Ten months after he finished parole for violently assaulting a gay man in Austin, the University of Texas hired graduate student Darren Gay as a teaching assistant, putting him in charge of supervising undergraduates and helping to grade them.
Gay’s younger brother, Glen Gay, who took part in the attack in 2004, also worked with students for several years at UT, where he was apparently a volunteer research assistant.
UT officials say that federal laws protecting confidential student information forbid them from explaining publicly how two of the four people charged with taking part in a high-profile hate crime in Austin ended up working at the university and assisting students there.
But last February, shortly after UT officials were asked about his criminal background, an online directory listing that showed Darren Gay was a teacher’s assistant for a biochemistry class was removed.
While declining to comment about Darren Gay’s employment, UT spokesman Gary Susswein said that since 2011, the university has conducted criminal background checks on all employees, including student employees: “We rely on the accuracy of the information provided by law enforcement agencies during a criminal background check. If we ever learn that a hiring decision was based on incomplete or inaccurate information, we investigate immediately and take appropriate action, which may include taking instructors out of the classroom.”
Volunteer research assistants such as Glen Gay aren’t subject to background checks, Susswein said: “These volunteers generally have no supervisory roles in the classroom. They are not university employees.”
A Google search on either Darren Gay or Glen Gay would have turned up information about the attack.
According to an arrest affidavit, the victim was beaten by Darren Gay, the then-16-year-old Glen Gay, and two other assailants the night of July 17, 2004. They tied the man up with a vacuum cord, punched and kicked him, poked him with swords and sexually assaulted him, the affidavit says.
The victim spoke at Darren Gay’s sentencing hearing, saying that Gay quoted an excerpt from the book of Leviticus to him the night of the attack, and told him: “tonight we are passing judgment on you for being a faggot and a queer.”
Darren Gay was a UT undergraduate at the time of the assault, which Austin police designated as a hate crime, though prosecutors did not pursue it as a hate crime. Darren Gay was mentioned by name on the floor of the U.S. Senate as Sen. Gordon Smith, R- Ore., spoke in support of the Local Law Enhancement Act of 2005, legislation nicknamed the “hate crime bill.”
The assailants had picked up the victim at the downtown Austin nightclub Oilcan Harry’s, police said, and asked the man if he wanted to go party with them. The victim later invited the group to his apartment, where the attack occurred, the arrest affidavit says.
In his statement to police, the victim said his attackers referred to themselves as “Aryan Nazis.”
After the attack, the victim went to the apartment of a neighbor who took him to the hospital, where he was treated for wounds all over his body.
Glen Gay testified in juvenile court that he “didn’t do anything” as he was convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping. The judge told him she was astonished by his lack of remorse as she handed down his sentence of seven years in March 2005.
Darren Gay pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced in October 2005 to six years in prison. He served more than three years, and the rest on parole, finishing in late 2011.
While at UT, Darren and Glen Gay worked together on a paper that was published in Plasmid, a science journal that specializes in genetics research.
It is unclear how much Darren Gay was paid for his work at UT, where he was hired in August 2012. Records show that compensation for research and teaching assistants varies widely — $17,000 to $64,000 a year, depending on hours and a number of other factors.
Susswein said that although UT’s policies don’t forbid hiring people with prior arrests, job candidates with felony convictions for violent crimes, sex crimes and drug crimes get extra scrutiny. Anyone who has been convicted of or served prison time for those crimes within the past seven years is “generally not allowed to work at UT,” he said.
“Hiring departments are permitted to request an exemption to this rule, which can only be granted by senior university leadership in rare cases if they determine the hiring would not compromise campus safety. Monitoring programs are put in place in those cases,” Susswein said.
Darla Gay, a senior planner for the District Attorney’s Office who is no relation to Darren and Glen Gay, facilitates a hate crimes task force that looks at offender re-entry and rehabilitation after prison.
Informing supervisors of an employee’s criminal background and helping them craft a strategy to manage the employee are a few of the steps that businesses can take to mitigate any risk to co-workers or the public, she said.
She acknowledged it would be difficult to monitor someone with a history of hate crimes against gay people, or to detect bias in the way they deal with students or grade papers.
Susswein said that in the rare cases when UT hires a candidate with a felony record for drugs, sex or violent crime, the employee is closely monitored, and “we may place certain restrictions on an employee, such as a prohibition on working directly with students.”
Darren Gay sat down for an interview for this story, but declined to comment on the record. His lawyer didn’t respond to emails or return phone calls.
Glen Gay couldn’t be reached for comment.
Contact Courtney Norris on Twitter at @courtneyknorris