U.S. court intervenes in Barlow gay rape case in American Samoa.
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — James Barlow, a 72-year-old gay U.S. citizen currently imprisoned in American Samoa, is battling with the U.S. territory’s High Court over a 24-year prison sentence allegedly spearheaded by “a fanatic prosecutor [with] a homophobic vendetta.”
While his case is unique (and disturbing), its recent development could pave the way to force the island territory to finally recognize the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage, a ruling that American Samoa has ignored. (Read more on this aspect of the case in Saturday's samoanews.com)
In 2012, Barlow was jailed under felony charges of sexually engaging two underage teen boys after he and three boys were caught under the influence of alcohol in a car together. Court records show that the boys initially told their lawyers that no sexual interaction ever occurred between Barlow and them.
However, Barlow’s lawyer, Bentley Adams III, says American Samoan Assistant Attorney General Terrie J. Hartman Bullinger coerced confessions from the boys in closed-door interrogations in her office where she allegedly threatened to jail them for drinking alcohol and revoke their immigrant parents’ work visas unless they accused Barlow. During these unrecorded interviews, neither the boys’ parents nor their attorneys were present.
Barlow says that Bullinger was motivated by anti-gay animus because she “thought I had turned her son gay when he was age 19 and rented a room in my apartment.”
Since being in prison, Barlow says he has been assaulted more than 17 times, causing the breakage of half of his teeth. One time, he was assaulted by a weapon-wielding convicted murderer causing a brain aneurysm, broken bones, damaged hearing and PTSD. Barlow also says the jails do not provide soap, toilet paper, or bedding and are filthy with broken plumbing, leaking roofs, rat and insect infestations, and pig slop served as food that causes food poisoning.
Now that his local remedies have been exhausted, Barlow and his attorney filed for his case to be reviewed by a U.S. court. Normally, Barlow would’ve had to file suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior to get his case heard by a U.S. court. But by establishing commercial links between American Samoa and Hawaii — the nearest U.S. state where the American Samoan judicial system does most of its business — Barlow and his attorney argued that the Hawaiian court made sense as the nearest venue for a habeas corpus hearing (that is, a hearing that would explicitly lay out on what grounds Barlow had been charged, rather than concealing them as they believe the American Samoan court did).
A U.S. District Court in Hawaii recently granted them that hearing, basically asserting that the current system in American Samoa isn’t serving Barlow’s constitutional rights. This is a big deal seeing as in the past America Samoa has been able to ignore constitutional and federal laws at their discretion, the publication claims.