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Principal Pleads Not Guilty to Hate Crimes Against Gays

Courts: Administrator is accused of harassing his lesbian neighbors.

July 25, 2002|ANDREA PERERA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The principal of a San Fernando Valley vocational center pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he committed hate crimes against his gay neighbors earlier this year.

Donald R. Gaskin, who has been on administrative leave from the North Valley Occupational Center in Mission Hills since his arrest in May, was represented in Municipal Court in Newhall on Wednesday by attorney Pat Harris. Harris denied accusations that Gaskin had harassed a lesbian couple by stealing their sprinklers and mail.

Gaskin, who is free on $100,000 bail, faces 10 misdemeanor charges, including civil rights violations, petty theft and vandalism for incidents that allegedly occurred between January and May in the Santa Clarita neighborhood of Princess Park.

If convicted, he could face up to one year in jail.

Before entering Gaskin's plea, Harris submitted a motion to drop the six hate crime counts, citing insufficient evidence.

But Assistant Dist. Atty. Scott Millington said that since Gaskin allegedly has a history of making disparaging comments about his neighbors' sexual orientation, "the bias motivation is a substantial factor in the facts of the trial."

Judge Floyd V. Baxter decided there was sufficient information about possible hate crimes to present the case to a jury.

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