Crimes of Hate
Photo by Ted Soqui
It's been nearly six months since attackers beat voiceover artist Trev Broudy with a wooden baseball bat outside his West Hollywood apartment. The beating put him in a coma for 10 days, spurred vigils, an $85,000 reward and calls for swift justice. Within weeks, three men were arrested and charged with assault, attempted robbery and conspiracy.
Broudy is gay, but Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley refused to charge the assailants with a hate crime, a stance that spurred protests from West Hollywood civic leaders, the Sheriff's Department and L.A. Mayor James Hahn. They argued that the attackers had intentionally traveled to West Hollywood, a mecca for gays, and that Broudy was beaten just after hugging a male companion, who was also attacked. Cooley would not bend, insisting that Larry Walker, 29, Torwin Sessions, 19, and Vincent Dotson, 19, were motivated not by hatred of their victims' sexual orientation but by the desire to rob them. Though nothing was taken, Cooley said that Broudy had nothing on him of monetary value and that his companion escaped before he could be robbed. Charging the beating as a hate crime would have added two years to the maximum 19-year sentence.
However, during testimony at a preliminary hearing in January, Cooley added a charge of aggravated mayhem, upping the maximum sentence to life in prison with parole. Earlier this month, all three men pleaded innocent. A spokeswoman in Cooley's office said a trial date will likely be set at a March 6 pretrial conference.
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Broudy, who is 34, continues down the long, slow road to recovery. On a recent afternoon at his West Hollywood apartment, he spoke with the Weekly's SARA CATANIA about his life now.
L.A. WEEKLY: What's the last thing you remember before the attack?
TREV BROUDY: The last thing I remember was having dinner with my dad and his wife on Labor Day. I was feeling tired and I left. The next thing I remember I woke up in the hospital, and I didn't know what was going on. My dad was there and he said, "Trev, something really terrible happened." And I said, "What do you mean?" And I remember feeling really panicked, even though I was pretty out of it.
Do you think it was a hate crime?
Definitely. No doubt in my mind.
Does it bother you that the D.A. disagrees?
Well, I'm not a lawyer, and I think he was just following the rules. Since I can't say anything about the attack because I can't remember anything, the rules say he can't call it a hate crime. I know it was a hate crime and I'm pretty sure Steve Cooley knows it was a hate crime, but he's just following the letter of the law.
Can you describe your injuries?
Well, my skull got bashed in.
What's been done to repair the damage?
I've had two surgeries, and the first did not go well. Before that first surgery, I'm told, I could still remember a lot of what had happened the night of the attack. During the surgery they were putting my skull back together and later on that night I had a stroke, and then I forgot everything. There was a lot of brain damage. They had to cut a piece of my brain out. When I asked the doctor afterwards how much they cut out, he said, "Five to 10 percent." I said, "Of my brain?" He said, "Yes." I just freaked out.
How did the second surgery go?
I'm alive. [Pauses] They didn't think I was going to live. And that's basically all I can say about it, because I really don't have enough information to explain everything.
Will there be more surgeries?
Yes. There will be a third surgery to insert a plate in my head to protect my brain. I have no skull here [reaches up and touches the left back portion of his head]. It's all been removed, so it's really quite dangerous. It's just skin and hair and my brain.
Have you been in any pain?
No. None at all. In fact, when I woke up I was under the impression that everything was going to clear up very quickly and within a week I'd be back doing voiceovers. I didn't find out until later that things were a lot worse than that.
Worse like how?
I didn't know anything, couldn't do anything. I didn't understand what a cell phone was, didn't even know the alphabet. I couldn't tell the time at all. I covered the clock because it was so frustrating because it absolutely made no sense. I couldn't tell the difference between "a" and "3." My father just kept going over and over with me, trying to explain what words were.
Even now, I look at something, like asparagus, and I can't think of the word. I can say it now because it just came to me, but if I look at asparagus, forget it. A lot of times I'll look at a word and have no memory of it at all. I see a word like debilitate and it looks like some foreign entity. My reading skills, I am embarrassed to say, are at the first- or second-grade level.
Are you undergoing any kind of therapy?
I just left one program up in Santa Barbara where they helped me re-learn basic skills like using a telephone and going to the bank. I am now starting a new program, and it's four hours of reading a day. It's very intensive and I'm really excited about it because I need that hope. I try to look for things that might give me some hope, and that's one of them.
I just found out recently that I'm not going to get my sight back, which means I can't go to the movies, and I'll probably never drive again. I was just devastated. And I was thinking, okay, I have to think of something positive, and so I started focusing on this idea of learning to read. I really hope that does work out. I feel like my brain is wanting to get back what it lost. I want that to happen.
What's been the most frustrating thing for you about your recovery?
The most frustrating thing is the sight because I know I'm never going to get it back. When I look at you I see half the picture. It's like if you looked at a circle, one half would be gone. One half is always gone. When I found out that was permanent I was horrified, horrified. It feels like, how are you gonna do anything? That's the most devastating thing.
You're a voiceover artist. Do you take any comfort in the fact that you still have your voice?
I do. That's why I'm so desperate to get back to reading again because before I can really get back into voiceover, I have to learn to read again. That's a challenge. It's extremely slow.
Given what you've been through, you've set some pretty high goals for yourself. Are you being realistic?
All of this is incredibly frustrating, I used to be such a smart guy. I don't even know what the times tables are anymore. Everything was destroyed. Sometimes it's so depressing I think, How the hell am I ever going to get anywhere? Maybe I should move to Costa Rica and drink beer for the rest of my life. Because it's damn hard.
When I think of everything I'm going to have to go through I think, God, that's going to take years to get through all that. How in the hell am I going to do it? I usually close my eyes and fall asleep. I have to be in a sort of denial because it's way too much.
In the beginning I wanted to do everything, and I was going insane because it was way too much. And so I figured, okay, just do one little thing at a time. But even that, sometimes I just feel like, oh, fuck it. I don't want to do anything. I just want somebody to take me away and send me into oblivion.
What do you think should happen to your attackers?
Everybody says, Oh, it's going to be so great. They're gonna get, what's it called, "aggravated mayhem." And oh, that's a wonderful thing. And I'm like, Yeah, it's wonderful, but I'm still in the same situation. And who cares what happens to them?
Obviously I do care, and it would be great if they were locked up for a long time. But it's not going to make me that happy. Even if they only get 10 years, whatever, I'm still in the same situation. It's not going to help me at all. They're just idiots. That's all they are. Just idiots. It's very unfortunate that they had to do what they did to me.
But it's not like now I'm okay because they're going to prison for life. Even if they had money, which they don't, and could give me $5 million, it wouldn't make any difference because I can't read and I can't speak and I can't do all of these things that I used to be able to do. That is what really sucks.
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