Toronto
2 min

Texas bashing case court-bound

Beaten and called names for being mistaken for gay

Two Torontonians have filed a civil suit against the city of San Antonio after their encounter with four Texas Park Rangers last summer turned them into the darlings of San Antonio’s gay press.



Joey Abbruzzese, 20, and Greg Malezyk, 19, were arrested in the early morning hours of Jul 14 along San Antonio’s historic Riverwalk (an area that attracts tourists and gay men cruising for sex). The two men, who are straight, say they were beaten and called names by the rangers who allegedly took them to be gay.



Abbruzzese was charged with resisting arrest, while Malezyk was charged with resisting arrest and uttering profanity to a law enforcement officer.



Last November the charges against them were dropped, but that hasn’t been the end of the case. The Torontonians are suing the four rangers and the city for their treatment, claiming that the weren’t read their rights.



For many gay activists in San Antonio, the case has shed light on what the Texas Triangle, the state’s largest gay and lesbian paper, called a “history of abuse.”



The ranger who lead the arrest “is not the only rotten apple being produced from a rotten tree…. What took place in San Antonio could, and does happen all over the country,” stated one letter to the editor.



One of the park rangers in question, Armando Vidales, has lost his job amidst allegations that he obstructed justice in the case.



“Shortly after they were released, the park rangers received an e-mail by somebody called Mary Jo Hicks collaborating the story of the park rangers. This Mary Jo Hicks claimed that she saw and heard the whole thing and that it was actually the boys who were abusive to these cops and the cops didn’t really do anything wrong,” says Michael Tucci, Abbruzzese’s uncle. He’s been dealing with the lawsuit down in Texas while the boys attend school in Toronto.



“Of course, the FBI got involved in that and just before all the charades were dropped it came to be that [Vidales] – the main arresting officer – was fired because he wrote the Mary Jo Hicks e-mail.”



Vidales, according to the Texas Triangle, was a police officer in the Texan city of Jourdanton where he was investigated for alleged excessive force numerous times until he was forced to resign.



Edward Pina, attorney for the Torontonians and president of the American Civil Liberties Union, has filed the preliminary notice about the suit against the City Of San Antonio, and each individual park ranger, for excessive use of force and for violation of their constitutional rights under the US Constitution.



“I’d like to see a court judgment come out of this that finds that their constitutional rights were violated, that the city has a pattern in practise which is tantamount to a policy of allowing these types of excessive uses of force to go unchecked, which leads to an increase in the use of excessive force,” says Pina.



“And that is what we’re finding in this city. It is the most prevalent complaint that is received by the American Civil Liberties Union which tracks this type of complaints in this city and nationally.”



Specific damages are not cited in the lawsuit.



Tucci says that the men’s legal fees have been more than $6,000 US so far.



Tucci says that with all the support that the Torontonians got from the Texas gay community (including $1,500 for legal fees) if they are awarded any money, some will go back to the community.



“The gay community stood behind us 100 percent the whole time,” says Tucci. “So if there were any monies awarded, yes, we would absolutely help them out.”