Rudy T's Spin Move
If videotapes can reveal whether or not a person is intoxicated, then Rudy Tomjanovich may well have been as sober as a Baptist minister on Sunday morning when he was arrested for drunk driving in West University Place last month.
That certainly was the impression Rusty Hardin, Tomjanovich's attorney, wanted to convey when he invited several reporters to his office last week to view the tapes a WUP officer made of the Rockets coach on the night of his arrest. Indeed, Tomjanovich -- and his Jeep Cherokee -- appear steady throughout as he drives down Buffalo Speedway and later as he refuses to take a Breathalyzer test at the WUP police station. Probably the most interesting revelation of the videos was that being in the custody of the police had an effect on Tomjanovich not unlike that of a close Rockets game: he occasionally shifted his weight from one leg to the other, ran his hands back through his hair, folded his arms and jammed his hands in his khaki shorts -- all classic Tomjanovich sideline moves.
Hardin said he was screening the videos to put to rest the notion that Tomjanovich was afforded any special treatment after his arrest.
"There's not a prosecutor in the world who would have taken that case," declared Hardin, himself the former first assistant to Harris County District Attorney Johnny Holmes. It was Holmes who signed off on a subordinate's decision to drop the case after reviewing the evidence, saying at the time that it would have been special treatment if Tomjanovich had been prosecuted. However, in most DWI cases it usually takes at least seven days before a defendant makes a court appearance. Rudy T's case was disposed of in two.
And unfortunately for Tomjanovich, his own lawyer's words were worth a thousand video pictures when it came to the question of special treatment. When asked how many other people are able to make similar arrangements to have their cases expedited through the judicial system, Hardin replied: "It's not unusual for public officials or celebrities to try to dispose of their cases very quickly."
In other words, there's no such thing as special treatment, only special people.
Rick Hurt would have been the envy of many a New Orleans belle. Wearing a blond wig, red dress with black polka dots, black pumps and a black, French Quarter-style straw hat with a large, black feather, Hurt hiked up his skirt to show off his pink bloomers while explaining what he was doing at Fuzzy's -- a downtown bar frequented by police officers -- last Saturday night. Hurt was one of about a dozen gay men and women who invaded the cop hangout in response to several recent raids on gay clubs by vice officers -- raids gay activists have interpreted as harassment of the homosexual community by Houston police.
Hurt was among some 15 people who were arrested July 16 during a vice raid of the Triangle Bar and Grill on the Southwest Freeway at Weslayan. Hurt, who works for a telegram service -- sometimes as a fairy, sometimes as a Bette Midler impersonator, he explains -- says he was wearing men's clothing when he arrived at the gay bar that night.
"I'm a flamer," says Hurt, as if that fact weren't obvious. "I flamed in around 11:30 and ordered a cocktail. I cruised once around the bar and then sat down at a table and read a bar guide magazine.
"Pretty soon, out of the corner of my eye, I saw this guy come up, and he said, 'You're under arrest.' I thought he was a stripper and he said, 'No, I'm HPD vice and you're P.I. [public intoxication]. The way you were acting you must be drunk.' And I said to him, 'Girlfriend, I always act this way.'"
Hurt was taken to central police headquarters downtown to be booked for the misdemeanor. After he arrived, Hurt says, he asked to be given a field sobriety test, a Breathalyzer or a blood test.
"I told them I wanted everything Rudy T refused, and they told me that this wasn't West U," says Hurt, referring to the incident three days earlier when Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich was arrested by a West University Place police officer for drunken driving and then refused to submit to tests to determine whether he was intoxicated.
After he pressed his demand that he be given a sobriety test, Hurt says, one officer finally told him to recite the alphabet backwards.
"I couldn't do that," Hurt admits. "But I did start counting backwards from 100. I got to 80 before they told me to shut up." Hurt would spend 22 hours and 45 minutes in police custody before finally posting a $250 bond. He plans to contest the charge of public intoxication.
The evening at Fuzzy's, located on Milam near the Pierce Elevated, was organized by long-time gay activist Ray Hill. Sitting at a table beneath an American flag and a bullet-riddled HPD patrol car door that's suspended from the ceiling, and near a larger-than-life photo-poster of Oliver North, Hill and the other gay men and women with him did little to draw attention to themselves, aside from occasionally kissing. Mostly what they did was considerably increase the volume of business the bar did on an otherwise slow Saturday night. At times, when a cop or someone who looked like a cop walked into Fuzzy's, Hurt would raise a homemade sign with the alphabet written on it backwards and mockingly, barely out of earshot, ask the newcomer if he knew his alphabet. But for the most part, Fuzzy's regulars seemed oblivious to the contingency of gay interlopers.
Hill says the group went to police bar to emphasize a couple of points. "First of all, anybody can invade anybody's bar," he says, "and tonight we demonstrated that we understand how to behave better than they do. More importantly, there's no need for this quarrel. Most of us are law-abiding citizens. We need the police for protection. They need us to help them do their job. We're just trying to live together."
Hill says the alleged harassment of gays through bar raids -- as well as the alleged wearing of ski masks by some uniformed officers during arrests in the Montrose area -- stems from a lack of direction in the police department. As an example, he points to the absence of a permanent captain over HPD's central patrol, which covers Montrose.
"Somebody needs to be in charge," says Hill. "Vice forgets how well we can organize in a crisis. And this is not over. We will push the cases through the courts and through internal affairs. This is not 1959 and we ain't going back."
Both Police Chief Sam Nuchia and assistant chief Art Contreras, who oversees the vice division, have indicated that the gay community's complaints are being investigated. Anise Parker, a lesbian and member of the Citizen Advisory Committee on police matters, has given the two officials a three-page list of complaints about raids on the Triangle and Q T's Nite Club on Westheimer, as well as complaints about random arrests in Montrose. Parker says the scope of the bar raids -- including checking the driver's licenses of all the patrons -- went much further than similar raids for liquor violations at straight bars.
"It's not the entire police department," says Parker. "I think it's just a couple of cowboys who are getting out of hand. I am quite confident that once it's pointed out to Chief Nuchia and the rest of the command staff that it will taken care of. It's like a big corporation and the CEO doesn't know what the guys in the mailroom are doing. And this level of vice officers is guys in the mailroom."
Meanwhile, female impersonator Hurt says he just doesn't get it.
"They banned us from drinking in the parks," Hurt points out. "Hell, I was in a licensed bar and they arrested me.
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