KNOXVILLE – A Knoxville Appeals Court ruling that reversed Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner’s revocation of Chad Conyers probation clouds this year’s remembrance of slain local gay activist, Joe Camber.
In a ruling handed down by Appeals Court Judge David H. Welles, the four-year sentence previously rendered in Baumgartner’s court was overturned, allowing Conyers to revert to the original 15-year probation and reinstating his judicial diversion that will allow him to return to his home in Virginia Beach, Virg., without further supervision.
While Virginia fails to recognize out-of-state court orders regarding judicial diversion, Conyers has been ordered to return to Tennessee every six months to fulfill the original terms of his release. However, the end result of these orders appears to allow him to remain free so long as he does not return to Tennessee and commit another crime.
GLBT community members have expressed dismay and outrage following the recent ruling that negates the four-year sentence imposed after Conyers was arrested in Virginia Beach on "peeping tom" charges arising from a sting operation in a local store.
"I saw this on the Channel 10 news the other night. It just infuriates me!" states one gay person who wishes to remain anonymous. "I went to Joseph Cambers funeral. I just cannot believe that someone could ‘murder’ (sic) someone else, and not do any jail time. I firmly believe that his being gay influenced the decision."
Other voices joined the chorus of dismay that spread throughout the community when news of the ruling hit.
"Why the appeals judge ruled that Chad did not violate his probation when his probation order clearly states that the ‘defendant’s probation is conditioned upon his not hereafter violating any of the laws of the city, state, or of the United States or being guilty of any misconduct inconsistent with good citizenship,’ " adds Robbie Arrington, immediate past President of Knoxville Cares, Inc.
Following his death, friends and supporters of Joe Camber planted a dogwood tree in his honor on the grounds of his church in the Sequoyah Hills/Bearden area of Knoxville . It remains there to this day as a silent testament to the love felt by his community for him at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church.
The memorial dogwood was purchased by David Frazier on behalf of Knoxville Cares, Inc. Frazier was previously award "Volunteer of the Year" during the World AIDS Day observance in 2003. He has subsequently passed away. Other donations were received from Keith, Clay Jumper, Jack Moore, Keith Dover, George Duggan, Robbie Arrington, Michael Wilhoit, and other sources.