D.C. police Sunday night charged a gay man with a gay-related hate crime following an altercation with a panhandler on the sidewalk outside the 17th Street, N.W. gay bar JR’s.
The United States Attorney’s office dropped the hate crime designation the next day at an arraignment in D.C. Superior Court for Kevin “Jaden” Perry, 35, who says he’s a member of the local group called Radical Faeries.
But based on a police account of what happened, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office charged him with assault, possession of a prohibited weapon (a chain), and threats to do bodily harm to the panhandler. A judge released him on his own recognizance while he awaits a possible trial.
Perry and two friends who were with him dispute the allegations, saying the panhandler started the incident by calling Perry a faggot and raising his fists near Perry’s face when Perry refused the man’s request for money.
“I never assaulted the guy,” Perry told the Blade at the courthouse after his arraignment. “I called him out for calling me a faggot,” he said. “I was on 17th Street on a gay street and I just wasn’t going to take that.”
A police report filed in court, based on accounts by the panhandler and an unidentified witness, quotes Perry as calling the panhandler a “faggot” at the time Perry allegedly assaulted him.
“I will kill you. You’re a faggot,” the report quotes Perry as saying. “I’m a real faggot, bitch. You don’t want to fuck with a real faggot, bitch. I will fucking kill you.”
When asked about the police report, Perry said he never threatened to kill the panhandler and never physically assaulted him. He said he used the word faggot in the form of a question after the panhandler hurled that word at him.
“What I said was, ‘faggot? I’ll show you a faggot. I’ll whup your ass if you hit me,’” Perry told the Blade. “I never threatened to kill anybody.”
Perry continued, “Had he not thrown the first punch I would have walked away because honestly at that time I just wanted to go the McDonald’s and go … home.
“And he had to throw a punch and that’s when I lost it because I don’t take that shit,” he said. “I refuse to be victimized. You know, if you act like a victim you’re going to be treated like a victim.”
Roy Alexander, one of two friends who were with Perry at the time of the incident, backed up Perry’s version of what happened. He said that while Perry did call the panhandler names as the two “cussed at each other,” he never heard Perry threaten to harm the man.
“I was right there,” Alexander said. “The police talked to me. I told them what happened … The fact that I’m not even mentioned in the police report says something.”
“There’s been a lot of gay bashings in this city, and we seem to get attacked because we come across as weak,” Alexander said. “And now when someone stands up for himself he gets accused of a crime. This is just insane.”
D.C. police initially charged Perry with a bias-related assault with a dangerous weapon (a chain); felony threats; and simple assault after the panhandler and a witness told police Perry attempted to strike the panhandler with a chain he pulled from his pocket and punched the man in the back.
The report says Second District Police Officer La Vida Ellerbe, who is an affiliate member of the police’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit, was on the scene and played a role in listing the incident as a hate crime.
The police report says the panhandler and the witness reported that Perry swung his chain at the panhandler and missed hitting him. An attempt to hit someone is considered an assault even if the attempt fails under criminal assault laws.
According to the police report, the panhandler and the witness said the chain fell out of Perry’s hand and landed on the ground and the panhandler picked it up and started to run away. It says Perry chased after the man. It says the panhandler reported Perry punched him in the upper back with a closed fist. The witness reported seeing Perry “throw a punch” toward the panhandler’s back, the police report says.
Perry denies he swung the chain at the panhandler, saying he swung it in the air in a circular motion as a warning that he would use it to defend himself if the panhandler attacked him. Perry said the panhandler swung the chain in the same circular motion but leaned forward toward him when the panhandler picked up the chain after Perry dropped it.
Perry said that in the heat of the moment, after the panhandler raised his fists like a boxer, he may have lunged at the man with his fist “but I never actually made contact.”
When told of the police report’s contents, Alexander said he never saw Perry wield the chain as if to attempt to strike the panhandler. He said he did not hear Perry threaten to assault or kill the panhandler as stated in the report.
At the courthouse, Perry said he feared that the panhandler was about to hit him because he raised his fists and moved toward him as if he were going to assault him.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released by a judge, who agreed to a request by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Perez that Perry be prohibited from returning to the 1500 block of 17th Street., N.W., where JR.’s is located, until the case is resolved. Perry is scheduled to return to court for a hearing on Feb. 14.
William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said he couldn’t immediately determine why prosecutors didn’t classify the charges against Perry as a hate crime. He said that similar to all cases at the arraignment stage, prosecutors could file additional charges at a later date if new information surfaces to warrant such charges.
“These are the initial charges,” he said.
The police report describes Perry’s chain as being between two and three feet long and of “medium gauge.”
In an interview at the courthouse following his arraignment, Perry said the chain was part of the leather-oriented clothes he wore on the night of the incident. He wore the same clothes upon his release at the courthouse: a black leather jacket and military camouflage pants.
Despite his appearance, Perry said he regularly performs in drag and had been involved, before moving to D.C. from San Francisco last year, in a group called the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. The group consists of men dressed as nuns who perform satirical skits to poke fun at the Catholic Church’s position on homosexuality and gay rights.
He said he had planned to form a Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence group in D.C. but said his arrest this week, which he believes was unjustified, plus his inability to find a job in D.C., has prompted him to decide to move to Baltimore.