Gay man is victimized twice, by killer and state

CRIME SCENES

He died before Md. compensation board could act

partner can't collect

January 17, 2010|By Peter Hermann | peter.hermann@baltsun.com

Glen H. Footman would appear to be the perfect candidate to get a check from Maryland's Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

He was shot in September 2008 while walking hand-in-hand with his longtime partner, Alex Chavarria, on Howard Street in Mount Vernon. Witnesses told police that a young man, previously overheard saying, "I'm going to kill myself a gay tonight," stopped to ask Footman a question or bum a cigarette, and then shot him twice.

Baltimore police classified the shooting as a possible hate crime but have not made any arrests. Footman spent months at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, then at a rehabilitation center, then at home. In July, he returned to Shock Trauma for more surgery, and he died Nov. 9.

Glen H. Footman, a true victim if there ever was one in Baltimore, died too soon to get any money from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

A spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which oversees the panel, told me an investigator had put the application on the docket in early November, but the board wasn't due to vote until a week after Footman died.

And because Footman, 52, had no spouse and no dependents, there is no one for the state to give the money to.

Footman and Chavarria, together for 13 years, could not marry in Maryland. And had they been legally wed in one of the few states that recognizes gay marriage, it is unclear whether Chavarria could receive compensation here. Maryland's attorney general is working on an opinion as to whether this state would recognize unions that are legal elsewhere.

But even that indignity isn't what has Chavarria, who has moved back to his home state of Texas, so upset.

He is angrier with what he calls bureaucratic fumbling by the board, which he says repeatedly delayed dealing with the case because of lost faxes, missed information and poor record-keeping. He said one clerk told him she had misplaced his file and that it had to be redone and resubmitted.

"I am upset and disappointed that this program never helped us and is not organized to work, even for those who do it right from the start," Chavarria said in an e-mail. "Why does the board not recognize that the victims include the family and/or caregivers who are truly the ones supporting everything financially?"

The Assembly created the compensation board in 1968 to help "innocent victims of crime" and it has paid out more than $100 million. No tax money is used; the money is raised through court costs and fees paid by offenders. The board receives about 1,700 claims a year, and it paid out $6.5 million in fiscal 2009.

The money is to help victims or their families defray medical costs not covered by insurance, cover lost wages, get counseling and even wipe away the blood from scenes of violence. Many criminals try to get money out of the board, and each case has to be investigated; having a criminal record does not disqualify applicants - a convicted heroin dealer can later be a legitimate victim of a crime. But the applicant is not paid if the injury was sustained while committing a crime.

The compensation board was set up to help victims like Footman.

And the only help it is now offering his friends and family is up to $5,000 in funeral costs. That money is not restricted to a spouse or dependent, but can go to the person responsible for the burial. It is money the state said Footman's partner has not applied for and it is money Chavarria said he doesn't need nor want.

Chavarria said Footman first applied to the board for compensation on Feb. 7, 2009, (he sent me a copy of his original form dated 2/7/08, explaining that his partner got the year wrong but did send it in February of last year) It typically takes about 180 days to complete a review and vote on a claim, and based on that date, a decision should have been made before Footman died.

But Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the state prison system that oversees the compensation board, said Footman's application was dated April 1. That puts Nov. 9 at just about the 180-day bureaucratic window.

Binetti noted that Footman's case "was well-documented." The spokesman added, "If it had come in three months earlier, it probably would've made it on time."

He said there is no record of having received an application in February, and it's possible that the file could have been misplaced.

Footman grew up in Brewer, Maine, and attended Purdue University in Indiana. He was a licensed drug and alcohol counselor for youths, had master's degrees in business administration and in pastoral theology. He moved to Texas, where he met Chavarria, and counseled inmates at a maximum-security prison.

The couple moved to Baltimore in 2007, but Footman was not licensed in Maryland to work as a counselor. The night he was shot, he had just learned that he had been hired by an insurance company, which would help pay the bills until he could get his counseling certificate. The couple was out celebrating.

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