Saturday, February 25, 2017

Justice for the Dietrich, Idaho Assault Victim, Neurodivergent and Black

Mr. and Mrs. McDaniel with four of their 20 adopted children
©Washington Post/Getty Images
I'm going to mention a violent rape. I will try to be as brief as possible but please don't read on if this topic will upset you. 

I learned today that I can be disgusted, angry, and horrified all at once.

The victim, 18, psychiatric disability community member, one of 20 adoptees to the McDaniel family whose parents are white and live in an area with a predominantly white school, was abused by his own football teammates over a period of months and no one in the school administration or coaching staff acted to stop it. the victim was eventually lured into a locker room by three assailants where his teammates beat him and raped him violently with a coat hanger. 

The McDaniels have an additional five children born to them. I'm not certain how they are able to manage the safety of disabled children of color in a family of 25 children. But there is something more urgent here and that is that Judge Randy Stoker handed down a sentence of 3 years probation to defendant John Howard the main perpetrator of the assault, at the behest of Prosecutor Hemmer. The prosecutor explained to the Judge that the assault was not a rape, hate crime, or any category of sexual assault, but in face a case of bullying, and let the rapist off without jail time. Of course, because Howard was allowed to plead to a charge that was not rape or a hate crime, he will not be a registered sex offender and will be free to assault other African American victims. Co-defendant Tanner Ward's charge of forcible penetration with a foreign object was reduced to a lesser charge and he is being tried as a juvenile. The court and prosecutor also decided Wards actions were not a hate crime. 

When is the disability community going to fight for justice for the Black disabled victims of ableist hate crimes? Are they not aggressively pursuing this because these victims are not white? This is a very sore point for me. I'm tired of seeing this happen time and again with victimized disabled youth of color.

Judge Stoker should be removed from the bench. I will be including links to the petitions calling for his removal at the end of this blog. Moreover, Prosecutor Hemmer, (who orchestrated the plea deals and reduction of charges, used the victim's disability as justification for why the final horrific assault should not be classified as a sexual assault or a hate crime) should be held accountable. David Perry explains this very clearly in his excellent article on the Dietrich assault in Pacific Standard which you can read here.

The victim never had a chance. He is the victim but being both disabled and Black in an all-white town with parents who cannot teach him about racism because they are white and do not experience it means he was unprepared and also emotionally violated by the judicial system, the school where he should have been safe, and the football team coaching staff who encouraged this abuse. According to the Superintendent of the schools' disclosure of the district's investigation, one teammate tried to stop the attack but was threaten with the same treatment if he interfered. No other classmates fought for him. This is what it means to be Black and disabled in America.

The question is, are there people in the wider world who believe that justice is the entitlement and human right of every citizen in every nation on this planet? Are there people who believe hate crimes are hate crimes when the victim is Black and disabled? 

If you are one of these good people,  please help me step up now and make this right. Because this is an abomination. And if this judgment stands, all disabled children could be next because disabled teens are easy targets and we are living in a time of inflated hate. 

If those families with white disabled loved ones believe that because their children aren't Black, they won't  be targeted next, they are in for a very unpleasant surprise. Once people know they can abuse disabled youth without serious repercussions they will escalate and not stop at Black disabled youth. Our children are just the first targets. They are never the last.

Speak out! Protest this verdict. Justice for the Dietrich, Idaho assault victim! Or sit silently now and wait until your loved ones are the newest targets and it is too late to fight.

My son is nonverbal. Had he been victimized in this sustained and escalated fashion, he could not have told us or defended himself. This is why I am so outraged and so horrified that months of sustained harm get a slap on the wrist. The victim of this sustained series of hate crimes will need therapy for the rest of his life. 

We must act to make this right or we have no purpose in advocacy nor can we call ourselves activists against violence to disabled youth. 

Resources and Calls To Action
(with thanks to some incredible activists for research, updates, and support)

The Terrifying Story of The Dietrich, Idaho Assault Victim

How a Prosecutor Decided That an Attack on a Disabled Black Kid Was Just Bullying
David Perry for Pacific Standard:

School Superintendent Investigation Report of Details in the Case Heavily Redacted by School District legal counsel:

John R.K. Howard was not charged with a hate for sex crime"

Co-defendant Tanner Ward not facing felony charges and case to be tried in juvenile court

Attorneys for McDaniel family petitioning court for unredacted documents. Willing to allow them in the public record to expose cover-up and actions of defendants in their civil case against School district:

Petitions about the McDaniel hate crimes in Dietrich, Idaho to sign and share: Petition: IDAHO JUDICIAL COUNCIL: Remove Judge Randy Stoker from the bench for decision in John Howard rape case Petition to DOJ:

For further public action:

Please direct public comment about this unfathomable injustice to:

Office of the Attorney General Lawrence Wasden
700 W. Jefferson Street
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720-0010
Phone (208) 334-2400
Fax (208) 854-8071

Comments can also be submitted on  the official website here:

What else can you do?
Consider sending an email expressing your concern about the miscarriage of justice in this adjudication of this case. You can do so here:

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