SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A Spokane minister has been acquitted of a hate crime charge after convincing a jury he was acting in defense of his home when he allegedly used a gay slur while throwing out his estranged son and another man.
Rev. Derrick G. Moore, who pastors at New Destiny Tabernacle Apostolic Church, physically removed the two naked men from a shower in his home.
The incident resulted in Mr. Moore, 51, being charged and tried for felony charges of malicious harassment from the Spokane County prosecutor’s office, the Spokesman-Review said.
Mr. Moore was recently acquitted. The state must cover the legal costs if a defendant successfully argues self-defense. Washington’s laws protect defendants who are defending the lives of themselves or their families, as well as defending “real or personal property,” the Spokesman-Review said Wednesday.
Mr. Moore’s attorney, Tim Note, said the case hinged on his right to establish rules in his home.
Deputy prosecutor John Love said Mr. Moore could have handled the situation without violence and without hate speech.
According to The Spokesman-Review, Mr. Moore was trying to keep several teenagers who were spending the night preparing for a youth church event the next day from seeing the behavior of his son, Antonio, who turned 21 in April.
“We should be able to set the rules of acceptable conduct in our own home,” Mr. Note told the Spokesman-Review. He also called the prosecution of the case “absurd and offensive.”
But Mr. Love, who tried the case, said one of the men received a cut above his eye in the scuffle and Mr. Moore could have handled the situation differently.
“Of course he has the right to make his own rules in his home,” Mr. Love said this week. “But do you bust through a locked door and throw two naked men out in the middle of the night in February? Or do you ask them to leave first?”
Neither the father or son responded to interview requests for this story, the Spokesman-Review said.
The other man in the shower contacted police a week after the incident and requested that charges be filed.
Both he and Antonio said they went to the home after a night of drinking and were allowed inside, but the defense said they snuck in and were trespassing.
Mr. Note said Antonio, who has a history of property and drug crimes, was not allowed to stay overnight. Antonio had told his father he was gay just a few days before the shower incident, Mr. Note said.
Mr. Moore said he was awakened by his wife, who is his son’s stepmother; she told him she suspected Antonio had brought a male friend into the home, Mr. Note said.
Mr. Moore listened at the bathroom door, where the men were allegedly having sex in the shower, then broke in.
A scuffle followed, during which the other man sustained the cut after he was punched by Mr. Moore and pushed into the wall, he told police. Both men in the shower said Mr. Moore used a gay slur while dragging them out of the house at about 2:30 a.m.
Mr. Moore said at trial he didn’t remember if he used the word, but admitted he was angry. Mr. Note said Mr. Moore, as a minister, cares for young people of all sexual orientations.
“This guy’s not out in the public square spewing hate, he’s in his own home,” Mr. Note said. “He doesn’t hate gay people.”
The decision by the jury, composed of six men and six women, is at least the second time Spokane County has affirmed the protections of property owners from prosecution, the Spokesman-Review said.
Mr. Note had argued that Antonio, by sneaking into the home and having sex in the shower, was maliciously trespassing, a crime for which state law allows a self-defense argument. The term “malicious” is defined under state law as any act showing an “evil” inclination “to annoy, vex or injure another person,” the Spokesman-Review said.
Mr. Note said the Moores do not allow premarital sex of any kind in their home.
But Mr. Love said the evidence didn’t show the traditional indications of a self-defense case. “There was testimony that no one was being hurt, that no property was in threat of being damaged,” Mr. Love said. “The defendant himself said what was being assaulted was ‘my mind, and my rules.’ ”
Despite the acquittal, Mr. Note said his client regretted his choice of words that night.
“He said, ‘I used a lot of words that night that are not the words I would choose to use in my house,’ ” Mr. Note told the Spokesman-Review.