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NM Hate Crime Faked?
by NewsPlanet Staff

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The masked assailant who leaped out of the closet to cut Miranda Prather on
the face and leg as part of a hate campaign against lesbians and gays in
Portales, New Mexico was none other than...Miranda Prather herself, according to Portales police who arrested her July 23. She was charged with on one count of filing a false report and seven counts of harassment, worth a total of eight years in prison if she's convicted. Prather's name had led a hit list of eight names which appeared on some posters purportedly from an anti-gay hate group called "The Fist of God," posters which promised to kill one named person
each week. Although the other names are being kept out of the media, all eight are graduate students and faculty in the English Department of Eastern New Mexico University.

Prather described her assailant to police as being her own size and build,
dressing like her, and looking like her, save for her hairstyle, according to
Police Captain Lonnie Berry; at least the composite sketch developed by police from her description looked just like her to them. Detectives also recognized her in surveillance videos from an off-campus laundromat where the flyers had
appeared July 20, posting them after making sure no one was watching. As
arresting officers led her off to jail, she called out to reporters, "I know
the main suspect. I got coerced into doing some things I shouldn't have
done."

On July 21, Prather had reported to police being grabbed inside her own home
by two masked assailants who wrapped a rope around her neck. Although the
rope burns and cuts she said resulted from the attack were described as
"superficial," the slash on her cheek was three inches long. Later the two
assailants in her story became one, a woman she said she knew. But when
police investigated neighbors and others around her apartment at the time of
the alleged attack, none of them were aware of anyone being there.

"Fist of God" flyers were first found posted in the campus' liberal arts
building on the night of July 14. A total of a dozen people were named in the various items, including the eight specified on the "hit list" and groups of six men and six women appearing on posters reading "Dike [sic] Couples Polluting Our World" and "Queer Couples Polluting Our World." A number of people associated with the University had received letters containing death threats. The flyers and posters, containing numerous misspellings, made statements such as, "The Fist of God -- A Group Dedicated to Killing the
Queer Threat," and "In Florida They Kill Each Other. We're Not So Lucky. But We
Can Do Something." The one with the hit list said, "The Fist of God -- Take
Us Seriously Or We'll Begin Executing One Queer A Week Following This
List...that's only the FIRST 2 Months...CHANGE or DIE!"

The letters, flyers and posters had succeeded in creating terror among those
named. Before police decided that Prather had been responsible for her own
attack, they had attempted to enlist the assistance of the FBI. The FBI declined to engage the case because, although the Department of Justice is mandated to intervene in hate situations involving race and religion, there is no such mandate for intervening to stop homophobic threats. The first time the Department had ever investigated homophobic terrorism was that against the founders of Camp Sisterspirit in Ovett, Mississippi.

Posted July 24, 1997

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