In Court 

Gay Bashing on Trial

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TALK ABOUT an especially unspeedy trial. After 21 months and a botched first trial, a high-profile 2009 alleged gay bashing finally got its day in court last week.

Blake McCune, 23, was facing charges of intimidation and interfering with a police report, stemming from an altercation that occurred with local gay activist Airick Heater outside dance night Blow Pony in April 2009.

The incident became a key call to action last spring, when Heater discussed the alleged gay bashing at a packed public forum on LGBT-police relations. It's a case of conflicting stories, but one guilty party clearly emerges: The district attorney's office admitted it dropped the ball on prosecuting the case in 2009.

The stories of Heater, McCune, and their witnesses diverge on almost every detail of the night of April 12, 2009. McCune and two friends told the jury that the trouble began as they were waiting to get into an apartment above Casey's, the Old Town venue where queer dance night Blow Pony was going strong. A shouting match started between McCune's friends and the dance crowd outside the club.

"It turned into a little pissing match," McCune told me. "No one said anything about sexuality."

Heater came out of the bar and got between the two groups. McCune says Heater grabbed onto his shirt and admits that he got angry and called Heater a "fag." A scuffle broke out, during which Heater dialed 911 and McCune knocked the phone out of his hand.

Heater told a different story: He says he heard McCune call the crowd "AIDS-infested faggots" and that McCune personally called him a "faggot bitch" and punched him in the face. Defense attorney Troy Pickard painted Heater as an activist with an axe to grind. "He's a man who felt besieged by anti-gay sentiment from all sides in Portland," but was never really a target, said Pickard.

The jury acquitted McCune of the intimidation charge, but sentenced him to pay $300 and serve 80 hours of community service for disrupting Heater's 911 call.

As a survivor of a previous vicious gay bashing, Heater was adamant about pressing charges against McCune. But his court notices never arrived—a paperwork error in the DA's office had mailed his notices to Minnesota. By the time Heater found out, the charges had been dismissed. The DA reopened the case after the public forum last year, but during the delay Heater says his key witnesses moved away and couldn't make it back for the trial.

"I'm so frustrated. This is why people don't want to report crimes," says Heater. "After two years of anxiety, I couldn't even prove that he punched me in the face."

A lengthier account of the two-day trial is here

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