Pipe assault prompts call for hate crime registry
By BILL MURPHY
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
Prompted by the savage assault on a Hispanic youth in Spring last month, state Sen. Rodney Ellis called today for requiring hate crime offenders to register with local law enforcement.
He said he will press for the measure in the regular legislative session that begins in January, hoping to create a registry similar to the sex offender registry.
“If registration is good enough for sex offenders, it’s good enough for skinheads,” said Ellis, D-Houston said at a news conference outside Houston City Hall.
Three aunts and two cousins of the 17-year-old former Klein Collins football player who was attacked April 22 attended the news conference.
Ellis and leaders of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens also called for changing the state hate crime law so additional years can be added onto sentences of those convicted of hate crimes.
David Henry Tuck, 18, and Keith Robert Turner, 17, are accused of beating and kicking the youth and sodomizing him with a plastic pipe, causing severe internal injuries. At least one of the suspects shouted ethnic slurs during the attack, authorities have said.
They were charged with aggravated sexual assault, which carries a possible life sentence.
Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said he has not charged Tuck and Turner with a hate crime because state law does not allow years to be added onto the pair’s sentences if they are convicted.
Ellis called for a hate crime registry because Tuck’s name has surfaced before in a hate crime attack.
Tuck, at age 14, was one of three skinheads who took part in beating a Hispanic man pumping gas outside a Spring convenience store Jan. 28, 2003, according to court records, the victim and a woman who witnessed the incident.
The two adult skinheads who took part in the incident are serving time in federal prisons for violating the victim’s civil rights.
The FBI has concluded that Tuck and Turner cannot be charged under a federal hate crime law because that law applies to acts that occur in public settings, not a private home. The victim was attacked in the backyard of a Spring house where the three were visiting other youths.
“It’s not that I don’t feel that this is a hate crime,” said Houston FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap. “We would love to charge this pair with something.”
Carlos Leon, a lawyer retained by the victim’s family to bring a civil rights suit against Tuck and Turner, said, “We need to change the law so this kind of crime can be prosecuted properly.”
The victim remains unconscious in the intensive care unit at Memorial Hermann Hospital, but swelling that resulted from the attack has gone down, Leon and family members said.
“He is improving,” Leon said.
Surgery on his internal organs is being postponed until he further recuperates, said a woman who identified herself only as an aunt.
On Leon’s advice, the youth’s relatives did not identify themselves by name.
Another aunt said Tuck and Turner “should get the worst punishment. They should pay for what they did.”