Gay Rights Leader Charged in Rape

The following is from the Columbus Dispatch, February 14, 1991.
by Bruce Cadwallader, Dispatch police reporter

The president of a gay rights organization was charged yesterday with the rape of a homosexual date.

Russell A. Stalk, 32, was elected president of the Stonewall Union in September. The homosexual advocacy organization recently received federal and local grants to fight anti-gay violence.

Columbus police arrested Stalk of 1224 Summit St. in an adult bookstore he manages on Harrisburg Pike. A Newark, Ohio, man said that on Feb. 5 he was bound with a necktie and raped repeatedly by Stalk, police reported.

Stalk was held in the Franklin County jail pending a court hearing today.

Police detectives said the case is rare because it involves two men, but it is being treated like any other "date rape" case. Detectives said they were seeking information on a 1979 case in Lima, Ohio, in which Stalk pleaded guilty to raping a 12-year-old boy. Stalk said the boy was a teen prostitute, police said.

Ohio prison records say Stalk served four years of a 6- to 25-year sentence for the rape. He was released from parole in November 1985.

In October, Stalk and his lover applied for a marriage license. Franklin County Probate Judge Richard B. Metcalf refused to grant it. He said Ohio law prohibits the legal marriage of people of the same sex.

More recently, Stalk criticized news media coverage of gay issues and helped his organization receive $12,000 in federal and local grants to aid gay crime victims and increase public awareness of bias crime. An Ohio Department of Health official said yesterday the grants will be honored because they were issued to Stonewall Union.

Rhonda Rivera, a professor of law at The Ohio State University and former Stonewall president was shocked to learn of the rape charge. She hoped it would not cast a bad light on the agency's work.

"It's going to come as a gruesome shock to them (Stonewall board members), and they are going to be appalled," Rivera said. "The gay community is appalled by any kind of violence, and certainly rape is one of the most heinous crimes I can think of."

Holly Featherstone, current Stonewall vice president, declined comment on the charge. She said the board will meet in an emergency session today.

In an interview about the grants last month, Stalk told The Dispatch, "This is something Stonewall Uniion has always worked on ... encouraging people to come forward" with reports of violence.

The 24-year-old man who filed the charge against Stalk told The Dispatch he wanted to do just that, in case others with a similar experience were afraid to report a crime.

"If I don't say something, I have to carry it all my life and secondly, he gets away with it," the man said. "I never in my wildest nightmares imagined he'd do what he did."

The official charge against Stalk is that he forced the man to perform oral sex. THe victim said the attack was much more.

The victim said he has known he is gay since he was 13. A friend suggested he go to the Columbus Eagle Bar at 232 N. 3rd St. to meet new friends. He said it was his first time at such a bar.

A man who identified himself as Stalk approached him and began making conversation and, the victim said, tried to gain his confidence because of his affiliation with Stonewall. They had several drinks.

THe victim said he agreed to go to Stalk's house but only to talk.

Once there, Stalk made him put on a tie and then choked him with it, bound his hands with another tie, poured hair-styling gel into him and commited sexual acts, the victim said.

THe victim said his face was burned with a chemical snuff and that he was forced into a bathtub, was doused with barbecue sauce and sexually assaulted again.

Later, Stalk told him to shower and drove him back to his car, the victim said. He said he returned to Newark and later sought medical attention.

A police detective persuaded him to report the incident.

From the February 15, 1991 Columbus Dispatch
Rape Suspect Resigns Post in Gay Group
by Mary Stephens, Dispatch staff reporter

Russell A. Stalk, 32, accused of rapist, [sic] resigned yesterday as president and a board member of Stonewall Union, a gay advocacy group, the new president said last night.

Stalk was elected president of the group in September, replacing Chris Cozad. Cozad said last night the group's board elected her to fill the remainder of Stalk's one-year term.

Stalk is accused of tying up and raping a Newark, Ohio, man. The victim says he met Stalk in a bar Feb. 5.

Judge Guy L. Reece II of Franklin County Municipal Court set Stalk's bail at $75,000 yesterday.

"Obviously, it's quite a shock," said Michael Scarce, vice president of the OSU Gay and Lesbian Alliance. "We in the gay community are targets of violence often enough, and to have it happen in our own community is even more disgusting."

Most gay leaders said they have always known Stalk to be a committed and dependable organizer. They stressed he has not been found guilty of raping the Newark man.

Some, however, said the charge is not as disturbing as the revelation that Stalk pleaded guilty to raping a 12-year-old boy in Lima, Ohio, in 1979 and served four years in prison.

"That is the most unnerving thing," said Rhonda Rivera, an Ohio State University law professor and a past president of Stonewall Union.

Past and present leaders of Stonewall Union met last night to decide how to respond to the rape accusation.

Background checks are not routine for Stonewall Union members who, like Stalk, begin as volunteers and work their way up to leadership positions. Rivera said. Only the group's treasurer, who must be bonded, is usually checked she said.

She expressed some doubt about the current charge against Stalk and said she worries that the alleged crime will inflame anti-gay sentiment.

"I'm sure there are people who will seize on this opportunity," she said. "People who don't like gay people will find any excuse to say something bad about them."

Jerry Bunge, a lawyer and chairman of the Gay / Lesbian Rights Project of the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union, said he hopes people will not jump to the conclusion that violent gay rape is common.

He objected to the inclusion of bizarre details about the alleged attack in a Dispatch story. "That's so far beyond what most gay people think of as normal sex," Bunge said. "(Heterosexual) people may assume that's normal gay behavior, and it's not."

Before going to police with his accusation against Stalk, the victim repeatedly asked Stalk for money to pay hospital bills related to the attack, Columbus detective Mike Spencer said yesterday.

The man had first- and second-degree burns on his face from a liquid chemical some homosexuals use as an aphrodisiac, Spencer said.

Stalk promised to give the man some money but never did, Spencer said the man told him.

Stalk has called for greater awareness of hate crimes against gays. Stonewall Union recently received $12,000 in federal and local money to address the problem.

Cozad said a coordinator has been hired for the anti-violence program, and a 24-hour hot line for victims is to be set up soon.

The grant money also is for self-defense and rape prevention classes that begin next week she said.

The following is from the February 16, Columbus Dispatch.
Gay Leader Says Group to Continue
President accused of rape resigns, new leader named
by Robert Albrecht, Dispatch staff reporter

"We are still a functioning healthy organization and intend to go on with business as usual," Chris Cozad said of Stonewall Union after resuming duties as its president yesterday.

The advocacy group for homosexuals lost Russell A. Stalk, 32, as its president Thursday night when he resigned, a day after being arrested on a rape charge.

A 24-year-old man from Newark, Ohio, has accused Stalk of raping him Feb. 5 after they met in a bar on N. 3rd Street. Stalk remained in the Franklin County jail in lieu of a $75,000 surety bond.

Evidence in the case is being considered by a grand jury, a worker in the Municipal Court clerk's office said yesterday.

Stalk resigned voluntarily, Rhonda Rivera, a former president of the group, said at a news conference.

Cozad said Stalk made no requests for legal assistance. Stonewall Union is not equipped to offer that kind of support, she noted.

Cozad was Stalk's immediate predecessor in the Stonewall presidency. He was elected head of the group, with 700 dues-paying members, in September.

"Stonewall Union does not condone criminal activity," Cozad said in a prepared statement. "We hope sensationalism will not obscure the presumption of Mr. Stalk's innocence or jeopardize his right to a fair trial."

Douglas Whaley, another former Stonewall Union president, said, "We hope we can persuade the Columbus community that this is an aberration and not business as usual."

The charge comes at a time when the gay community is calling for help in quelling violence against homosexuals.

A case in which both the victim and the alleged assailant are homosexual plays to the beliefs of the wrong people, according to Stonewall leaders.

"This is every homophobe's dream," Whaley said.

Ohio prison records indicate Stalk served time in prison after pleading guilty in 1979 to raping a 12-year-old boy.

"The organization had absolutely no knowledge," of Stalk's criminal record, Rivera said.

"Women Against Rape supports Stonewall Union," members of that group said in a news release yesterday. "The recent developments and charges against Russell Stalk do not change that in any way," spokeswomen for the group said.

Go Back to Shy David's Sexual Assault Page.