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Matthew Shepard Truthers Say Hate Crime Laws Were Built On a Lie.

New Details Emerge in Matthew Shepard Murder
Nov. 26, 2004

Six years ago, on a cold October night on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyo., 21-year-old gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead. He was found 18 hours later and rushed to the hospital, where he lingered on the edge of death for nearly five days before succumbing to his injuries.

The story garnered national attention when the attack was characterized as a hate crime. But Shepard's killers, in their first interview since their convictions, tell "20/20's" Elizabeth Vargas that money and drugs motivated their actions that night, not hatred of gays.

While Shepard lay unconscious in a hospital, the national press quickly arrived in Laramie. Cal Rerucha, who prosecuted the case, told Vargas the media descended on Laramie "like locusts."

"We knew in the newsroom the day it happened, this is going to be a huge story, this is going to attract international interest," said Jason Marsden of "The Casper Star-Tribune."

"I remember one of my fellow reporters saying, 'this kid is going to be the new poster child for gay rights," he added. News of Shepard's death sparked reaction overseas and demonstrations across America.

This week, almost 15 years to the day since Matthew Shepard was killed and strung up on a fence in Wyoming, a book claiming to provide the true story of Shepard's death will be released — a book that blames drugs, not homophobia, as the reason Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson killed him.

The book in question is The Book of Matt, by Stephen Jimenez, who postulates that one of Shepard's murderers had gay sex, possibly with Shepard, and that this is more proof that Shepard wasn't killed because he was gay. Jimenez mentions a letter he found while going through unsealed court documents. "It mentioned at first both Aaron and Russell, but as the letter went on it spoke more about Aaron, mentioning that he really did like having sex with gay guys, that he wasn't unfamiliar with homosexuality and the gay world," Jimenez told Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. Because McKinney was allegedly OK with having sex with men, Jimenez believes this gives credence to McKinney and Henderson's assertion that Shepard was killed because both men were coming down from crystal meth. (Never mind the idea that being homophobic, engaging in gay sex, and being a meth user aren't mutually exclusive, and it's possible that someone could be all three.)

That narrative goes against everything we've been told and possibly what we know about Matthew Shepard. Take Jimenez's theory a step further, and you could make the argument that hate crime legislation — President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law in 2009 — has been built on deceit.

What we're left with are questions about who to trust and what story to believe. Jimenez's narrative could be slanted. Jimenez is gay, which some believe makes his story more truthful, in that he would naturally be more sympathetic to Shepard. The counterpoint to that is that Jimenez is friends with an attorney named Tim Newcomb, (left-leaning) Media Matters points out. Newcomb represented Shepard's killer, Russell Henderson. And Jimenez has spoken about whether or not Henderson and McKinney deserved equal sentences.

The Hate Racket Responds: Chrissy Lee Polis and Matthew Shepard

Conservatives love Jimenez's narrative of the Shepard story. Last week, Breitbart News contributor Ben Shapiro wrote a column(which spelled Jimenez's name wrong in every instance) for the conservative-leaning Town Hall website connecting Shepard's murder to Trayvon Martin. Shapiro does not mention Jimenez's connection to Newcomb, and accepts Jimenez's narrative as fact. One of the qualifiers that Shapiro uses as a gauge to whether or not this narrative is true is that Andrew Sullivan, a gay blogger who sometimes hates New York and roots for Obama, approves of Jimenez's book. Shapiro writes: 
Were the left to openly contend that gay men and women around America are in danger every day from the vastly homophobic majority of the American populace, most Americans would rightly be insulted and skeptical. Were the left to suggest that most Americans are vicious racists a hairsbreadth away from murdering black teenagers, most Americans would scoff. Instead, the left trots out cases like Shepard and cases like Trayvon -- and manufactures those cases to fit their needs.


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