S.F. man caught vandalizing gay history books

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com September 20 2002 12:00 AM ET

A San Francisco man on Wednesday pleaded no contest to one count of felony vandalism with a hate-crime enhancement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. John Perkyns, 48, will be placed on five years' probation, will undergo counseling, must stay away from all city libraries, and is required to pay $9,600 in restitution to the city library system.

Employees at San Francisco's main library and the Chinatown branch said that someone had been slashing books for nearly a year. Library employees first noticed the slashings during the summer of 2000. About 200 of the damaged volumes were in the Hormel Center, a collection of works of gay and lesbian literature that opened in 1996, thanks to a gift by philanthropist James Hormel. Almost always the books were volumes on gay and lesbian subjects, some of them out of print and hard to replace. Some books had cat eyes cut into the covers or pages. Others were defaced, then stuffed with Christian religious material. "It was really kind of insane," said Rachel MacLachlan, head of library security. "It was hard to try to figure out who was behind this."

Finally, in April 2001 a librarian who had staked out the stacks on her day off caught Perkyns just as he was returning a freshly slashed gay history book to the reference shelves at the main branch. He had a razor blade in his jacket pocket and several ripped pages from a book on lesbianism.

Prosecutor Sam Totah said he doesn't know what motivated Perkyns. "He has an agenda," Totah said. "It could be religiously based, but it just seems to be focused on gays and lesbians. He's a very odd man."

Outside court Wednesday, Perkyns declined to comment. His attorney, Stephen Naratil, said his client is a deeply religious man but would not comment on the prosecution's theory of a religious motive.