3 min

US Navy gay-basher parolled

Airmen serve time in military jail

DISHONOURABLY DISCHARGED. Airmen Kenneth Drake and Joseph Hummel, of the USS Carl Vinson (above) were sentenced to 12 months and 11 months respectively in military jail for a Vancouver gay-bashing last July. The sentence also covered other military charges. Credit: Xtra West files

Allen Shoolingin has mixed feelings about the letter he recently received from the victim notification branch of the US Navy.

The letter says Airman Apprentice Kenneth Drake is now out on parole, having served his time in a US military prison.

Drake and his friend, Joseph Hummel, pleaded guilty last November to assaulting the out gay Shoolingin while he was walking home from the Odyssey in July. Shoolingin says the men stopped him to ask for directions, then sprayed him in the face, pushed him to the ground and began kicking and punching him, all the while shouting homophobic slurs. The naval airmen were visiting Vancouver from their Bremerton, Wa-based aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson.

Drake and Hummel also pleaded guilty to taking an unauthorized absence from their ship, uttering threats and unlawful entry. Drake was sentenced to 12 months in a military prison and Hummel to 11 months. Both were given dishonourable discharges from the military.

Shoolingin says he’s glad police caught his gay-bashers and he’s glad they got sentenced to prison time. This is the first time in recent memory that anyone has been caught, tried and convicted for a homophobia-motivated attack in Vancouver.

But Drake and Hummel were neither tried nor convicted in a Vancouver courtroom-much to Shoolingin’s dismay. He wanted the men to be held accountable for their actions here because they committed a crime against Vancouver’s gay community.

A local trial would have given the community more closure and provided an example to future gay-bashers, he says. And it wouldn’t have been held quietly behind closed, military doors.

Shoolingin also wonders if a local trial would have resulted in longer prison terms for Drake and Hummel. Did the US military let them off with light sentences? he asks.

No, says BC Crown spokesperson Geoffrey Gaul. Drake and Hummel’s 12- and 11-month sentences are “significant,” he says. “They got the stiffest sentence they could down there.”

A spokesperson for the northwest region of the US Navy confirms that the men faced a maximum sentence of 12 months each for their crimes. Commander Karen Sellers also says the gay-bashing nature of the assault was taken into consideration in the sentencing.

Had Drake and Hummel been tried here, they would have faced a maximum possible sentence of 18 months each. Though Gaul won’t predict how a BC judge would have sentenced the men, he says the Crown would have been happy with 12 months.

Vancouver police arrested Drake and Hummel as they were attempting to flee the scene last July, then released them with a promise to return for a court date in August. That never happened.

Before the men could return to face their BC charges, they got arrested by the US military for burglary, unauthorized absence and uttering threats. After weeks of wrangling between the US military and the BC Crown (and some talk of extradition), the Crown finally agreed to waive its jurisdiction in the matter and allow the US military to take over the case.

Gaul dismisses the suggestion that it would have been better to extradite the men. Extradition takes a long time, he explains, and these men were willing to plead guilty right away in a military court. He flatly denies that the gay-bashing nature of the case dissuaded the Crown from seeking extradition.

The bottom line is Drake and Hummel pleaded guilty and were sentenced to significant prison terms, he says.

Shoolingin agrees, sort of. He says he understands that allowing the US military to handle the case was probably the best option, but it does little for his sense of closure.

He hopes the next Vancouver gay-bashing trial will be more open and that the community will be able to attend. It’s important for the community to be there, he says, to keep an eye on the justice system’s treatment of gay-bashers and to record these historic events.

Three men facing assault and obstruction of justice charges in connection with a 2001 Gastown gay-bashing case will begin their trial May 5 in BC Supreme Court, 800 Smithe, at 10 am.