Board candidate’s campaign worker leaves anti-gay death threat on voicemail
By André Coleman 03/03/2011
A teenage volunteer with Pasadena Board of Education candidate Sean Baggett’s campaign could be charged with committing a hate crime for allegedly leaving a message interpreted as a death threat against a gay couple living in Northwest Pasadena, authorities and one of the victims told the Weekly.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Feb. 7, Stephen Lipira received a phone call in which the caller left a message identifying himself as someone working for Sean “Faggot” and asking for his vote. The caller later said that he knew where Lipira’s home was located and that he would “blow it up,” before ending the call by saying “I will kill you,” according to Lipira and Pasadena police officials.
Police tracked the call to Soledad Enrichment Academy, a continuation school in Highland Park. There a minor confessed to making the call. Because of the suspect’s age, Pasadena detectives would not release his name.
Baggett, who is running in Tuesday’s election for Seat 6 on the board, was using volunteers at the school in Highland Park to make campaign calls to local residents from lists obtained from the county.
“I’ve had hundreds of student volunteers on my campaigns since I started. One of the students that did phone banking made a crank call,” Baggett explained. “It’s unfortunate and my apologies that those phone calls were made.”
Baggett, who works as a physical education teacher and a track coach at Caltech, said he had not spoken to the student or Lipira since the incident occurred.
“I just know what the police have told me,” Baggett told the Weekly.
Lipira described the phone call as “scary” and said it still sends chills up his spine.
“I was sitting at my computer waiting for a TV show to come on at 5 p.m.,” Lipira recalled. “When the phone rang and I saw the name on the caller ID I thought it was a marketing call and I let it go. I didn’t expect a message with a young person identifying me by name. It got scary especially when he said Sean Faggot and then said that they knew my house and I will kill you.”
Lipira, who emailed a copy of the recording to this reporter, said the suspect in the case told detectives that he did not know the couple and that it was a prank call. Since the incident, Lipira has been fighting with the county to have his name removed from lists that candidates buy for campaigning, but so far he’s had no luck doing that.
“They told us it is public record and no one could do anything about it,” Lipira said. “We played phone pranks when we were that age, and we realize it is a young person with a troubled past. We hope they let him know what they did was pretty serious. He probably has enough other issues he is dealing with and needs more discipline than punishment.”
On Feb. 22, detectives recommended that the juvenile be charged with making a criminal threat. Because epithets were used in the phone calls disparaging homosexuals, the charge could also carry a hate crime charge, which would add time to any possible sentence if the teen is convicted. Baggett has not accused of committing any crimes, according to Pasadena Police Cmdr. Darryl Qualls.