February 13, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
New partnership to combat hate crimes
Vince Gray, Democratic Party, Washington D.C., District of Columbia, Anacostia, JaParker Deoni Jones, gay news, Washington Blade, transgender

Mayor Vincent Gray is encouraging local LGBT residents to submit impact statements in hate crime cases. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced earlier this month that his Office of GLBT Affairs will encourage members of the LGBT community to submit community impact statements to judges in cases where criminals are convicted of committing anti-LGBT hate crimes.

In what Gray called a partnership between the GLBT Affairs Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the mayor said the GLBT Affairs Office would help prosecutors line up LGBT people to submit community impact statements. Court observers say such statements submitted by people sympathetic to crime victims often prompt judges to hand down more stringent sentences.

A statement released by the mayor’s office said the GLBT Affairs Office, headed by Sterling Washington, would also consider on a case-by-case basis whether to recruit LGBT people to submit community impact statements for cases that have not been designated officially as hate crimes but that involve crimes against LGBT people.

LGBT activists have complained that the U.S. Attorney’s Office often does not designate as hate crimes cases that activists believe should be so classified. One such case was the murder one year ago of transgender woman Deoni Jones. Jones’ parents and friends said at a one-year anniversary vigil commemorating Jones’ death two weeks ago that the U.S. Attorney’s office was remiss in not listing the murder as a hate crime.

Gray, who attended the vigil, said he planned to ask the city’s Attorney General to discuss the matter with the U.S. Attorney’s office. Gray used the occasion of the vigil to announce his plans for the partnership between the GLBT Affairs Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is deeply committed to prosecuting hate crimes against members of the LGBT community,” said U.S. Attorney spokesperson William Miller in a statement. “Community impact statements are an important tool for informing judges at sentencing about the effects of a crime that go beyond the direct victim,” he said.

Miller added, “We are pleased that the Office of GLBT Affairs has offered to solicit community impact statements in appropriate cases and look forward to working with them to ensure that the LGBT community is heard at sentencing in hate crime cases.”

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

1 Comment
  • “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is deeply committed to prosecuting hate crimes against members of the LGBT community,” said U.S. Attorney spokesperson William Miller in a statement. “Community impact statements are an important tool for informing judges at sentencing about the effects of a crime that go beyond the direct victim,” he said.
    ********************
    This is a fine initiative between USAO and GLBTAO. And it will help secure tougher sentencing– which is on the BACK end of the criminal justice ‘conveyor belt’– if you will. But it is simply a fact that what one ‘knows’ is the motive for a crime may be very different than what one can prove– beyond a reasonable doubt– in a court of law.

    The mayor and GLBTAO should be more honest in stating that reality of our justice system. That reality, however, makes community impact statements all the more important when a hate/bias motive can not reasonably be prosecuted, but some permitted evidence of hate/bias can still inform a judge’s sentencing. I don’t think our major problem is with USAO.

    However, we do need far greater scrutiny of MPD and the reasons behind Chief Lanier’s stonewalling rhetoric and non-cooperation stance against Human Rights Watch for its report of MPD mistreatment of rape and sexual assault victims in DC when those crimes are reported to MPD.

    We should be far more concerned about the failure of the mayor to effectively address– or even express concern for rape and sexual assault victims intimidated, insulted and ignored by his MPD’s mistreatment when those rape and sex assault victims reported the crimes to MPD.

    That’s an outrage. And it’s an outrage Mayor Gray hasn’t spoken out about it.

    According to last month’s Human Rights Watch report, MPD intimidation and mistreatment occurred in about a third of cases HRW investigated.

    I’m guessing HRW would have found similar discriminatory results by MPD had they studied anti-LGBT hate crimes as well.

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