Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Blogger's bond revoked pending trial on Internet posting charges involving use of private information

WAXAHACHIE, TX -- A district judge ordered former Ellis County Observer publisher Joey Dauben's bail revoked on Tuesday, jailing the blogger until his trial on charges he fraudulently used private identifying information on an Internet posting last year.

The judge also ordered Dauben to undergo a mental competency evaluation to determine if he is fit to go to trial on Nov. 14. District Attorney Patrick Wilson sought the bond revocation and the competency evaluation order during a hearing to determine if the blogger had violated the terms of his release on $5,000 bond.

Dauben's court-appointed attorney Damon Fehler said the judge found that the blogger had violated the terms of his release, which prohibited him from "directly or indirectly" accessing the Internet. The judge heard evidence that Dauben had contact with an Internet radio show and several websites, the lawyer said.

Fehler said it is common for a judge to order a mental evaluation if one is suggested for a defendant in an effort to "err on the side of caution."

In an interview prior to his bond being revoked, Dauben denied that he had engaged in any Internet access. He said that he had published hard copies of newspapers, and that "friends and enemies" had published those on the Internet.

Dauben said in the interview that he expected to be jailed until he goes to trial. He acknowledged that he had erred last year by posting the name and other identifying information of a Red Oak man whose ex-wife had claimed he had molested their children.

The ex-wife later was arrested on charges of filing a false police report, according to the blogger, and Dauben was indicted on criminal charges in connection with the story he posted on the Internet. Dauben said he believes it should be a civil libel matter rather than a criminal prosecution.

"I concede that I constructed the environment that my enemies now use to silence me, but I know that what I do is the right thing to do," Dauben said in a telephone text message. "I will apologize for making mistakes, but I won't for doing my job."

Shelby Dauben, the blogger's sister, said she attended the hearing, and she accused those who testified against her brother of lying.

"They're all ignorant," she said. "It's the people who are against him making the rulings."

Dauben said that he has mailed numerous press releases and copies of the newspapers he has published while free on bond to media outlets.

He noted that when he published the names this year of the grand jurors in Ellis County who indicted him after obtaining the information through an open records request it infuriated the prosecutor. One of the grand jurors is his long-standing arch-enemy, he said.

The prosecutor accused him of contacting grand jurors, Dauben said.

"I didn't contact anyone," Dauben said. "I just published their names."

Earlier in the year Dauben was ordered by Judge Carroll to forfeit the website domain name EllisCountyObserver.com. Dauben said he dropped an appeal of that decision because he was unable to prove that he was indigent in the civil case and secure a court-appointed attorney.

Dauben claims that Ellis County officials want to silence him, and that his legal problems are part of an official conspiracy against him. He said he has long written critical stories about the county's politicians that have angered them, but prosecutors claim he crossed the line and broke the law when he falsely accused the Red Oak man of child molestation and published his name, address and phone number.

Two years ago Dauben received a $10,000 settlement in connection with his false arrest by Combine police officers in connection with his posting of a mug shot of a policeman.

In addition to the Ellis County case, Dauben faces trial in Navarro County on charges he engaged in sexual activity with a 15-year-old male five years ago. That trial is scheduled for Oct. 29.

Dauben said he is innocent of those charges as well, and that Navarro County officials are also engaged in a conspiracy against him.

The Navarro County charges are based on an investigation by the Texas Rangers.

Navarro County prosecutors also complained this year that Dauben was trying to circumvent the terms of his bond release in that county by contacting the media. They asked for an order banning the defendant or his lawyer Ed Jendrzey from discussing the case with the media, but Judge James Lagomarsino of the 13th District Court denied the request.

Prior to the appointment of Jendrzey as his court-appointed lawyer, Dauben spent two months in jail in Navarro County in lieu of $200,000 bond. The judge lowered Dauben's bond to $50,000, and was released pending trial.

Dauben is pictured above in Ennis. He was prohibited by the terms of his release on bond from leaving the counties of Ellis and Navarro. He also wore a monitoring device and was required to report to a probation officer weekly in both counties.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Straight cruise gets gay kick off by Copenhagen Pride Parade; St. Petersburg highlight of trip

COPENHAGEN -- Through the window I saw what I assumed to be a tough-looking hooker in a white sundress standing on the crowded sidewalk in the city’s historic district. Her attention seemed to be focused on something in the street in front of my stalled taxi cab where my traveling partner and I impatiently sat watching the meter tick off the time.

Anxious to get to my hotel so I could relax for an evening before boarding the Emerald Princess the next day for a Baltic Sea cruise, I asked the taxi driver about the delay. ” It’s a parade.” he said, just about the same time I noticed a rainbow flag banner in the distance.

I couldn’t believe it. I had arrived in Copenhagen not only at the exact time of the city’s annual Pride parade, but I had inadvertently become a part of it. I wasn’t staring at a hooker, but instead a drag queen. My taxi cab literally had pulled into the parade’s line-up from a side street as we crawled toward the Imperial Hotel.

It was to be my second cruise of the summer. I had toured the Mediterranean on an RSVP gay cruise off the coast of Spain in July and now in late August I was about to see Norway, Germany, Russia, Finland and Sweden on a straight cruise that ironically had turned out to have a gay kick off for me.

Later, my longtime friend and I sat at a table in the hotel’s sidewalk cafĂ© watching the rest of the parade, which included a counter protest by a small group of Neo Nazis protected by numerous police officers with dogs. The waiter told me the presence of the counter protesters surprised him because Denmark along with the other Scandinavian countries tend to be tolerant of LGBT people, a statement which was confirmed to me by guides during the rest of my trip.

The next day before we boarded the ship I realized the people of Copenhagen indeed did seem to welcome same-sex couples as we toured Tivoli Gardens,  admiring its beauty and thrilling to the carnival rides at the historic amusement park.

When it was time to head for the cruise ship where we were to meet another gay couple, I wondered if a straight cruise would be as much fun as the gay cruise – my first ever – that I had enjoyed six weeks earlier. 
My answer to that question came quickly as the ship blew its horn announcing our departure from port.

Whereas earlier in the summer when we cruised out of Barcelona enjoying a loud, colorful cocktail party with music blaring and dancing on the top deck, the departure from Copenhagen was decidedly sedate. It was to be that way for the rest of the cruise. We definitely were not on a party boat this time.

Still, it was an incredible experience, and I will never forget the awe I felt at the beauty of St. Petersburg’s cathedrals and the palaces where the czars once lived. Berlin was a masterpiece under restoration to the period before World War II bombing left it almost destroyed. The natural beauty of Norway, Finland and Sweden will remain vivid in my mind to my last days, and I certainly will always consider my visit to the Russian ballet one of the highlights of my life.

The atmosphere on the ship was friendly and welcoming by the staff and other passengers so there were no complaints to be found in that regard. There were a few other gay passengers and gay crew members. On the gay cruise, it was just a lot more fun during meals, at cocktail time and during the evenings at the gay-themed shows.

On the Mediterranean cruise we missed one of our ports of calls because Moroccan officials decided not to allow our ship to dock because of safety concerns about an all-gay cruise visiting the country for the first time. It was a surprise because Morocco has long been known for an “anything goes” type of culture, but it happened, even though the country’s tourism officials later denied they banned the ship.

The only port raising any concern on the Baltic Sea cruise would have been St. Petersburg, but I learned from our guide there that an all-gay cruised had docked several weeks earlier and he had escorted a group from the ship around the city. No one paid any of the gay tourists any mind at all, he said.

After I returned I decided to ask the Atlantis Events organizer about the two-day stop in St. Petersburg, and he confirmed that it went without a hitch.

“We had a fantastic two days in St. Petersburg and our 2,000 guests said it was the highlight of their cruise,” said Rich Campbell, president of Atlantis Events, in a message via Facebook. “We’ve been going there for years and have never received anything less than a warm welcome from the locals, officials and otherwise.”

It was a possible concern because St. Petersburg officials have made the gay news in a negative way in the past year because of a law they passed to ban public pro-gay demonstrations. Attempts to hold Pride parades have resulted in arrests. Some groups have urged gay cruises not to visit countries where there are anti-gay laws on the books.

Our guide told me the law has caused many LGBT Russian people to exercise more caution, but that it is well known there is a large gay community in St. Petersburg.  Some people have “gone underground” because of it, he said.

Campbell, who described the St. Petersburg gay community as “significant and thriving,” said his all-gay cruises, which include both RSVP and Atlantis Events, would continue to visit countries where there are anti-gay laws on the books as long as local officials welcome gay tourists. A visit to Dominica by Atlantis Events in the Caribbean earlier in the year resulted in a gay couple being arrested by local authorities because they allegedly were viewed engaged in sex on their stateroom balcony by some people on the island.

“Yes, they have a very unfortunate law on their books, but so do a lot of states in the USA, as well as our federal government,” Campbell said. “None of those are a reason not to enjoy the treasure these places have to offer.”

As far as I’m concerned, I feel fortunate to get to travel and see the world’s fabulous sights however I can, but in the future I’m going to choose the gay route whenever it is available. It’s just more fun to me and like everybody else, I prefer to be with my own kind on vacations.