Boston, MA…..What would you do if your gay younger brother was found dead at the bottom of a cliff 10,000 miles away in Australia, and authorities told you he had killed himself and closed the case? What if, 17 years later, a police investigation lifted the cover on a deadly Australian "sport" popular at the time of your brother's death, known as "poofter bashing"? What if you repeatedly contacted Australian authorities and were ignored? If you were Cambridge resident and entrepreneur Steve Johnson, you'd raise some hell Down Under. Which is exactly what he did. Beginning June 2, 2012, an acclaimed Australian documentary will air for the first time in the United States, chronicling Johnson's quest for justice for his brother and scores of other gay men targeted in hate crimes.
Throughout June, World Channel ( produced and distributed by WGBH, American Public Television and WNET/New York in association with PBS ) will broadcast a film produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's flagship show, Australian Story. The half-hour documentary details Steve Johnson's 25-year quest to find justice for his brother, and is scheduled to air 18 times in every major market in the U.S. beginning in early June. The explosive film forced the New South Wales Police Force, after 23 years of dragging their feet, to open "Strike Force Macnamir" to investigate Scott's death, and to offer a $100,000 reward for information about how Scott died. Police announced the task force and reward the day after the broadcast, which was viewed by one out of every 23 Australians.
Johnson, a Boston technology entrepreneur, never believed his younger brother killed himself. Then, in 2005, he discovered what probably happened to Scott, when a police investigation code-named Operation Taradale uncovered horrifying evidence that young thugs routinely preyed on men at gay meeting places called "beats" around Sydney — and ran some of them off cliffs. When Steve learned this, he asked police to reopen Scott's case, but was rebuffed again.
This time, Steve Johnson was in a position to put his money where his doubts were. A former AOL executive and currently the CEO of ChoiceStream, a Boston-based technology company, Steve hired investigative journalist Daniel Glick to go to Sydney and poke around. Glick, a former Newsweek correspondent, had covered the murder of six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey and knew something about police incompetence and stonewalling.
Over the course of the next few years, "Team Scott" discovered shocking details that police overlooked: the place where Scott died was a "notorious" open-air beat, and a gay man had survived a stabbing a year previously at the exact spot where Scott died. They met other families with loved ones whose mysterious deaths were ruled suicide and "misadventure," and have laid bare dozens of other unsolved murders from that era.
World Channel salutes "Equality for All" ( equality-for-all/ ) during the month of June, beginning with an airing of Scott's story, Australian Story: On the Precipice, on Sunday, June 1, 2014.