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    Categories: LocalNews

New partnership to combat hate crimes

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.”