims in order to prop up their case. They made a point of asking every witness whether or not the term “faggot” was offensive, or just a synonym for other “non-offensive” terms like “pussies or bitches,” and later used the word “nigger” as another example of a “non-offensive” term.

Since the May 13th immunity hearing, one of the so-called victims in Luke’s trial was seen in footage of a horrific transphobic attack which occurred just outside of the Stratosphere skate shop in Little 5 Points.  Just a few weeks prior to this attack, a group of men accosted, beat, and stripped two trans women nude on a MARTA train. These attacks are disturbing and wrong.  We understand that the attack on Luke is a part of this growing homophobic violence in Atlanta.

We ask every member of the Atlanta gay and lesbian community to come to Luke’s trial at 8:45 AM on Tuesday, August 12. Our goal is to pack the court.  Your presence will demonstrate to the judge and jury that Luke has many supporters who love and care about him and the issue at stake.

Court will be held at the Superior Court of Fulton County (185 Central Avenue), Courtroom 5B.

Court Moved to August 12th

Hey Everyone,

Luke’s court date was moved back a day to August 12th at 8:45am. It will still be held at

Fulton County Superior Court

185 Central Ave

Atlanta, GA 30303

We are asking everyone who can make it to come out and pack the courthouse!

Luke’s Trial Begins August 11

The case has moved slowly through the court system. In April, Luke was re-indicted with an additional charge, and now faces five charges of felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and one charge of attempted murder. After over a year of waiting, Luke’s self-defense immunity hearing occurred in July of this year. Luke was denied immunity, but the defense feels that the hearing went well for Luke.

At the immunity hearing, the prosecution made a series of ludicrous claims in order to prop up their case. They made a point of asking every witness whether or not the term “faggot” was offensive, or just a synonym for other “non-offensive” terms like “pussies or bitches,” and later used the word “nigger” as another example of a “non-offensive” term. The prosecution’s attempt to neutralize such blatantly homophobic words make it clear that the New Year’s incident is not a singular event, but part of a greater social problem of homophobia.

Since the May 13th immunity hearing, one of the so-called victims in Luke’s trial was seen in footage of a horrific transphobic attack which occurred just outside of the Stratosphere skate shop in Little 5 Points, a neighborhood in northeast Atlanta. This attack captured the interests of media outlets and provoked outrage in many Atlantans. Just a few weeks prior to this attack, two trans women were accosted, beaten, and stripped nude on a MARTA train by a group of men while on their way home. We find these attacks disturbing and wrong — and hope that the incident involving Luke will be understood as a part of this larger context.
Following the denial of immunity, the case will now move on to trial by jury. Although Luke was denied immunity, we are still hopeful that the trial will proceed favorably for Luke. While the burden of evidence for the immunity hearing rested upon the defense (Luke and his lawyer and witnesses), the burden of evidence for the trial will rest on the prosecution. At trial, arguments for self-defense can still be made. We have just received notice that the trial will begin on Monday, August 11.

In the year and a half since the incident, much has been accomplished: the original media narrative which painted Luke as a deranged aggressor was successfully challenged; over thirteen thousand dollars have been raised; and people across the country and the world have displayed their support. In the week and a half until trial, we have a lot more to do. We ask for your continued support in whatever ways you can provide it:

We are still $200 short for legal fees. This is a menial sum compared with the amount that has been raised since Luke was first arrested, but we still need to cover this cost. Any amount will help. You can donate here.
– There will soon be a pre-written postcard that everyone can send to the judge (through Luke’s lawyer) presiding over Luke’s case. The postcard is an effort to make clear to the judge that many people are watching and care about Luke’s case. Although a jury will decide the verdict (guilty or not) on Luke’s case, the judge will give the sentence. Letters of support and appeal to the judge may therefore have influence over Luke’s sentencing in case of a guilty verdict. The postcard will be available in both print and online form.
If you are able to make it to court at 9AM on Monday, August 11, please do. Our presence at court will demonstrate to the judge and jury that Luke has many supporters who love and care about him and the issue at stake. Court will be held at the Superior Court of Fulton County, 136 Pryor Street, S.W., Suite C-640. Please come in appropriate court attire.
– Please stay tuned for updates on Luke. Whether it be for a happy celebration or the beginning of long-term support, Luke will continue to need your help after the trial.

Thanks for everything.

Self-Defense Immunity Hearing Report

Hi everyone,
Luke’s self-defense immunity hearing was held last Tuesday, July 1st. Unfortunately, the judge denied Luke immunity, so Luke’s case will continue to trial.

A self-defense immunity hearing is an opportunity for the judge to decide that a defendant was acting in self-defense, and therefore that he or she can’t have charges brought against them. In the hearing, both the defense and the prosecution make their cases, and the judge (without a jury) makes a ruling. The burden of proof in these hearings is on the defense, unlike in a trial where the burden of proof is on the prosecution.

If Luke had been granted immunity, the charges would have been dropped and there would be no trial. However, the fact that he wasn’t granted immunity isn’t the end of the world. At trial, arguments for self-defense can still be made. Now, the case will move on as a “normal” case might, and go in front of a jury.

In court, the prosecution made a series of ludicrous claims in order to prop up their case. They made a point of asking every witness whether or not the term “faggot” was offensive, or just a synonym for other “non-offensive” terms like “pussies or bitches,” and later used the word “nigger” as another example of a “non-offensive” term. The prosecuting attorney accused Luke, with no evidence or witnesses of any kind, of having stabbed a homeless person. To try to justify the attempted murder charge, the prosecution also claimed that Luke had held workshops on knife skills and “kill zones.” These things are completely outrageous and false.

During cross-examination by the defense, Officer Jones of the Atlanta Police Department, the lead investigator of the incident, testified that she had failed to ask anyone any questions whatsoever about the stab wounds inflicted on Luke. Furthermore, her report referred to Luke as merely “cut,” rather than “stabbed,” which was the term she applied to every other wounded individual. When questioned, she was unable to explain why – she simply stated that that was what she had written down.

The prosecution’s witnesses admitted to being intoxicated on that New Year’s Eve, and were unable to recall the testimonies they had given to the police directly after the incident. Their conflicting stories about who was there and when, the sequence of the fight, who was involved in the fight, and where they went that night further reduced their credibility. One witness, while under oath, claimed both to have punched no one and to have punched Luke.

The beginning of trial is currently scheduled for August 11th, This will be the “real deal,” so if you are capable and willing to come to court to support Luke, please do. We will post an update with the date and time of the trial as soon as we have that information.

Luke Self-Defense Hearing Set for July 1st

Luke had a status hearing at the courthouse today where we learned that his self-defense hearing will be held on July 1st at 9am. Everyone who can show up to court should, as this will be an important date for Luke. His legal team will be arguing that he should be immune from prosecution because he was acting in self-defense. If you are able to come please show up dressed for court. It will be held at

 

Fulton County Superior Court

185 Central Ave

Atlanta, GA 30303

Courtoom 5B