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Gay rights advocates bombard county with questions

Clay Greene

By PAUL PAYNE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Guerneville man suing Sonoma County for separating him from his partner and selling their possessions had attacked the other man and at one point threatened to kill him, according to the sheriff’s department report of the 2008 incident released Wednesday.

But no charges were brought against Clay Greene, 78, accused of attacking Harold Scull, 88, because prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence. Greene has repeatedly denied the allegations of abuse and Scull at the time was unwilling to pursue charges.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s a closed matter,” Diana Gomez, assistant district attorney, said. “We rejected it two years ago.”

That opinion in the criminal case could chip away at the underpinnings of the county’s response to a lawsuit filed by Greene that is drawing national and international attention and has become a cause célèbre in the gay community.

County officials were flooded Wednesday by e-mails from around the world decrying what has been viewed as discrimination and a trampling of rights because of the men’s sexual orientation.

Gregory Spaulding, lawyer for the county, said an Internet letter-writing campaign has filled the in-boxes of elected officials and staff members named in the multi-million dollar suit from Greene. Stories about the case appeared over the weekend on the sites of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Bilerico Project. The furor has spilled onto Facebook, with angry supporters calling for political action and boycotts of Sonoma County businesses.

Spaulding said the county on Wednesday was trying to respond to hundreds of e-mails with its own letter that explains the county’s position and tries to correct what he called misstatements about the case. He accused advocates of trying to spin the story and of litigating it “through the Internet and the press.”

“The county has been inundated with many copies of the exact same e-mail, word for word, from people who have been misinformed,” Spaulding said.

The suit accuses county social workers of elder abuse and discrimination for failing to recognize Greene’s 25-year relationship with Scull, forcing the men into separate nursing homes and selling their belongings. Before Scull died of natural causes in August 2008, Green said he was denied visitation by officials who considered the men mere roommates.

“I’m sorry the focus has been taken away from the real case,” said Greene’s attorney, Anne Dennis.

Spaulding said the allegations of abuse is the real case. Greene, he said, attacked Scull and the county stepped in to protect the elder man at his own request.

In court documents, Spaulding said Scull was admitted to Kaiser Hospital in Santa Rosa on April 27, 2008 as a result of domestic violence-related injuries inflicted by Greene. The case was reported to the Sheriff’s Office, adult protective services and the county’s public guardian, who all conducted investigations, he said.

Scull allegedly told officials he no longer wished to live with Greene, so he was placed in a nursing home. Greene was later deemed incapable of caring for himself and was sent to a different facility, Spaulding said.

The men were given a chance to remove possessions from their rented Sebastopol house, he said. What was left was sold at auction to cover their expenses, Spaulding said.

An investigative report from the Sheriff’s Office that had the victim’s name redacted appears to support some of the county’s claims.

On the night Scull went to the hospital, Deputy Dylan Fong said he was dispatched to check on an 88-year-old man who was admitted after an assault.

The man, who had a black eye and multiple contusions and abrasions, told Fong that his partner, Greene, had struck his face and body with closed fists and told him, “I’m gonna kill you,” the investigative report says.

Fong said he asked for more details but the man seemed confused or possibly on medication. Fong then photographed the injuries and asked the man if he wanted to press charges. The man said no.

“The victim refused and told me he just wanted to go home,” Fong wrote.

Fong said he went to Greene’s house to arrest him but Greene wasn’t there. Deputies returned five days later to ask him about the incident and Deputy District Attorney Tashawn Sanders reviewed the case.

According to a report from Deputy Dave Tait, Greene said he had a romantic relationship with the man about 10 years ago and now the two were simply living together to share expenses. He said they were drinking Vodka and orange juice on the front porch when the man tripped and fell. An ambulance was called.

Greene denied assaulting or threatening the man, Tait said. Greene reaffirmed that position in an interview this week from his Guerneville home.

In a supplemental report, a social worker told deputies Greene had been abusive to the victim and should receive alcohol or drug treatment and a psychiatric evaluation. Tara Underly said Greene refused offers for help from Adult Protective Services.





8 Responses to “Gay rights advocates bombard county with questions”

  1. FoolMeTwice says:

    GLBT brothers and sisters, use your heads. Is it really LIKELY that police, health care, Sonoma County social workers and lawyers hatched a huge conspiracy to destroy 2 gay men? This is Sonoma County, California not 1960′s Missisippi.

    In America, when you have a winning case before the courts, you don’t issue a one-sided press release outlining your claim and asking the public to voice their outrage. If you have a winning case you wait and let the courts decide. However, if your case is weak, it’s to your advantage to settle out of court. And how do you improve your chances of that happening? You use public opinion to vilify and pressure the other side. Think about it.

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  2. Bill says:

    Why would people who do not have the facts protest.Would this be a issue if it was a straight male and his wife.The fact that this guy is gay does this mean he is a automatically a victim.Matthew all I can say to you and your friends is Amen!

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  3. Tess says:

    Whatever you do, don’t call Adult “Protective” Services. Might as well call Jack Kavorkian.

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  4. Sam says:

    It’s all too convenient that Scull is now dead and unable to deny or confirm these claims himself. I seriously doubt the validity of these statements and “facts”.

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  5. Michael says:

    The plaintiff in this case was abusive and a bully to an elderly, helpless man. Elder abuse is overlooked too often, and I’m proud that the government took a stand in this case. “There’s no Excuse for Domestic Violence” Gay, straight or otherwise.

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  6. Matthew says:

    I just spent my 40th birthday in Sonoma with 9 friends. We spent a lot of money in the county and we will not be returning anytime soom. What a shocking event this is.

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  7. Valerie says:

    I think this is an outrageous example of scary, greedy government bullying of an elderly man who happens to be gay – I think the facts of this mans circumstances lured the county into thinking nobody would care – thus, they swindled him out of everything he owns. Well, I’m not gay and I care. I care very much. I care that these fiends took advantage and railroaded this man and ruined his life. I hope he wins millions. And, as a Sonoma county resident, I’m glad my brother is a lawyer. Seems like citizens best be careful or they will be targeted by these horrible county officials. It’s a disgrace.

    As for his partner and what they did to him – it’s a terrible, unjust, horrifying way to treat any couple and I am disgusted.

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  8. John Rambo says:

    First, it bothers me that your paper chose the headline “Gay bias lawsuit: Did the county act appropriately?” because it appears the suit alleges a violation of not only civil rights but that the county completely ignored legal documents filed by the parties.

    As far as the county goes, why were these actions taken if no charges were filed?

    I lived in Northern California for 17 years and enjoyed some fun trips to your region during that time. This does not make me feel welcome to return.

    I would like to see more in-depth reporting on this. I’d like to know if this is exactly how the situation would have been handled if it had involved a heterosexual couple.

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