EXCLUSIVE: Sheriff Says Murdered 19-Year Old Nicholas Hawkins Knew His Killers, But Refuses To Discuss Motive
A sheriff in rural Alabama is refusing to say whether authorities believe a bisexual teen was brutally murdered due to his sexual orientation.Â
Walker County Sheriff Jim Underwood initially told The New Civil Rights Movement on Friday morning that the murder of Nicholas Hawkins “wasn’t a hate crime.”Â
But later in the interview, Underwood backtracked.Â
“We havenâ€™t discussed that with anybody yet, about the motive,” Underwood said in an exclusive interview. “If we lock ourselves in on something right at this point and that changes, attorneys will eat us alive on that.Â
“It depends on what you call a hate crime,Â but I canâ€™t go into the motive, what we think the motive might have been,” Underwood added. “At this time, weâ€™re not going to go into that, because it will come out in the court process, here sometime probably in the near future. Iâ€™m not going to speculate on that right now.”Â
Asked about Alabama’s hate crimes law, Underwood said he was unsure whether it includes sexual orientation.
It does not.Â
Asked about the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act â€” which includes sexual orientation and allows the FBI to assist local agencies with hate crime investigations â€” Underwood said, “We handled the case ourselves.”Â
Underwood’s office has arrested six people in connection with the murder of Hawkins, whose body was found wrapped in a blanket and buried under brush and debris, three days after he disappeared. Three of the suspects are charged with murder, while the other three are charged with hindering prosecution.Â
Underwood said Hawkins died from a gunshot wound to the chest, but declined to say how many times he’d been shot. Underwood also said Hawkins’ body showed signs of head trauma, indicating he was beaten prior to being shot.Â
Hawkins’ older brother, Jacob Hawkins, has described his brother’s murder as “a horrible, horrible death.”
Hawkins knew all six of the suspects, and they were “hanging out” on the night of his murder, Underwood said.
News reports have indicated Hawkins, an aspiring cosmetologist, was on his way home from a beauty pageant Feb. 13 when he called his mother and said, “Somebody is trying to kill me,” before the call cut off.
But Underwood said investigators have been unable to confirm that Hawkins ever went to the pageant.Â
Hawkins’ body was found Feb. 16, the same day the first suspect was arrested.Â
A representative from the Walker County District Attorney’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.Â
Image viaÂ Facebook
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Carnival Celebration Includes Burning Effigy of Kissing Same-Sex Couple as Children Watch and Adults Applaud
The town of Imotski in the mostly-Catholic country of Croatia is getting attention after its leaders decided to burn an effigy of a same-sex couple kissing, and holding a child, as part of a 150-year old annual carnival celebration.
As the video below shows, the figures of two men kissing were lit on fire, and were quickly engulfed by flames as adults cheered and applauded and young children stood and watched. Confetti was thrown, some of the children were unsure what to make of the hateful spectacle, and a few appeared excited. One little girl applauded and then quickly walked off. Several attendees, including children, filmed the event for posterity.
One of the figures burned “clearly showed the face of Social Democratic Party MP Nenad Stazic, who has campaigned in parliament for same-sex couples to be allowed to foster children,” BalkanInsight reports. “His character had also a red star on his forehead, the symbol of former communist Yugoslavia.”
One of the carnival organizers defended the choice of burning a same-sex couple.
“We remain conservative, sticking to tradition. Give the baby to a mother, as the saying goes. We think that’s right.”
But political leaders, including the country’s president, and activists are speaking out.
President Zoran Milanovic on Facebook (via a Facebook translation) called the act “sad, unpleasant and completely impossible,” while blasting organizers “who have made this shameful event, while calling for tradition, deserve the most clear of the public because hatred for others, hatred and inhumanity are not and will not be a Croatian tradition.”
He called for the public to speak out, “especially since many children … watched … and thus witness[ed] the spread of hate and [encouragement of] violence.”
The nation’s Education Minister, Blazenka Divjak, and Economy Minister, Darko Horvat, also condemned the display.
“The scary scenes from Imotski cannot be justified by carnival customs,” the Rainbow Family Association’s Daniel Martinovic said. “What kind of message is being sent to our children, children who nowadays in Croatia grow up with lesbian mothers or gay fathers?”
Total Croatia News reports criminal charges will be brought against the carnival’s organizer.
Watch – the hateful act begins near the end of the video at about the 1:41:00 mark:
Hat tip: Towleroad
Harvey Weinstein Guilty of Sexual Assault Including Rape
Harvey Weinstein has been found guilty of two counts sexual assault and not guilty of sexual predation by a jury in New York. He was found guilty on one count of rape and not guilty on another. Allegations made by two women are the foundation of the case. More than 100 women have accused Weinstein of various acts of sexual misconduct, including rape.
BREAKING: Harvey Weinstein convicted on 2 out of 5 counts – criminal sexual act in the 1st degree and rape in the 3rd degree
— James Queally (@JamesQueallyLAT) February 24, 2020
“The jury in New York convicted Weinstein, 67, of third-degree rape against former aspiring actress Jessica Mann, as well as a count of criminal sexual act in the first-degree against former production assistant Mimi Haley,” NBC News reports. “But the jury found him not guilty on the two most serious counts, predatory sexual assault, as well as a count of first-degree rape against Mann.”
Weinstein could “go straight to jail,” former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Cynthia Alksne said.
On Friday the jury said they were unanimous on some of the five charges but deadlocked on others. The judge asked them to continue deliberating, which they did Monday morning, quickly reaching a conclusion after five days.
UPDATE: 12:30 PM ET –
Judge has remanded Weinstein into custody without bail.
This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. This story will be updated, and NCRM will likely publish follow-up stories on this news. Stay tuned and refresh for updates.
US Supreme Court Agrees to Decide if Taxpayer Funded Religious Adoption Agencies Can Discriminate Against LGBTQ People
The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will hear a case that could determine if taxpayer-funded religious organizations, including adoption and foster care agencies, can legally discriminate against LGBTQ people. Monday morning the conservative-majority court agreed to hear Fulton v. Philadelphia, which is being litigated by the far right wing Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Catholic Social Services is claiming it has a First Amendment right to discriminate against same-sex couples and LGBTQ people, – including refusing to allow them to adopt or foster children – while still accepting taxpayer funds.
The City of Philadelphia stopped using Catholic Social Services because its policies violated the rights of LGBTQ people.
The agency “argued that its right to free exercise of religion and free speech entitled it to reject qualified same-sex couples because they were same-sex couples, rather than for any reason related to their qualifications to care for children,” the ACLU wrote in 2018.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals had decided in favor of Philadelphia, ruling that the city “was neutrally enforcing a nondiscrimination policy that applies to everyone. The city hadn’t targeted the nonprofit group based on hostility to its religious beliefs, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit said,” according to Bloomberg Law.
Catholic Social Services is claiming they have been “targeted” by the city and its officials, who are attempting to “coerce” them into changing their “religious practices.”
The Trump administration has not only changed the face of the nation’s top court into one that is decidedly of the far right, but it has made promises and advanced polices to ensure religious adoption and foster care agencies will be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
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