PHOENIX, Ariz. – Activist and entertainer Austin Head, who was gay-bashed last year in Phoenix, says that justice is being served on the two men who were arrested in the unprovoked attack.
Head, aka the “Glamour Boy of Phoenix” who was featured in the “Positive Youth” documentary that was shown May 31, 2012 during the 14th FilmOut San Diego LGBT Film Festival, said he and his friend Eric Kelly were assaulted by two men not long after they left a gay nightclub, Charlie’s.
The attack on Nov. 9, 2012 happened so fast that Head was knocked out and when he awoke, he was in the hospital with serious wounds to the head.
“I suffered a head injury, an eyebrow laceration that required several stitches and two fractures around my eye - a lateral orbit fracture and maxillary sinus fracture,” Head told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.
Kelly assisted police detectives in identifying two suspects, Jermon Barnes and his brother, Ernie Barnes.
Both Head and Kelly told authorities that the Barnes brothers screamed anti-gay slurs at them before the attack occurred.
Head said he testified against the suspects.
“I spoke in court for the first hearing where the Barnes' pled guilty and wrote a letter to the court detailing the experience and injuries for the sentencing hearing,” Head said.
Jermon Barnes pleaded guilty last week in Maricopa County Superior Court, and apologized to Head and contended that the assault was not the result of anti-gay bias.
“It was all just a misunderstanding,” the 22-year-old Jermon Barnes told Judge Robert Gottsfield.
The judge didn’t buy his story, though, and agreed with prosecutors who successfully argued that the attack was indeed a gay-bashing. Arizona’s bias crime law authorizes harsher sentencing in such cases. So Jermon Barnes was sentenced to six months in jail.
Ernie Barnes, 25, who faces a stiffer sentence since he was the more aggressive one during the attack, then told the judge that he withdrew his guilty plea and asked for a jury trial.
“I believe justice has been served for Jermon Barnes, who otherwise would have been charged with a misdemeanor for hitting my friend who was with me,” Head said.
“We shall see what the outcome is on March 21 for the one who physically struck me, Ernie Barnes. He could face up to 2.5 years in prison,” he said. “From the Phoenix police to the prosecutor to the court system, all have taken this very seriously and have worked tirelessly to bring the Barnes brothers to justice.”
In the meantime, Head has decided to run for a seat on the Phoenix City Council.
“This incident was not my sole motivation for my run for Phoenix City Council, but it certainly played a part,” Head said. “Maintaining the safety of the LGBT community, and the Phoenix community as a whole, is of huge concern to me. I am running to keep Phoenix on its current progressive momentum. In part, by ensuring that the soon-to-be-voted-on amendments to our anti-discrimination policies are upheld.”
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.