The article that you are about to read is very important especially to the gay community and I hope that you pay close attention for there are many people who deal with what happened with me everyday.
My name is Jason Lott, but most of you know me as "ACE". I would like to warn you of the upcoming summer months if you plan to travel to Franklinton, which is located in Washington Parish, and go intertubing [sic] on the Bogachitto River. The law enforcement officials and judicial system there is unfriendly and they harass gays. If you will bare [sic] with me, I would like to share with you what happened to me on July 7, 1997.
On the night of July 6, 1997, I was invited by several friends and employees of "OZ" to go tubing the following day for a day of fun in the sun.... This year was to be even better for we had more people to go and our lovers and or dates were able to attend. I myself had a date. After arriving at the check in stand where you pay your money to rent a tube, there were two other groups of people there who were straight, but seemed as if they had no problem with our sexual preference. They talked with us and told us of the good times they have going to the gay clubs in New Orleans. All was well until about four hours later, while three of my friends and myself had stopped on a sandbar waiting for the rest of our group to catch up to us.
We were approached by a man in a boat who asked us in a rude manner "What are you doing?" We replied that we were waiting for our group to catch up. He then asked us if we had been "flashing" anyone. We had done no such thing, so I replied no. Now the man tells us to leave because, and I quote, "We don't want your kind in our river." I'm thinking to myself who is this redneck Gomer Pile [sic] to tell us to leave, so I ask him, being a former law enforcement official, "Why and by what authority are you telling us to leave?" He then stated that he was a deputy and that's all that matters. Being a police officer, if you are asked to show proof of your position, you are required to. This man, later identified as Bubba in court, did not and then left... the man returned about an hour later with two uniformed deputies and a man dressed in black shorts and shirt. This is where the "fun" began.
The man in black asked us what we were doing and we pointed at our friends and told him that we were waiting for them to catch up. He also asked if we had "flashed" anyone and we again stated no. He then told us to get into his boat that we were leaving and were not to return or we would be arrested. I then asked him by what reason and by what authority. He just looked at the uniformed officers and stated "because I said so; we don't want faggots or queers on our river." I then told the gentleman that he had no right to make us leave due to us being homosexual, and we proceeded to float downriver. By this time, our friends had reached the sandbar where the officers were and the officers ordered them to land and they were searched. Of course, the officers did not find anything so they let our friends go after a little harassing. By this time my friends and I were about fifty yards ahead of the group and we were approached by a woman and a child who wanted to know what was going on. As I was explaining the situation to the woman, the child, who I would say is about sixteen, started cursing us and hit me twice on the head as the uniformed officers watched and laughed. Not wanting anymore trouble, I turned and started walking downriver as the officers and Bubba and the man in black got into their boat and headed our way. I knew that this was going to get "messy."
I am still walking in the middle of the river, trying to catch my tube, when the people in the boat approached us again. They got out onto the sandbar and again told us to get into their boat that we are leaving. I then stated to the gentleman who was in black, who was doing all the talking, that I was a former law enforcement official and that what he was doing is wrong. He then became furious. He told me to get out of the water that I am being arrested. I then requested that a Federal Game Warden, State Police, Coast Guard, or a representative of the Corps of Engineers be present for we were on a public navigable body of water and at that time I felt as though he had no jurisdiction, not to mention the harassment of being gay. He then walked into the water, drug [sic] me onto the sandbar, threw me down and handcuffed me. On several occasions I requested that he show me proof of him being a deputy as well as Bubba, and again, they failed to do so. I then told the man that he could not arrest me and at that time, one of the uniformed officers grabbed my arm and said, "maybe not faggot, but I can." I then demanded that an officer of a higher echelon be present, for what they were doing was wrong. They refused. I was then put into the boat and refused a life preserver with my hands cuffed behind my back. Pissed, I asked the deputy why wasn't their boat registered for it had no numbers on either side of it. I was told "shut up faggot." After the officers had another boat pick the rest of my friends up, which also was not registered, they took us back to the landing. The walked me to my vehicle so I could give them some identification, one being proof that I had once been a law enforcement official. The man in black stated "I do not want that, just your driver's license and your queer ass is mine." At that time I plead the fifth amendment.
I was transported to Washington Parish jail and originally charged with failure to move on, resisting arrest, impersonating a Federal Agent, and public indecency. Approximately ten hours later, I bailed myself out thanks to the three friends who were with me when this thing first started occurring. As for the rest of our group? Well, let's just say you find out who your real friends are when something like this happens; standing up for gay rights.
The next few days I searched for an attorney and finally found one whom I really trust and admire. His name is LeRoy A. Hartley, and let me tell you something, this man is a lot like myself. We stand up for what we believe is right. That is what this country is supposed to be about, right? We went to my preliminary hearing back in Rosco P'Cole Train territory, and of course, plead not guilty. But wait a minute! The charges had been changed to Criminal Trespass (La. R.S. 14:63.3) on a public body of water. Not only that, the majority of the people in the court room that day had been arrested on the Bogachitto River. Now comes the trial hearing.
State of Louisiana, Washington Parish, 22nd JDC versus me, Judge Jack Green presiding. The District Attorney put both uniformed officers and the man in black on the stand to testify against me. Of course they bent the truth and failed to mention the fact of the hate crime in which they committed. During cross examination by Mr. Hartley, Judge Green interrupts. The District Attorney did not even cross examine. I felt as though that was very strange. Judge Green then made his ruling: GUILTY of La. R.S. 14:63.3 Criminal Trespass (REMINDER: on a public body of water) and fined one hundred dollars plus court costs. Of course, feeling as though I am innocent, Mr. Hartley and myself filed an appeal.
My case is not over yet for I am going to fight it tooth and nail to the very end. Although this has already cost me quite a bit of money in legal fees, I just want people out there to be proud who you are and if you experience the same or similar incidence with employers, law enforcement officials, etc., you are not alone. There are people out there that can and will help. You just have to take the first step. Make a phone call. Remember, there is a law against hate crimes in Louisiana. Sincerely,
Dear Sonny: [Cleveland, Sales Manager, Webmaster, Ambush; President, GAA]
Please extend my thanks to every member of the GAA Board of Directors. It is an enormous honor to be named Man of the Year. It is especially meaningful to me to be chosen the first year that a wide segment of the community voted on the awards.
I know this process meant a tremendous amount, from soliciting nominations to conducting balloting to producing the show. Everyone responsible for all this effort should be praised.
Speaking of the show: what a pleasure it was! It ran smoothly-and quickly!-and the screen was impressive [computer projector]. It was a great visual addition to the evening and has really ratcheted up the level of community presentations.
And the plaque itself is very handsome. I will long treasure owing it and the honor it represents. With affection,
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