In the curiosity of sustaining journalistic integrity, I have made a acutely aware effort — together with contributors Jonny Lessard, Scott Lupton, and Wendy Taylor — to delve deeper into the happenings of the case just lately introduced again to mild relating to Tatiana Mala-Nina, who was convicted of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Baby in 2009. The story was introduced following the already controversial coverage of native Drag Queen Story Time, which befell on the Freed-Montrose Library once a month in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood. Reviewing the stories revealed by fellow on-line and print publications, as well as numerous television information stations, it felt mandatory to offer more information concerning the case than what had been laid out earlier than. This is not an opinion piece. This isn’t a defense of both get together involved within the trial. This article is designed simply to put out the details that have and have not been reported, as well as to pose questions which will haven’t yet been heard.
It’s also necessary to notice here that the majority news retailers have been utilizing the pronouns he/him/his when referring to Mala-Nina. Tatiana Mala-Nina is a transgender lady and must be referred to utilizing the she/her/hers pronouns. The only context by which we can be utilizing her lifeless identify (a name by which a trans individual known as pre-transition) is when quoting documentation from the courtroom file.
(HOUSTON) — Just over one week in the past, in the early night of Friday, 15 March, Houston information station KHOU revealed a narrative by which it was revealed that in style Houston drag queen Tatiana Mala-Nina (who had been studying to youngsters on the widespread Drag Queen Story Time event at the Freed-Montrose Library) was a convicted intercourse offender. Preliminary reviews have been comparatively obscure, with journalists utilizing their very limited info to break a story round a subject that has been at the middle of heated discussion over the past few months. Since Drag Queen Story Time first began in Houston — beforehand put collectively as soon as a month by Trent Lira and Devin Will, till their current resignation as administrators of the program — it has been met with its share of acclaim, but has additionally been subjected to backlash and criticism. On the inside, native drag queens placed on their made-up faces and don their most fantastical clothes whereas reading an age-appropriate ebook to the youngsters who are there not only to study a lesson in literacy, however in acceptance.
However outdoors of the library’s walls, issues aren’t fairly as calm. Anti-LGBTQIA protesters would collect along the sidewalk thrusting signs quoting biblical verse, hate speech, and condemnation. One group particularly was hoping to dispose of Drag Queen Story Time; they usually go by the identify of MassResistance, a conservative values group based mostly out of Massachusetts that’s recognized for taking a stand towards LGBTQIA-positive points within the identify of “traditional values”. It was MassResistance that introduced Tatiana Mala-Nina’s legal history underneath the press mild; and spreading this information was solely just the start of a much bigger fallout.
The offense in question is a matter of public document: Mala-Nina was registered as a sex offender after being convicted of aggravated sexual assault on a minor underneath the age of 14 in June of 2008. Further details revealed that the accuser was the kid of a household good friend, and that Mala-Nina had been sentenced to 5 years of probation and group service, which led to June of 2016 with out incident. Inside hours of the article stating her intercourse offender standing hitting the web and the story enjoying across the 5 o’clock information, it seemed as though all the things in Houston’s queer group had changed. Group members assumed sides, some calling Mala-Nina guilty and disavowing her, others swearing their allegiance and believing that she could not be capable of such an atrocity, and lots of reserving commentary until more proof surfaced. Solely, it appeared there wasn’t time for that; over the weekend ahead, the information would go on to get picked up by nationwide information stations, and later would turn out to be international information. Conservative and liberal-leaning news retailers alike took the story and ran with it — most of the articles referring to Tatiana Mala-Nina by her deadname (and the fallacious one, at that) and just as many misgendering her. You see, Tatiana Mala-Nina is greater than only a drag queen; she can also be a trans lady. Whereas she might have recognized as male at the time her conviction passed off, her pronouns right now stay to be she/her/hers. The fallout obtained worse, nevertheless. Individuals all all through Houston’s queer group — particularly performers, drag and non-drag alike — grew frightened of what may happen at their forthcoming exhibits, and Tatiana Mala-Nina effectively lost each booking she had across the city.
By Sunday, just when the group thought the worst was over, it turned shortly evident that it had solely really just begun. As information continued to circulate around the globe, the ins-and-outs of the information report started to get messier. The most important instance of this might be when fellow Houston drag icon, Blackberri, turned a target after conservative information website Breitbart wrongly used her image quite than Mala-Nina’s when reporting on the story on 16 March. Whereas Blackberri had also learn at the library’s story time, her likeness to that of Mala-Nina is considerably small. More importantly, it put Blackberri able of hazard, as nicely, once her face had been plastered towards the headline, “Nolte: Houston Library Allowed Sex Offender to Read to Kids During Drag Queen Storytime”. Nonetheless, after the weekend had handed, many had taken notice that Tatiana’s social media pages had been faraway from the web, and most outdoors of her nearest family and friends had not heard from her, till that Sunday afternoon, when Mala-Nina launched the next assertion by means of a good friend’s social media:
“By now, lots of you’ve gotten seen the information that is circulating from KHOU. I want to make a press release, and then am asking you all to respect my need for privacy right now. I am protected, and with my family, however please don’t contact me for now, I’ll need some time…
A few years ago, I had a household pal. I had been babysitting her son for a few years, and was thought-about a member of their very own household. I made the troublesome determination to return out as gay, and my life modified ceaselessly.
The boys mother was scared that gay = predator. She concocted a story, and went to the police. Her son tried to inform the identical story, however his changed many occasions during a number of interviews. There was no physical evidence or witnesses to what she claimed, however as a homosexual individual of shade, my aspect didn’t matter.
They didn’t have witnesses or proof. They didn’t have a case, only a made up story. In the long run, it didn’t matter. I plead not guilty. The jury did not all say I was responsible, however the decide defied the jury and chose to convict me.
Do you know that there are over 60 thousand individuals registered in Texas as intercourse offenders? Many of these individuals are in conditions like mine. I wish that we might catch anyone who would ever harm a toddler, and throw them within the deepest pit we might find. I might by no means. The catholic church has extra sex offenders than another group. I might by no means do something to hurt anyone, not to mention certainly one of our most harmless and weak.
You all know me. I am sorry that this happened. I’m sorry that I decided that would harm individuals. I wasn’t considering, as a result of I’ve executed all I can to place this horrible factor behind me. I’m sorry that these horrible individuals are doing anything they will to assault us. But, I can’t be sorry for one thing I did not do. I’ve broken no legal guidelines, and though I regret the harm that is inflicting, I needed you all to know what actually occurred.” (sic).
That status update was shared 57 occasions from the unique publish and reached plenty all across the queer group of Houston. Nonetheless, Mala-Nina was not being seen in a constructive mild by individuals locally. Many questioned what made her accept the volunteer gig to learn to youngsters understanding she was a registered sex offender, no matter whether or not she was innocent. Others stood up to say that, in instances of sexual assault, one ought to all the time consider the accuser. But for some, there was one thing about Mala-Nina’s story that set them to forge a path to seek out the reality, to look for one thing that hadn’t been seen which may exonerate Mala-Nina and show her innocence. In any case, this was an 11-year-old case that had been closed since Mala-Nina completed her probation terms in the summer of 2016; and finding details that would assist prove her innocence was not going to be straightforward. That being stated, it didn’t cease a number of of Mala-Nina’s associates from Houston’s LGBTQIA group.
One of the instrumental in this analysis was Jonny Lessard, who said in an interview that he’s recognized Tatiana Mala-Nina for upward of seven years. Upon seeing the controversy spark and watching Mala-Nina lose every thing, he said that he felt like he had to do one thing. “I think there was this part of me — like I’m sure there was for everyone — that just didn’t want to believe it was someone I knew.” That feeling didn’t come singularly to Lessard. Throughout social media, associates and followers shared comparable sentiments, some expressing doubt within the accusations, others hoped that they were not true, and some disappointment. Lessard and his boyfriend, Scott Lupton — a stage performer and former paralegal — had taken the time this past week after the information broke to travel right down to Harris County Constable Precinct 6 to evaluate the file related to Mala-Nina’s 2008 case. While not sure of exactly what they could discover, both Lessard and Lupton took to the paperwork hoping one thing there could be indicative of Mala-Nina’s innocence. “We looked at those documents for about an hour and a half,” Lessard stated in our interview. “If I’d had more time, I might have been able to get more information; but with limited time, we were just there looking for facts.”
Details, consider it or not, are exactly what they found. Reviewing the paperwork — which included witness statements, courtroom appeals, and extra particulars concerning the case and can be found to most of the people — Lessard and Lupton discovered (once more) that the claimant was a toddler underneath the age of 14 who had been the kid of a household pal. The child alleged that he had requested access to Mala-Nina’s bedroom to play a online game, and that Mala-Nina had obliged underneath the situation that the child take away his clothing. The child then claimed that the Mala-Nina performed oral intercourse on the kid for a couple of seconds earlier than requesting that he do the identical to her. The child alleges that he did so, however stopped after a further few seconds, feeling uncomfortable, and left the room. In accordance with trial documents, “The Complainant did not tell anyone what had transpired because the Appellant [Mala-Nina] told him not to, and because he was afraid of the Appellant. However, he did not remember telling the police that the Appellant had never told him not to say anything […]” (sic). Paperwork go on to say that the child, “[…] stated he was “pretty sure” that the above incident happened to extra occasions when he was across the similar age, the one distinction being that he was not asked to the touch the Appellant.”
The latter detail — relating to the two other situations — got here up at a clumsy time in the course of the trial. Mala-Nina and counsel were not informed of this until just before the trial, and when the Defense requested time to evaluation these claims. A separate doc filed 7 December 2010 outlines an attraction requested by the Appellant and speaks extra to this. “The outcry was made in February 2008. From then until trial, the complainant only revealed to police a single incident of assault. The complainant testified that he felt safe talking with the prosecutor though, and mentioned that appellant had also assaulted him on two other occasions. The complainant testified that these occasions occurred in the same place and at some time before the event described during the summer of 2006. The only apparent variation on these occasions was that the complainant was not asked to perform oral sex on appellant.” (NO. 14-09-00828-CR, pg. 3).
Moreover, another level to be thought-about is that Mala-Nina maintained and continues to take care of her innocence with no specific request for forgiveness to the allegations caused by the accuser. Nevertheless, in courtroom paperwork entitled “Motion In Limine”, it might appear as though (although this isn’t confirmed) that the courtroom attempted to use a sworn assertion by the Defendant (Mala-Nina) of a separate occasion to be able to suggest guilt. In United States regulation, a Motion of Limine takes place when an try and exclude a sworn statement is made away from the jury. In the case of Mala-Nina, it will appear as though the testimony in question came from an interview during which Mala-Nina made a press release that reads as such within the Movement In Limine:
“[…] Defendant (currently 21 years of age) and Complainant (currently 10 years of age) were in a public pool when Complainant was younger, Defendant noticed that the Complainant (NOT THE DEFENDANT) had an erection while playing in the pool. As described by Defendant, it was the Complainant who inadvertently came into contact with the Defendant in the pool while Complainant had an erection.” (“Motion In Limine, 3). The court document goes on to state (in paraphrase) that the State of Texas tried to use this as an admission of touching the child inappropriately, but argues, “[…] which is a complete misrepresentation of what Defendant said.]” The same document (and on the same page) goes on to state one other occasion during which the Mala-Nina was present within the toilet whereas the child was showering, but that nothing of any sexual nature passed off and that this info was not an request for forgiveness. It goes forth to say, “Most importantly, Complainant has affirmatively stated to the Children’s Protective Services interviewers (two separate interviews were recorded with Complainant), and has always stated, to the knowledge and belief of undersigned Counsel based on what has been provided to Counsel through discovery, that Defendant had not engaged in any other alleged sexual molestation.”
As per Mala-Nina’s official statement following the reemergence of this story on Friday last, Mala-Nina was a babysitter of the kid in question. If the kid was aged 6, 7, or 8 as alleged by stated youngster on the time of these allegations, it might not seem unreasonable that both of the aforementioned incidents occurred without sexual foundations, and calls into query why the State would elect to have this testimony be thought-about — especially so if it have been to be used as an request for forgiveness. Of all of these details nevertheless, there’s one doc that raises more questions than all of the others, which may be found in a document within the file examined by Lessard and Lupton.
The doc is titled “AFFIDAVIT OF NON-PROSECUTION” and is dated to have been filed on 14 September 2009. In the document, which has been transcribed under (a photo of this doc has additionally been included), the kid who accused Mala-Nina of the alleged sexual assault claims that he would really like all costs towards the Defendant dropped and that no additional prosecution take place. Sadly, in a case reminiscent of this where the State is now in opposition of the Defendant, the regulation doesn’t require that the State drop fees at the request of the Plaintiff (the child). The doc reads as transcribed:
“BEFORE ME, the undersigned authority, appeared [accuser’s name redacted] who being duly sworn, said:
I am a witness in legal Case Number No. 1169980 within the State of Texas vs. ALBERT ALFONZO GARZA [Mala-Nina], wherein the defendant is charged with the offense of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Baby Beneath 14.
It is my personal want that the defendant not be further prosecuted for the offense and that the case presently pending towards the defendant be dismissed. I do not wish to testify towards the defendant as a witness, though I am conscious that I could be compelled to take action if subpoenaed by the State.
I’ve not been compelled, threatened, or coerced to sign this affidavit in any method. Nor have I been provided any bribe or improper inducement as a benefit or reward for signing this affidavit. My action in signing this affidavit is knowingly, voluntarily, and freely undertaken on my half.”
The above affidavit is not to be confused with a retraction of the original testimony of the Plaintiff. It does nevertheless, beg the query, “Why?” After the trial had gone on as long as it had, and before the jury had reached a choice on 18 September 2009, why would the child out of the blue have a change of heart concerning the proceedings of the case? It is probably not a blatant admission of Mala-Nina’s innocence, however definitely it is well worth the consideration that the case — or quite, the handlings of the case — weren’t correctly aligned with the occasions that befell.
Other details must be thought-about when reporting on this trial, as nicely. The first of which being that during an interview, Mala-Nina (who then recognized as a homosexual man) was questioned concerning the nature of her sexual orientation, at which era she said that she was a gay man. It’s said in web page six of the Movement In Limine that, “The interviewer then elicited a great deal of details from the Defendant about the origins, history, and development of his sexual preference.” It was the assumption of the Defense then (and stays to be so now) that after discovering Mala-Nina’s sexual identification, the State might have taken prejudice upon the Defendant and the case as an entire, which is why this concern is brought up within the Motion In Limine. The Protection — as a way to depart no room for prejudices based mostly on sexuality — needed this testimony thrown out. In a case like Mala-Nina’s, which was presided over by Decide Mary Lou Keel — a registered Republican and member of the GOP — this Movement In Limine is particularly necessary, as Republicans have a less than constructive history with LGBTQIA issues and stand for “traditional family values”.
One other noteworthy piece of data goes back to the jury itself. Whereas reviewing a document titled “General Orders of the Court” dated 18 September 2009, it is found that the jury was, “[…] deadlocked.” It additional went on to state, “State requested an Allen Charge and the Defense objected. Court grants the State’s request.” In layman’s terms, an Allen Cost is an order set forth when a jury is deadlocked and can’t reach a verdict. The standard use of this is to have the minority of the jury reconsider their stance on the pending verdict as to stop a hung jury. Additionally it is value noting that Allen Expenses have been rejected and prohibited in twenty-two states across the U.S., Texas not being certainly one of them (see the case of Early v. Packer, 537 US 3 that describes California’s rejection of Allen Expenses). When the jury did return later, nevertheless, that they had come to a unanimous choice that the Mala-Nina was responsible, though they prompt that a ten-year sentence be probated fairly than served in jail. This last detail could also be indicative that, though the decision lastly turned unanimous, there was nonetheless room for doubt as as to if or not Mala-Nina was really responsible.
With all these information in mind — albeit, probably too many to absorb all of sudden — questions nonetheless loom as to the reality about what — if anything — occurred between Mala-Nina and the accuser. While the Courtroom found Mala-Nina responsible, she has since been assembly with an lawyer to additional evaluate her options and maintains her innocence within the case. We can’t predict what is going to come of these efforts, however we will state that the small print outlined within the above article are a matter of public document and are capable of be obtained and reviewed by any citizen and encourage anybody with more questions to do so. Because it stands now (and as mentioned initially of the article) former Drag Queen Story Time administrators Trent Lira and Devin Will launched a public statement in Houstonia Magazine the place they announced that they might be stepping away from this system, and explained their determination to do so. This morning, the Houston Chronicle reported that regardless of this, the City of Houston had initiated plans to renew this system in the future, probably as early because the summer time of this yr. The story of Tatiana Mala-Nina and of Drag Queen Story Time is ongoing. About Magazine will proceed to offer all the particulars as they come to mild and unfold.
Both KHOU Channel 11 Houston and MassResistance have been reached out to for remark. Neither responded to About Magazine’s outreach.