Kentucky Gay Men Allege Police Harassment

Bill Hamilton Subject to Police Harassment

A gay man in Kentucky was scheduled to be in court today on what he says are wrongful charges from his local sheriff’s department, after a run-in that he and his husband had with deputies last February.

Billy Hamilton and Patric Z. Rodriguez of Mayfield say they were mistreated by Graves County deputies in an incident that led to Hamilton being charged with harassing communications, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. He was set to be in court on the charges Monday. (Full disclosure: Hamilton was an information technology professional with two of The Advocate’s former parent companies, LPI Media and PlanetOut.)

“I did not harass anyone,” Hamilton says. “I did not disturb the peace.”

On February 22, the sheriff’s department called the men’s home, looking for Rodriguez. Hamilton told them Rodriguez was out. Hamilton says they wouldn’t tell him why they wanted to contact his husband. Hamilton subsequently called the department’s nonemergency line several times for information, to no avail, he says.

About midnight, a group of deputies showed up at the house. Rodriguez went outside to meet them. The encounter soon became confrontational. The deputies asked Rodriguez to open the door, but he told them it was locked and he didn’t have keys. Video of the incident (watch below) shows Rodriguez at one point yelling at an officer, after which the officer, identified by Rodriguez and Hamilton as Chief Deputy Davant Ramage, called him a “shit apple redneck” and threatened to break the door down. The video shows the deputies asking Rodriguez, “Where’s the other guy? We need to talk to him.” The officers can be heard saying they have a harassing communications charge against him.

According to timestamps on the video, it wasn’t until at least 15 minutes later that the men finally let the deputies in. Then, the men say, the deputies tasered Hamilton; this is not visible in the video, but it does show the deputies grabbing Hamilton and slamming him against a wall, after he asked them in a raised voice, “What did I do?” The deputies arrested both him and Rodriguez, the latter on charges of disorderly conduct and alcohol intoxication Rodriguez says he had had a couple of drinks before going to bed and taken melatonin to help him sleep, but in Kentucky an alcohol intoxication charge is supposed be imposed only if there’s a public disturbance. Rodriguez contends there was no disturbance before the deputies arrived. At one point one of the officers can be heard yelling “Get up” at one of the men, who yells in response, “No, I will not get up, until I understand what he said.” Later, one of the deputies can be heard saying, “All of this could have been avoided, that’s for sure.”

Hamilton and Rodriguez were taken to jail but released the following morning. They say they found out from the arrest report that the deputies had been seeking Rodriguez for an outstanding fine in another county for alcohol intoxication; they say no one had provided them that information before. Rodriguez immediately cleared up the fine, according to the couple.

They said that in addition to the “shit apple redneck” remark, the deputies used other insulting language, such as calling them “doo-dah.” “I’ve been called worse by better,” says Hamilton.

“Is this gay-bashing, or do they just try to bash everybody?” Hamilton wonders. Their attorney, Dennie Leach, however, has called it homophobic police brutality.

Hamilton and Rodriguez say they’ve been well-accepted in Mayfield, a town of about 10,000 that’s the seat of Graves County in western Kentucky. It’s known for its antique shops and artisans; the men moved there from L.A. last year to be closer to Hamilton’s family. They both work as consultants, Hamilton in business technology, Rodriguez in digital media.

The couple, who have been together 28 years, also say they don’t blame the entire sheriff’s department for the treatment they received, but think it’s the action of just a few. The sheriff’s department has declined to comment to The Advocate on the matter, and that has been the case with other media outlets.

When Hamilton goes to court Monday, he intends to seek dismissal of the charges and not accept a plea bargain, unless Leach advises him otherwise. Rodriguez will be in court at a later date and says he’ll do the same. “I will take the full sentence they give me rather than stop fighting this,” he says.

After dealing with the criminal charges, they plan to file a civil suit, but they have to file within a year of the incident. They say Hamilton’s court date has been postponed several times, and they’re afraid county authorities are trying to run out the clock. But they intend to do whatever’s necessary to keep fighting.

“We decided even if there was some personal cost, we would stand up,” Hamilton says. Rodriguez adds, “There was no way we were going to go gently.”

The Advocate will report the outcome of the case as information becomes available. Watch two videos below.

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Tags: Crime, Kentucky

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