Posted // 2009-09-21 -
DJ Bell, a suspected child kidnapper whose defenders say he and his gay partner are victims of homophobic violence and a shoddy police investigation, goes on trial tomorrow. Jury selection begins today, as do the protests.
"We'll be here all week," Megan Pedersen said, on behalf of 17, or so, protesters outside the trial of DJ Bell at about 1 p.m.
Bell is accused of two counts of first-degree felony child kidnapping and one count of second-degree felony burglary. The presumed sentence for child kidnapping is 15 years to life in prison.
City Weekly featured the case in July.
His former neighbors accused him of luring their children to his home, but he has stated repeatedly that the children were distressed by a loud party at their home and sought comfort with him. Bell, and his boyfriend Dan Fair, were then beaten by a group of men from the party. Both were injured; Fair was hospitalized for three days. No charges have been filed against the attackers.
I asked Pedersen several questions about the trial and why she and others are protesting.
We're out here protesting the obvious injustice we feel happened to DJ and Dan. ... For example, Dan Fair was asleep in his own home and was awoken at about 6 in the morning by people basically trying to break into his home. He tried to kick people out of his home, there were no kids present at that time. A group of men broke into his home, nearly killed him, he ended up in the hospital for three days. No charges have ever been filed against any of the people who did that to him. [Fair] has been completely uninvolved in this case. DJ, who's on trial, is his partner. But Dan has been completely exonerated of anything having to do with this; no charges have been filed against him.
How do you interpret that? Homophobia has been mentioned, is it that simple, or is there something more?
I don't know if it necessarily started out as homophobia. I think alcohol and hate mixed together and mob mentality lead to homophobic actions. The gay slanders, the homophobic words that were thrown at them during the beating, obviously leads us to believe that there was a lot of hate involved in this.
Are you a friend? What are they like? I hear DJ is a drag performer.
Yes. I've known DJ for 10 years and Dan for five. DJ's stage name is Lola, and she's absolutely fabulous. She's been very involved and active in the community raising money for nonprofit organizations all along the way. Dan is his partner and boyfriend that he's been with for 5 years. Dan is just the sweetest guy you'll ever meet; he's quiet, shy and just lovable. You want to protect both of them when they're around now, I get kind of mother-bearish with them because I hated to see them hurt. They are beautiful together. They're like every other couple. They argue, they go shopping for patio furniture and they get excited over new paintings. They're wonderful.
To play the prosecutor's advocate for a moment, those nice things about DJ don't make him innocent.
No, it doesn't mean he's innocent, but what we would have liked to see is an investigation to prove that. There hasn't been an investigation. The lead detective never entered the home where the beatings took place. They showed up, found two gay men beaten two streets away from a recent homicide, and they went with it. It wasn't until a couple weeks later that we started pushing back and asked what happened. There were three other adults in that house. One of them wasn't interviewed for a month, the other two were never interviewed.
And were charges filed against DJ before that interview?
Oh yeah, yeah. They were charged immediately. He was charged immediately and it wasn't until our side broke the story about two weeks after all this had happened that we said something is wrong and we started getting support that we have now.
The district attorney's office declined to prosecute the attackers and pushed it off to South Salt Lake prosecutors and they haven't done anything either. How do they explain that?
In one of the court proceedings I sat in on [South Salt Lake Police] detective Darren Carr said on stand that DJ had a few cuts and bruises. The line all along has basically been that there's not enough evidence to move forward at this time. And you've seen the pictures here today, I think there's plenty.
Will this be bad for the gay community if there is a conviction because the idea of homophobia has been mentioned so often regarding this case?
I think if there's a conviction then we'll fight it on appeals. Absolutely I believe DJ Is innocent and I believe the truth will come out, whether in the appeal process or along the way. We have about a million things we can appeal on. The truth will come out, I guarantee it.