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Judge Says Young Killer Got Light Sentence Because Victims Were Homosexuals

December 16, 1988 GMT

DALLAS (AP) _ A judge says he sentenced an 18-year-old killer to 30 years in prison instead of the maximum life term partly because the two men he shot to death were homosexuals.

″These two guys that got killed wouldn’t have been killed if they hadn’t been cruising the streets picking up teen-age boys,″ District Judge Jack Hampton told the Dallas Times Herald in an interview published today.

″I don’t much care for queers cruising the streets picking up teen-age boys,″ Hampton said Thursday. ″I’ve got a teen-age boy.″

Richard Lee Bednarski, a Richland College student at the time of his conviction Nov. 19, was found guilty of murder in the May 15 slayings of Tommy Lee Trimble, 34, and Lloyd Griffin, 27.

Hampton said he rejected a prosecution request to sentence Bednarski to life imprisonment because, in his opinion, Bednarski’s victims were not entirely blameless.

The sentence would have been much stiffer, Hampton said, had the victims been ″a couple of housewives out shopping, not hurting anybody.″

″These homosexuals, by running around on weekends picking up teen-age boys, they’re asking for trouble,″ Hampton said. ″They really are.″

The judge’s statements provoked outrage from Dallas Gay Alliance President William Waybourn and surprise from Griffin’s father, Don.

″The judge is saying that queers are not worthy of legal protections and you can go out and shoot them any time,″ Waybourn said Thursday. ″Unfortunately, Dallas County will reward him with re-election.

″God help any other victim that gets into his court that was also at the wrong place at the wrong time.″

″I thought Hampton was a fairer man than that,″ said Don Griffin, a city councilman in the West Texas town of Sterling City. ″I always thought that a human life was a human life no matter what.″

Robert Flowers, executive director of the state Commission on Judicial Conduct, said Hampton’s reasoning in deciding on Bednarski’s sentence probably fell within the bounds of reasonable judicial discretion.

″I can’t right off think of any part of the code that might violate,″ Flowers said. ″It is his discretion.″

Testimony in Bednarski’s trial indicated that he and a group of North Mesquite High School students drove to Dallas’ Oak Lawn area to harass homosexuals the night of May 15.

Testimony indicated that Bednarski persuaded another youth to join him in a plan to rob Trimble and Griffin, who had invited the boys into their car. The four drove to Reverchon Park and walked to a hilltop clearing.

The other youth testified that Bednarski immediately pulled a pistol and ordered the men to take off their clothes.

When they refused, he said, Bednarski began shooting. Trimble died immediately of wounds in the face, neck and back. Griffin, who was also shot three times, died five days later at Parkland Memorial Hospital.

Witnesses said Bednarski bragged that he stuck the gun in Trimble’s mouth before shooting him.

Defense lawyer Kevin Clancy asked a jury to decide Bednarski’s guilt, but asked that Hampton set the punishment because he believed the judge would be more sympathetic. Clancy asked for the minimum sentence of five years.

Prosecutor David Pickett argued that the killings warranted a life sentence.

″In my opinion, a human being is a human being and the execution slaying of a human being deserves the maximum punishment,″ Pickett told the jury.

The judge said Thursday that in sentencing Bednarski he took into account the defendant’s lack of a criminal record, his attendance of college classes and his being raised in a good home by a father who is a police officer in nearby Euless.

Hampton expressed no reservations about expressing his views.

″Just spell my name right,″ he said. ″If it makes anybody mad, they’ll forget it by 1990,″ when he is up for re-election.