Friday, December 20, 2013

Protestors Demand Former Vice-Principal Mark Zmuda Fired For Marrying Male Partner Be Reinstated At Eastside Catholic High School, Conservative Coalition Privacy For All Students Sues California Over Law Protecting Transgender Students, One Of Three Charged With Murdering 71-Year-Old David Maurer Met Victim Via Grindr

An update on a previous post: In Washington State, one day after Vice Principal Mark Zmuda was forced out of Eastside Catholic High School for being gay and married, dozens of supporters on Friday demanded that the Catholic Church allow him to keep his job. Chanting "love always wins" and "God is love, stop the hate," nearly 100 people gathered at the archdiocesan offices in downtown Seattle to protest Thursday's forced resignation. Zmuda, 38, married his now-husband this past summer -- in violation of the contract he signed with the Sammamish-area high school to follow the teachings of the church, which is against gay marriage. Kristin Mikolajewski, a senior at Eastside Catholic, told KIRO 7, "Just because you are Catholic doesn't mean you have to agree with everything the church teaches. As Catholics, we have the right to fight and to question the church." Kari Brown, who has a daughter at Eastside Catholic, said, "It's hard to change the Catholic Church; it's like turning the Titanic. But I hope that the younger generation getting involved like this will make change." Students from other Catholic high schools also protested, including Thomas Lange, of Seattle Preparatory School, a Jesuit Catholic high school in Seattle. "You can't preach love and acceptance and tolerance and then go and tell someone they can't work at an institution of learning for any other reason other than their sexual preference," Lange said. "I believe that everyone has a right to their own opinion," said Stephanie Frey, of Holy Names Academy, also in Seattle, "but I think it's alright to ask the church for a tolerance of gay marriage." Also asking the archdiocese for tolerance at Friday's protest was Seattle mayor-elect Ed Murray, who is openly gay, married and Catholic. "I want to thank the young people here today," he told the crowd. "You are changing this country, you are changing this world. Thanks for standing up." Chris King and Christopher Peguero, both gay men from Seattle, were thankful the students stood up for gay marriage, too. "I do see a change in the church. I know it's a baby step, but I hope that eventually it will change," Pugero, who's married, said. He found the protest inspiring and hopeful. So did Chris King, who called the students impressive. "It's great to stand back and let them take the reins, and I'm excited that that generation is going to be the leaders, because they're going to make some changes. It's just a matter of time." KIRO 7 called and e-mailed Greg Magnoni, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Seattle, for comment about Zmuda's resignation and the protest on Friday. Magnoni did not respond.

In California, the Sacramento Bee reports that groups trying to overturn a new California law allowing transgender students to choose public school restrooms and sports teams that correspond with their expressed genders have filed a lawsuit claiming state officials are unfairly refusing to count signatures seeking a referendum. Sacramento-based Privacy For All Students, a coalition of conservative groups, filed the lawsuit Thursday against the secretary of state and two counties. It says a courier delivered signatures collected in Tulare ahead of a deadline of Sunday, November 10, but offices were closed early before the three-day Veterans Day weekend. In Mono County, a courier dropped the signatures in a county mail slot a day before the deadline, but workers did not return to their jobs until the deadline had passed, according to the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs say the secretary of state's office is refusing to validate the signatures from the two counties. The secretary of state's office did not immediately return phone calls on Friday seeking comment. Opponents of the law that goes into effect on January 1 said they have collected enough signatures for an initiative that would repeal it. Counties, however, were still reviewing the signatures. The state previously said an early random sampling from counties via the secretary of state's office found only 77-percent of the signatures qualifying. The coalition submitted 620,000 signatures to get the initiative on the November 2014 ballot, said Frank Schubert, political strategist handling the signature gathering effort. To qualify, at least 505,000 valid signatures of registered voters must be verified through a random sampling. After that, it is likely the state would order a full review before the measure could be place on a ballot. California is the first state to pass a law allowing such choices by transgender K-12 students. One provision gives them the choice of playing on boys or girls sports teams. It also allows them to choose which restroom they use. Opponents say the law would violate the privacy of the majority of students and some might try to claim to be another gender simply to gain access to bathrooms. School officials say decisions would be made under careful scrutiny involving parents, counselors, teachers, staff and the student. The goal of the law is to reduce discrimination against transgender students.

In Michigan, the 71-year-old Ann Arbor man killed inside his apartment last month was set up to be robbed by three homeless men, one of whom he met through a gay dating website, according to testimony from an Ann Arbor Police detective. Nineteen-year-old Richard Thompson, of Flat Rock, told police that when he was signaled by 20-year-old Rikky Ranger and 19-year-old Mark Paling, he got David Maurer in a chokehold while the two other men went through the Lurie Terrace apartment and stole a gun, computer, cash and credit cards, according to transcripts of a December 15 probable cause hearing obtained by the Ann Arbor News Wednesday. At that hearing, Ann Arbor police Detective William Stanford appeared before Magistrate Mark Nelson and detailed the case against the three men. Nelson ultimately signed the complaints and warrants, and the three were arraigned on murder charges that same day, nearly a month after Maurer was killed November 23. His body, however, wasn’t found until December 1. Stanford detailed for the magistrate how Ranger met Maurer on the gay hook-up website, Grindr, how the three suspects came to Ann Arbor from the Downriver area to drink, smoke marijuana and engage in sexual activity with Maurer that night only to leave the 71-year-old face down dead in his own couch. The three suspects, who identified themselves as homeless to Stanford, used Maurer’s credit cards and cash in the ensuing days for necessities. “They used the money for hotel rooms, gasoline and food,” Stanford said. Investigators ultimately tracked the three down via the credit card transactions. Paling lived in Melvindale, a block away from one of the gas stations where one of the cards was used. What ended up being a murder case didn’t start out as such. Instead, it started with a deceased 71-year-old man in a senior citizen housing complex. On December 1, Ann Arbor police were called to the Lurie Terrace Apartments after receiving a 911 call that a body had been found in one of the units, according to the documents. “There was a strong odor of decay,” Stanford said. Maurer was found face down on the couch in a kneeling position, with his feet on the floor and his face in the cushions of the couch. The door was locked, which means the staff had to use a key to get in, according to the documents. An official with the Washtenaw County Medical Examiner’s Office estimated Maurer had been dead for more than a week. Maurer’s family doctor signed a death certificate, insinuating there was no reason to believe there was any foul play, the documents indicate. Police could not find Maurer’s cell phone or wallet, however. The manager of the apartment complex told police nothing suspicious had been going on. Ten days later, the same manager was still reviewing video of the complex’s front door. The manager called police on December 11 when she noticed a video of Maurer coming into the complex with three unknown men who appeared to be in their 20s at 9:00 pm on November 23. Police reviewed the tape and determined Maurer left the complex at 6:17 pm that day and came back at 6:37 pm. “He’s by himself,” Stanford told the magistrate. Then at 7:28, Maurer left again, only to return at 9:00 pm with the three suspects. He may have already been injured, Stanford said. “(He had) a possible injury on his forehead which appears to be blood,” Stanford said. An hour and a half later, the three suspects can be seen on the video leaving the complex carrying “what appears to be … some type of electronic notebook.” At this point, Ann Arbor police detectives began earnestly investigating the case. Detective Lt. Robert Pfannes was not available for comment Wednesday, but he told the Ann Arbor News Tuesday that once it became clear what type of situation investigators were dealing with, “it was over rather quickly.” Detectives scoured Maurer’s bank records and determined there was account activity on November 24 and 25. There was also a charge at a Meijer in Allen Park for $189, according to documents. Detectives acquired still photos of that transaction from Meijer security cameras. “One of the suspects in that surveillance photo is clearly the same suspect coming in and out of 600 West Huron on November 23,” Stanford said. The credit card had also been used several times at a BP gas station and McDonald’s in Melvindale. Investigators quickly identified Paling, who lived a block away from the gas station. Paling had an outstanding warrant for third-degree criminal sexual conduct, according to the transcripts. Further investigation revealed Ranger was possibly one of the other three men. On December 13, police tracked the two down to a residence located on the property of Crosspoint Church in the 3600 block of Glenwood in Wayne. Paling, Ranger and a few others were living with a man, the caretaker of the church, who told police he took in several homeless people. “He stated he met Rikky Ranger on a website called Grinder (sic) and had made friends with him,” Stanford said. Ranger and Paling had been staying there about a week. They were arrested without incident and brought to the Ann Arbor Police Department for questioning. The two men told police in detail how they set Maurer up and how he died, the documents show. Paling told detectives Ranger first met Maurer on Grindr and that they “had gone out a couple times.” Ranger told police they had a couple of meetings, but that they “had never had sex or any sexual relations.” Stanford said, “Mark stated that they were homeless; they needed money so they … and a subject by the name of Richard Thompson … decided to rob David." They had Ranger set up a meeting. Maurer drove to Melvindale and met the three men in the parking lot of a gas station, Ranger told Stanford. They followed Maurer back to his Ann Arbor apartment. The four men drank alcohol and smoked marijuana. Thompson later told police that “at a certain point … David was getting sexually active with both Mark and Rikky,” according to the transcript. The two men eventually signaled Thompson, who got Maurer into “a sleeper hold headlock,” according to the transcripts. Paling said he took a .22 caliber revolver from a safe, a wallet, marijuana, cash and prescription pills. The men also took two watches and a laptop. Thompson kept Maurer in the chokehold for as long as it took the two other men to gather all the items they intended to steal – about five to 10 minutes – Paling told detectives, according to the transcript. “David went limp very shortly after being placed in the headlock,” Stanford said. Before the three defendants left, Thompson kicked Maurer in the body several times and punched him in the face. Ranger told police Maurer fell face first into the couch in the same way the body was found, according to the transcripts. Also on December 13, the same day police arrested Paling and Ranger, Ann Arbor police took a trip to Flat Rock where they arrested Thompson at his father’s home. “Richard indicated that he in fact had choked David Maurer,” Stanford said. Thompson said he began to choke Maurer when the other two men gave the signal. “He stated he feared he had killed David Maurer,” Stanford said. “He stated that his body went limp.” The three men were arraigned Sunday on charges of open murder, unarmed robbery, conspiracy to commit unarmed robbery, larceny in a building and larceny of a firearm at the Washtenaw County Jail. They all remain held in the jail without bond. If convicted, each man faces life in prison. They’re scheduled to be in court for a preliminary exam at 8:30 am December 26 at the 14A-1 District Court in Pittsfield Township.

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