January 13, 2011 at 5:34 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. man sentenced to jail for trans assault

A District man was sentenced to 14 months in prison today after pleading guilty to assaulting two transgender women at the corner of 14th and Shepherd Streets, N.W. in March 2010.

Superior Court Judge Robert Morin sentenced Dimas Melgar, 45, to the 14-month prison term plus three years of supervised release upon completion of the jail term and a $100 fine. The sentence came three months after Melgar pleaded guilty to a felony charge of assault with significant bodily injury.

The U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement that Melgar approached the two victims on the street at noon on March 13, 2010 and “yelled that he hates all gay people.”

According to the statement, as he verbally harassed them, “Melgar picked up a metal pole and swung it at one of the victims, striking her on the face.” The statement says the victim suffered a facial cut and laceration.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said Melgar had been indicted last year on one count of assault with a dangerous weapon, which was classified as a hate crime; and two counts of threats against the victims. Miller said the U.S. Attorney’s office agreed to drop those and at least one other charge as part of a plea bargain arrangement in which Melgar pleaded guilty to the single count of assault with significant bodily injury.

Miller said he could not comment on why the other charges were dropped, saying details of plea bargain agreements aren’t publicly disclosed.

Sources familiar with the U.S. Attorney’s office have said in the past that prosecutors offer plea bargains in cases like this one, among other reasons, because they result in a guaranteed conviction and jail term. The alternative, sources have said, involves a jury trial where the outcome is never certain, especially in a gay or transgender related case where the defense could appeal to juror prejudices.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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