Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Gay man charged in Santa Rosa church arson to get mental health treatment

Yovan David Ayon in a photo posted to his Facebook page in 2014.

Yovan David Ayon in a photo posted to his Facebook page in 2014.

A gay man who allegedly set several small fires at a Santa Rosa church has been referred to the state’s hospital system for mental health treatment.

Yovan David Ayon, 34, was arrested in August on arson and probation violation charges. Family members say he’d been struggling with methamphetamine addiction.

Police said in a news release that at about 3:35 p.m. August 11, Santa Rosa firefighters responded to a report of a fire inside St. Rose of Lima Church, 398 10th Street, and found four separate fires burning in or around an altar.

“The fires were small and quickly extinguished,” police said. “No structural damage occurred as a result of the fire, but several decorative altarpieces were destroyed.”

On August 12, police following up on a lead conducted a probation search of a home near the church and contacted Ayon.

“Evidence related to the arson was located inside the residence and Ayon was transported to the Santa Rosa Police Department for further questioning,” police said. “Further research into Ayon’s background revealed he is currently on four different counts of probation stemming from arrests and convictions for possession of narcotics and assault and battery.”

He was eventually arrested and booked into Sonoma County Jail on suspicion of felony arson and violation of probation.

In an interview this week, Brian Staebell, Sonoma County’s chief deputy district attorney, said that at a hearing September 9, Ayon, who hadn’t entered a plea, was found to be mentally incompetent and criminal proceedings were suspended.

On September 23, Ayon was sent to the California Department of State Hospitals “to attempt to restore him to competency,” Staebell said. Generally, defendants in felony cases under similar circumstances go to Napa State Hospital, Staebell said.

Deputy Public Defender Karen Thompson, who represented Ayon, didn’t respond to an interview request.

‘… He wasn’t quite himself’

Ayon’s cousin Carlos Godinez, 32, of Torrance, California, said he didn’t know anything about Ayon’s arson case.

“We come in and out of contact with him, because he has a serious methamphetamine problem,” Godinez, who confirmed Ayon is gay, said. “I’m assuming he wasn’t quite himself” when he allegedly set the fires.

Godinez, who last saw Ayon in January, said his cousin had been “a wonderful person.”

“He would make friends with anybody,” Godinez said. “He was the life of the party.”

Ayon moved to Santa Rosa around two years ago “to try to kick the habit,” Godinez said. Ayon’s mother lives in the city, which is about an hour north of San Francisco, “and she tried to help him out by keeping him away from the bad crowd he was in.”

Godinez said he never saw Ayon using meth but “sometimes I would see the substance around” when he’d visit.

“He wasn’t ashamed to hide it anymore,” he said. “It was out in the open.”

Before last Friday’s hearing, another cousin, Monica Godinez, 29, of Long Beach, California, said, “He’s gone from his mind already. … I don’t know how to bring him back.” However, she said, “I really do hope they give him some good mental health treatment.”

“Yovan was a go-getter” and “really smart,” she said. “He had a lot going on for him at one point.”

She never saw her cousin use meth, but “the family talks. The family really does communicate with each other.”

She added, “You could see when he was on it. … The law time I saw him he got into a real religious state. He thought he was connecting with the universe.”

Godinez thought the fires at the church weren’t “to harm anyone. In his head, he was probably doing a ritual or something.”

Staebell said that in the hospital, “They would hold him there for up to three years.”

If Ayon’s competency is restored, his case will return to court and criminal proceedings will be reinstated.

Citing laws on patient confidentiality, Ralph Montano, a spokesman for the state hospitals agency, said he couldn’t comment on any patient’s status or acknowledge whether that person “has ever been a patient in a state hospital.”

Reverend Denis O’Sullivan, St. Rose’s pastor, who didn’t know Ayon, said that based on what police told him, “I’m believing it’s the mental illness and whatever drugs he might have been on, as well, rather than any hate crime against the church.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 30, 2016 @ 7:23 pm PST
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Redwood City man accused of orally copulating teen boy

Gustabo Rodriguez (Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff's office)

Gustabo Rodriguez (Photo: San Mateo County Sheriff’s office)

A Redwood City man accused of orally copulating a teenage boy was set to appear in court Friday (September 30) for a pretrial conference.

Gustabo Rodriguez, 22, of Redwood City, was working at Sequoia High School as a part-time teacher’s aid when he initiated a relationship with the victim, a 15-year-old student at the school, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said in a summary.

On four occasions, Wagstaffe said, Rodriguez orally copulated the boy in Rodriguez’s bedroom.

“The defendant also videotaped himself shaving the victim’s pubic hair and did this without the victim’s knowledge or consent,” Wagstaffe said.

Rodriguez knew the boy was only 15, the DA said.

Someone anonymously emailed the video to the school’s vice principal, who on July 29 notified Redwood City police. After an investigation, police arrested Rodriguez, who’s being held in Redwood City’s Maquire Correctional Facility on $300,000 bail.

The case summary says his arraignment was September 15. He’s charged with four felony counts of oral copulation of someone under 16.

The person “who sent the video to the vice principal remains unknown,” according to Wagstaffe.

In an email to the Bay Area Reporter, Steve Chase, Rodriguez’s attorney, said he couldn’t discuss details of the case, but it’s “very likely” there will be a plea bargain. Wagstaffe said that prosecutors plan to revoke their offer if it’s not taken by October 20, but he didn’t say what the offer was.

“The young man who is the complaining witness in this case was like a younger brother to Gustabo, and the boy’s mother, like a mother to Gustabo as well,” Chase said. “This case demonstrates how our justice system’s approach to punishment in ‘sex’ cases is Draconian and not tailored to deal with individuals.”

Chase called Rodriguez “a delightful young man.”

“He is intelligent and caring, and has been very cooperative with law enforcement in this case,” he said. “There isn’t even a touch of evil in his soul.”

As the result of the likely plea bargain, Rodriguez would probably “spend a short term in prison,” Chase said.

However, he’s hoping Rodriguez won’t be sentenced to prison “as Gustabo is small in stature, and could be subject to abuse by the bigger inmates.  He doesn’t deserve that.  He also shouldn’t, in my opinion, be sent to prison.”

The case is set for jury trial October 31.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 3:57 pm PST
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UPDATED: SF lesbian supervisor candidate earns backing of Equality California

Kimberly Alvarenga, left, greets a voter while out campaigning. Photo courtesy Alvarenga's campaign.

Kimberly Alvarenga, left, greets a voter while out campaigning. Photo courtesy Alvarenga’s campaign.

Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, has endorsed Kimberly Alvarenga, a lesbian seeking the District 11 supervisor seat in San Francisco.

Alvarenga learned of the support from EQCA’s political action committee Wednesday, the same day she and her supporters were able to block her opponent, Ahsha Safai, from securing the San Francisco Democratic Party’s endorsement for a second time.

As noted in a front page story in Thursday’s Bay Area Reporter, it has been 16 years since a lesbian has served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Several candidates have vied for a seat over the ensuing years, but none has been successful post 2000 when board seats reverted back to being elected by district.

Alvarenga is aiming to end that drought of lesbian leadership in the city – it has been eight years since a lesbian candidate has been elected to any political office in San Francisco – by succeeding District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, who is termed out of office and has endorsed her bid.

She and her wife, Linnette Haynes, have been together 17 years and live in the city’s Crocker-Amazon neighborhood, where they are raising their 4-year-old son, Oziah.

“I am just overjoyed to be getting support from basically the largest advocacy organization for our LGBT community,” said Alvarenga, 47, the political director of Service Employees International Union Local 1021. “In light of the fact we are losing so many queer people to other places, I feel blessed today to have their support.”

EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur told the B.A.R. that the organization sees Alvarenga as part of a farm team of local politicians it is trying to elect this fall that can go on and run for statewide or legislative seats in the future.

“Kimberly obviously fits into that. She is experienced and has a deep understanding of our issues” said Zbur, pointing to her prior work with gay former state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. “We think she will be a really strong elected official.”

(The organization publicly announced its endorsement of Alvarenga this afternoon, Friday, September 30, several hours after the B.A.R. broke the news on its blog.)

This is the second high-profile race in San Francisco that EQCA has taken sides in this political season. It not only has endorsed gay District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener’s bid for state Senate, but its PAC has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on attack ads against his straight opponent, District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim.

Her campaign has repeatedly attacked EQCA and Wiener for the ads, claiming the PAC has been using money from real estate interests and others to pay for the ads. In response, as the B.A.R. first reported back in May, EQCA and Wiener’s campaign have said it should come as no surprise that it is working to elect the gay candidate in the race.

EQCA has made Wiener’s election a top priority, since San Francisco would be without any out lawmakers in its state delegation since 1996 if Kim wins.

That same consideration played out in the decision to endorse Alvarenga, said Zbur, as there is the possibility of seeing no LGBT people on the board depending how several races turn out in November.

“Another thing that guided this endorsement is we do believe it is important that the LGBT community have a seat at the table,” he said. “Having someone who can speak from personal experience and authenticity is important in advancing LGBT civil rights and social justice.”

EQCA will be donating $500, the total it can, to Alvarenga’s campaign. And it will be using its PAC funds to send out a mailer on her behalf to its members in San Francisco and to voters in the district. She can greatly benefit from the PAC’s largess, as she was not endorsed by the local Democratic Party, and therefore, cannot tap into its financial resources.

She and her supporters were able to block Safai from having the party’s support a second time at Wednesday night’s Democratic County Central Committee. His supporters had the oversight body for the local Democratic Party vote a second time on endorsing Safai but they fell short.

District 11 supervisor candidate Ahsha Safai. Photo courtesy Safai's campaign.

District 11 supervisor candidate Ahsha Safai. Photo courtesy Safai’s campaign.

“Thank you to the more than 70 community leaders, labor allies and elected officials that helped us stand against big money and the real estate industry last night! I am truly inspired by your commitment to San Francisco’s working people,” Alvarenga posted on her campaign’s Facebook page following the vote.

This morning Safai announced that he had secured the sole endorsement of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 – “the union that brought San Francisco the great labor leaders – Harry Bridges and LeRoy King,” he wrote in an email to supporters. “They join over 20 local unions who support my campaign for Supervisor. I am so honored to have such strong support from my brothers and sisters in labor.”

Safai, 43, lost to Avalos in 2008 for the District 11 seat, which includes the city’s southern neighborhoods of the Excelsior, Ingleside, Oceanview, Outer Mission, and Crocker-Amazon. A first generation American of Iranian descent, Safai was born in Iran and, at the age of 5, moved with his mother to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

After graduating from Northeastern University in 2000, he and his wife, Yadira, who was born in San Francisco, moved to the city. They live in the Excelsior with their two children.

Considered the more moderate candidate, Safai worked for former mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom and has been the political director for San Francisco Janitors Union Local 87 since 2008.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 11:10 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Honda introduces ‘Don’t Block LGBTQ Act’ to ensure access to information

Congressman Mike Honda

Congressman Mike Honda

Congressman Mike Honda (D-Campbell) has introduced the Don’t Block LGBTQ Act, which would ensure LGBTQ resources aren’t blocked at public schools and libraries, his office announced Thursday (September 29).

Currently, public schools and libraries that get internet service subsidies through the e-Rate program have to filter content so that obscene content, child pornography, and “content harmful to minors” is blocked, according to Honda’s office. However, individual schools and libraries “can block useful LGBT resources that are not sexually explicit in any way,” the announcement says.

Honda’s bill would ensure the Federal Communications Commission protects useful LGBTQ resources without modifying other filters.

“As we approach LGBTQ History Month,” which is in October, “the contributions of LGBTQ people should be accessible to everyone at public schools and public libraries,” Honda, who has a transgender granddaughter, stated. “We have seen how filters can block students and adults from useful resources. Whether a gay man is learning how to come out or a transgender woman is finding trans-specific health care, the publicly funded Internet access should remain open to everyone in the LGBTQ community.”

More than 50 groups are supporting the legislation, including the Human Rights Campaign and The LGBT Technology Partnership and Institute, Honda’s office said.

“We are proud and excited at the opportunity to work with Rep. Mike Honda’s office on the Don’t Block LGBTQ Act of 2016, a continuation of an effort underway for years now to better understand those vital, lifesaving resources being blocked by filters in public schools and libraries,” stated Christopher Wood, executive director of the LGBT Technology Partnership and Institute. “Congressman Honda has a lot of leadership on issues that impact the LGBTQ community as demonstrated by his launch of the Transgender Equality Task Force. The LGBTQ community deserves equal access to resources specific to our community’s needs, especially in public schools and libraries. The last thing troubled LGBT youth need to feel is alone, bullied and/or without support or the ability to gain access to those lifesaving resources.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 29, 2016 @ 5:06 pm PST
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Brown signs gender-neutral bathroom bill

Assemblyman Phil Ting

Assemblyman Phil Ting

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Thursday (September 29) that requires single-stall restrooms throughout California to be gender neutral.

Assembly Bill 1732, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), makes it so that all single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency needs to be identified as all-gender toilet facilities beginning March 1, 2017. Such bathrooms would be for only one occupant at a time unless used by parents or guardians with small children and people with disabilities who require assistance.

“California is charting a new course for equality,” Ting said in a news release Thursday. “Restricting access to single-user restrooms by gender defies common sense and disproportionately burdens the LGBT community, women, and parents or caretakers of dependents of the opposite gender. Bathroom access is a biological need. This law will ensure more safety, fairness, and convenience access for everyone.”

The statewide LGBT lobbying group was one of the bills co-sponsors. In a news release, Rick Zbur, EQCA’s executive director, said, “North Carolina finds itself increasingly isolated, with its economy losing up to billions of dollars in cancelled conferences, sports events and concerts. Meanwhile, California has, with a minimum of controversy, moved in a different direction. We now have a policy that gives everyone greater privacy and safety in public restrooms. It, and not hateful laws in North Carolina, Mississippi and elsewhere, should be the model for the nation.” (Brown recently signed into law a bill banning taxpayer-funded travel to states with anti-LGBT laws, such as North Carolina. Additionally, Bruce Springsteen and other performers have cancelled concerns there, and the NCAA and other organizations have cancelled events in the state.)

A similar gender-neutral bathroom law was unanimously passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in April.

Testifying on behalf of the state bill before an Assembly committee this spring, transgender San Francisco resident Jordan Gwendolyn Davis said she wished it included the same provision as San Francisco’s law that calls for all new or renovated public buildings to include gender neutral bathrooms.

“As a transgender woman I often have to fear using gender-based restrooms,” she said. “It is especially true for transgender women of color. We are frequently murdered for being ourselves.”

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on this story in the Thursday, October 6 edition.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 2:39 pm PST
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Shot fired in Noe Street robbery attempt

The 200 block of Noe Street. (Photo: Google)

The 200 block of Noe Street. (Photo: Google)

A suspect fired his gun into the air Monday morning after trying to rob a man in San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle neighborhood as the man walked to work.

The September 26 incident started at about 9 a.m in the 200 block of Noe Street, near 15th Street. The suspect approached the victim and tried to take his briefcase, police said.

When the victim, 61, refused to let go of the case, the suspect produced a handgun and fired a shot into the air. The suspect, whom police described only as a black male in his 20s, then fled in a vehicle.

The victim wasn’t injured.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 28, 2016 @ 2:11 pm PST
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Diaz set to be released again

David Diaz at a January 2015 court appearance. Photo: Rick Gerharter

David Diaz at a January 2015 court appearance. Photo: Rick Gerharter

David Munoz Diaz, the man convicted of accidentally choking to death a sex partner in 2011 and then arrested again last year for allegedly starting fires in the Castro district, is set to be released from jail Monday (September 26) on the most recent charges.

Diaz, who’s 27, was sentenced Monday to serve a year of mandatory supervision. He’ll have to register as an arsonist for life, wear an ankle monitor for at least the first six months of his supervision, and receive counseling.

He’s also been ordered to stay away from 4082 through 4086 18th Street, the building where the Mix bar and his apartment are located. Diaz had been accused of setting fire to the Up Hair hair salon, which is located above the Mix.

Deputy Public Defender Alex Lilien, Diaz’s attorney, said he doesn’t know where exactly Diaz will be living.

Diaz had originally pleaded not guilty to felony counts of arson of an inhabited structure, arson of property, and possession of an incendiary device. He’s been in custody on the charges since January 2015.

During his 2014 trial in the Buena Vista Park case, Diaz testified about how he fatally choked Freddy Canul-Arguello, 23, in June 2011. He said it was an accident that occurred after Canul-Arguello asked to be choked during a sexual encounter.

He also said he set fire to a cup in a recycling bin but said he did it to signal for help. The melted bin was found with Canul-Arguello’s heavily charred body.

Jurors acquitted Diaz of second-degree murder but convicted him of involuntary manslaughter, arson, mutilating human remains, and destroying evidence. He was released in September 2014 after spending more than three years in custody. Superior Court Judge Donald Sullivan dismissed the arson count.

Larry Metzger, who owns the Mix and is Diaz’s longtime partner, was in court Monday but declined to comment.

Asked about community concerns about his client being released from custody again, Lilien said, “This is a negotiated disposition that hopefully addresses David’s needs and the concerns of the community.”

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The Bay Area Reporter will have more on this story in the September 29 edition of the paper.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 26, 2016 @ 2:51 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

South Africa bans anti-gay US pastor

Anti-gay U.S. pastor Steven Anderson and his entourage won’t be allowed to enter South Africa for the church’s “Soul-Winning Marathon” in Johannesburg Sunday, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced this week.

(Anti-gay Arizona-based pastor Steven Anderson had planned visit to South Africa. Photo: Courtesy Facebook)

(Anti-gay Arizona-based pastor Steven Anderson had planned visit to South Africa. Photo: Courtesy Facebook)

“Steven Anderson and members/associates of his church are prohibited from entering the Republic of South Africa. I have identified Anderson and associates as undesirable persons. Undesirable persons are barred from traveling to South Africa,” said Gigaba in a Tuesday, September 13 release.

“We have a duty to prevent harm and hatred in all forms against LGBTI, as any other person in a democratic state,” he added. “We would never encourage any individual to come from their own country to promote such backward and savage views in our country, particularly under religious pretexts; because religious people should be more active in promoting tolerance.”

Anderson was in the news in June for celebrating the massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida that left 49 people dead. He reportedly told congregants at his Arizona-based Faithful Word Baptist Church that there are now “50 less pedophiles in this world.”

In 2014, Anderson called for LGBT people to be executed.

The Sacramento native, who now resides in and operates his church in Tempe, Arizona didn’t respond to the Bay Area Reporter‘s request for comment.

Gigaba made his decision based on a dossier, petition, and a section of the country’s Immigration Act in its constitution.

All Out and Gay SA Radio headed up the petition campaign supported by OUT LGBT Well-being and Forum for the Empowerment of Women. Representatives of the organizations submitted a petition signed by more than 60,000 people from around the world earlier this month.

The section of the immigration law allows South African authorities to deny entry to any foreigner who is a “member of or adherent to an association or organization advocating the practice racial hatred or social violence.”

Hendrik Baird, station manager of Gay SA Radio, and Matt Beard, executive director of All Out, praised Gigaba’s decision,

“Yesterday was a shining moment in the history of this country,” Baird wrote to the B.A.R.

“Hate, disguised in whatever form, is unacceptable and name calling and insults by foreign individuals and groups with hidden agendas will not be tolerated,” said Baird, a 53-year-old gay man. “The minister’s decision … was indeed the right one.”

“We are proud of the minister for standing up for the rights of LGBTI, women and other minority groups, which are the targets of Anderson and his hate group,” he added.

Baird said Gigaba’s decision spawned an outpouring of gratitude from South African LGBTs and supporters.

“We have been flooded with emotional responses from countless South Africans from all walks of life,” he added. “People were saying they were crying when the minister announced his decision, while others have been celebrating the strong message that the minister’s decision sent to the world.”

– reported by Heather Cassell

— Cynthia Laird, September 15, 2016 @ 11:26 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

BAR photo too hot for web platform

(Too hot for web platform: Tierra Del Sol dancers perform at Oakland Pride. Photo: Rick Gerharter)

(Too hot for web platform: Tierra Del Sol dancers perform at Oakland Pride. Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Readers who view the Bay Area Reporter on will find something missing – the paper’s front page photo of men dancing on stage at last weekend’s Oakland Pride has been deemed to controversial for the site and was censored.

[Updated: 9/19/16: The block was lifted on the paper’s site Monday. An spokesman attributed the incident to a “more stringent flagging system.”]

In an email received Thursday, September 15, said the photo had been flagged because it did not meet the site’s Community and Safe Modes guidelines and would be excluded.

The photo shows dancers from Tierra Del Sol performing on the Latin stage at the Oakland Pride festival, held Sunday, September 11.

“Really?” asked surprised B.A.R. publisher Mike Yamashita when he heard the news. “It’s a photo of men in underwear on a public stage in broad daylight at a Pride celebration.”

Carlos Uribe, Oakland Pride spokesman, said that between 46,000 and 48,000 people attended last Sunday’s parade and festival, held in the city’s Uptown neighborhood.

The paper filed a complaint with but did not immediately receive a response.

Issuu Inc. is an electronic publishing platform for newspapers and other print media. It allows viewers to see the paper’s pages as .pdfs for free.

To see the front page photo, go to or Bay Area residents can pick up a copy of the paper and various bars, businesses, and other locations.

— Cynthia Laird, @ 10:10 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

SF LGBT center director describes attack on building


Damage at San Francisco’s LGBT Community Center (Photo: Advocate)

Someone with a pipe broke windows and a glass door at San Francisco’s LGBT Community Center in August while “shouting homophobic slurs,” Executive Director Rebecca Rolfe said Tuesday in a piece published in the Advocate magazine.

The person, whose name Rolfe didn’t provide, “was quickly caught, and the incident is being investigated as a hate crime,” she said in an email blast.

“This attack is a stark reminder of the pervasiveness of violence in the LGBT community – even in progressive places like San Francisco – and why we must continue to work to help prevent it, especially around violence fueled by homophobia and transphobia,” Rolfe said.

She described the $6,000 bill to repair damages as “a hefty and painful price tag, particularly because it takes money away from vital services supporting LGBTQ youth,” and other needs.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, September 7, 2016 @ 4:49 pm PST
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