Prosecutor Chooses Shaky Case to Combat Gay Bashing
"The fact that I can't walk down the street holding my boyfriend's hand really fucking sucks," says Marcus Wilson, manager of Capitol Hill gay bar Pony. Several weeks ago, Wilson became the latest victim of yet another gay-bashing incident on Capitol Hill. Wilson is an icon in Seattle's gay community: He fronted Pho Bang as Ursula Android and was the driving force behind the hugely popular gay dance night Comeback at Chop Suey. According to court records, on September 22, just before 4:00 a.m., Wilson was approached by two men on the street who repeatedly called him a "faggot" and threatened to kill him.
Because of a string of homophobic attacks around Seattle in the last few months, King County prosecutors are aggressively pursuing felony harassment charges in the case. King County Prosecutor Mike Hogan, who handles bias-crime cases, says increasing gentrification on Capitol Hill has led to a spike in the number of gay-bashing incidents in the neighborhood. "You've got a lot more straight nightclubs and coffee shops [on Capitol Hill] than you did a few years ago," Hogan says. "You're getting people who are drunk and in the [neighborhood], and they don't realize they're in the gay [neighborhood]." Based on the strength of its witnesses, the county says it could pursue a sentence ranging from 90 days to nine months. While the county's get-tough stance on hate crimes seems like a good thing, in this case, it appears to be going after the wrong guys.
Wilson's statements in police and court records point the finger at two men—Bryan Krieger and Matthew Oly—employees of Capitol Hill bars Chapel and Comet Tavern, respectively. Given Wilson's high profile, this seems like a perfect opportunity for prosecutors to get tough on gay bashing. However, several key facts about the case seem to have been glossed over by prosecutors, and even Wilson seems to be waffling on whether or not he identified the right guys.
According to police reports, Oly approached Wilson near the Value Village on 11th Avenue and Pike Street and asked him for change. When Wilson rebuffed his request, Oly allegedly called him a "faggot" and threatened to kill him, which is what makes the incident a hate crime. Wilson called a friend and Pony coworker, and told the colleague he was being "gay bashed." He met up with the friend a block away near the Wildrose. There, his friend—also listed as a victim in the police report—claims they too were threatened by Krieger and called names like "faggot" and "Pony faggot." Krieger and Oly allegedly tried to talk Wilson out of calling 911. There may be another reason Krieger and Oly didn't want them to call: Acccording to the police report, when police arrested the men, they found cocaine and what appeared to be marijuana and Percocet on Oly. Now, prosecutors are going after Oly and Krieger. However, there are some problems with their case.
For starters, one of the witnesses—Christopher Lynch—who helped police identify Oly and Krieger, may have instigated the fracas. Indeed, Oly and Krieger told us Lynch was the person harassing Wilson. Even Wilson told us because "it was dark and late [and] it did all happen very quickly," that Lynch could be the harrasser. Wilson's friend, however, says Lynch isn't the one at fault. The King County prosecutor's office has not contacted Lynch since the incident, and we were not able to locate him.
According to a bouncer at the Showbox, Lynch had been thrown out of the club earlier that night for being drunk and rowdy. Coincidentally, the bouncer ran into Lynch on Capitol Hill around 4:00 a.m. not far from where Wilson claims he was gay bashed. Lynch also has a criminal history: He's previously pleaded guilty to second-degree robbery and, according to a police report, Lynch also faced a harassment charge after he threatened bouncers at the Last Supper Club with a bottle after he and a friend were pepper-sprayed for fighting in front of the club. The harassment case was dropped due to the prosecution's lack of testifying witnesses.
Wilson has flip-flopped on his ability to identify any guilty parties. In an e-mail to a friend of Krieger's, Wilson wrote, "It was not my intention for Bryan to be put in jail unfairly. [Two weeks ago] two of my employees got the shit beaten out of them a block away from where the incident occurred... so I was on edge walking home on Friday night and the other guy involved (I'm assuming he was a friend of Bryan's) was harassing me." It isn't clear which "other guy" Wilson is referring to from the e-mails. But in another e-mail, Wilson tells Krieger's friend he "just had a lengthy conversation with the prosecutor and explained [he] had doubts about [Krieger's] involvement." Wilson told The Stranger: "If these guys weren't at the root of the problem, [that] needs to be examined. The last thing I'd ever want is for the wrong person to be punished."
Hogan, the county prosecutor, says he has discussed the incident with Wilson, but he has made no recantation. The county is still going forward with what it believes is a solid case. Oly and Krieger posted bail and are working on getting public defenders. Oly says he has yet to tell his father, who is gay, about the incident.