Trial Commences In Campus Assault

Galo Garcia III ’05 was attacked on the way to BGLTSA party last April

EDITOR'S NOTE (9/27/2006)

All charges were dropped against Jose T. Sousa in connection with an alleged attack on an openly gay Harvard student in 2005. FULL STORY.

The case of the openly gay student who was verbally and physically attacked last April is finally underway, after eight months of postponements and a failed attempt by one of the defendants to file a counter-complaint that the student had assaulted him first.

The victim, Galo Garcia III ’05, said that as he walked on Bow Street to a Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, and Supporters Alliance (BGLTSA) party in Adams House April 30, he was accosted by two white men who were trying to find a parking space. They began yelling homophobic and anti-Semitic epithets, according to Garcia, calling him a “faggot Jew.”

Defendants Timothy J. Kelleher, 25, and Jose T. Sousa, 25, are slated to appear in court on Jan. 4 for a compliance and election hearing to decide whether they will be tried by a judge or jury, according to Middlesex District Attorney (DA) Spokeswoman Emily LaGrassa.

The pair has already pled not guilty to charges of assault and battery with intent to intimidate.

Witnesses told police that night that Garcia and his friend Julien E. Levy ’05 had affectionately greeted one another minutes before the attack and that Levy had been wearing a T-shirt with Hebrew writing on it.

Court reports state that Garcia told police that he also became angry, yelling and calling the two defendants “assholes.” He approached the car, and when he was two to six feet away, Kelleher stormed out of his vehicle and repeatedly struck Garcia in the chest and head, according to court records.

Although Kelleher fled the scene, according to the criminal complaint, Sousa remained behind, threatening Garcia and his friends.

“You aren’t calling anybody,” Sousa reportedly said. “We’ll follow you all the way back to your apartment, you fucking Jewish faggot.”

Harvard University Police Department (HUPD) officers responded to the scene shortly after the incident, and although they did not arrest Kelleher or Sousa, they escorted Garcia to University Health Services (UHS) and advised him to press charges.

According to the HUPD police report, Garcia sustained bruises on his upper, left chest and above his temple. The court has requested from UHS all of Garcia’s medical records from that night.

After months of legal red tape, the first hearing since last summer is scheduled for Jan. 4.

“They keep on postponing the case,” Garcia said on Sunday. “It was supposed to happen in October and then they moved it to November and now January. Things come up, like, either like the DA wasn’t prepared—I’m not exactly sure. That’s the way the system works. But it is frustrating.”

LaGrassa said yesterday that the prosecution will try to convict the defendants on charges of assault and battery with intent to intimidate. Mass. state law protects individuals from being intimidated based on their “race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability.”

WAR OF WORDS

Kelleher filed a counter-complaint against Garcia in June alleging that it was Garcia who assaulted him—a claim the judge summarily denied.

In his complaint, Kelleher said that Garcia and his friends were blocking the crosswalk and that after he honked his horn once, Garcia flipped him the middle finger.

“I was surprised [by] his strong reaction to my single beep,” Kelleher wrote in his complaint. “As the group was passing by, I said, ‘Why did you give me the finger, you faggot.’”

Kelleher told the court that it was Garcia who then approached him in an aggressive manner, saying “What, you fucking asshole? Repeat that.”

In the document, he alleges that Garcia began attacking him first with a series of slaps to his head and that as Kelleher was attempting to exit his vehicle, Garcia slammed the car door on his leg.

Kelleher said that once he did exit his car, they began punching one another for about four to six minutes.

Judge Severlin Singleton threw out the counter-complaint on Sept. 14, according to LaGrassa.

“The judge has discretion as to whether the charge was appropriate,” she said.

Court documents indicate that the complaint was denied because no probable cause was found.

Garcia said yesterday that the defendant’s last-ditch effort was a distortion of the truth and nothing more than legal strategy.

“Basically, they were trying to get me to testify—and I did testify. What they wanted to do was get me to say something that contradicted what I had already said,” he said.

Kelleher, of Somerville, Mass. is 6’ tall and Sousa, of Winthrop, Mass. is 5’11 tall. Both weighed over 200 pounds each the night of the incident. Garcia, who is 5’3 tall, weighed in at 130 pounds that night.

“The judge found their story not credible,” Garcia said. “It was just sort of a scare tactic.”

THE POLITICS OF HATE

Progress in the Garcia case comes on the heels of the recent arrest of two Columbia undergraduates charged with committing a hate crime.

Sophomore Stephen Searles and junior Matthew Brown told police that on Dec. 2 they drew swastikas and scribbled racist and homophobic symbols on the walls of their friend’s dorm suite.

And on Harvard’s campus, Huma Farid ’06 reported this November that a group of women yelled “filthy Jew-hater” at her because of her Muslim background. At the time of the verbal attack, Farid was wearing the hijab, or head scarf, indicating her Muslim faith.

Farid told the Crimson days after the attack that a middle-aged white woman in her 40’s then chased her.

BGLTSA Co-Chair Mischa A. Feldstein ’07 said that a crime of this nature is representative of a far greater problem than just the incident itself.

“I mean, there’s hate behind it and that’s something that we need to address,” said Feldstein, who is also a Crimson editor. “And second of all, especially after the hate crime that happened to [Garcia], there are many things that happen that haven’t been talked about—especially in the BGLTSQ community at Harvard.”

The BGLTSA hosted a set of self-defense classes last October, largely in response to Garcia’s assault last spring. Feldstein called the two four-hour sessions a success.

“The reason that we perceived the need [for these classes] was because hate crimes still happen and there aren’t any self-defense classes that are geared towards defending against anti-BGLTQ violent crime,” he said. “And also there are no self-defense classes on campus that allow anyone who’s not a woman to join.”

If convicted, Kelleher and Sousa face up to two-and-a-half years in a correctional facility for the misdemeanor count of assault and battery. They face up to two-and-a-half more years or up to $5,000 in fines for the second count of assault and battery with intent to intimidate.

Another court document, which detailed the witnesses who provided information for the case, contained an entry with the word “HUID” followed by an eight-digit number under Sousa’s name. “HUID” is known on Harvard campus as an acronym for “Harvard University ID.”

The Harvard General Counsel’s office said that Sousa has never worked for Harvard. The Identification and Data Services office in the Holyoke Center confirmed that neither Sousa’s name nor the eight-digit number listed in the document showed up in their system.

—Staff writer Robin M. Peguero can be reached at peguero@fas.harvard.edu.