April 4, 2017 at 11:42 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Judge finds probable cause for Casa Ruby attacker
Casa Ruby vandalism, Casa Ruby attacker, gay news, Washington Blade

A judge on Monday ruled that probable cause exists that Andrew J. Cook committed the offense of destruction of property at Casa Ruby last month. (Photo courtesy Casa Ruby)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Monday ruled that probable cause exists that Andrew J. Cook, 20, committed the offense of destruction of property on March 12 when he allegedly smashed the front door at the LGBT community center Casa Ruby and assaulted a transgender employee.

Judge Sean C. Staples issued his probable cause finding at an April 3 preliminary hearing in which information surfaced that Cook was arrested again on March 31 on a charge of assault, just under two weeks after he was arrested on March 13 in connection with the Casa Ruby incident.

His defense attorney, John Carney, said the assault charge in the second case was dropped by prosecutors, who have declined to disclose why they dropped the charge.

In the Casa Ruby case, a police arrest affidavit says Cook threw a brick into the double pane glass section of the Casa Ruby front door two times after shouting anti-transgender slurs and making threats to kill one or more of the transgender women who were at Casa Ruby during the incident.

D.C. police arrested Cook one day later after a transgender woman who witnessed the incident and who said she had dated Cook identified him to police and advised them on where they could find him.

At Monday’s preliminary hearing Metropolitan Police Department Officer Zanobia Hakir, who is a member of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, testified that multiple witnesses identified Cook as the person who damaged the Casa Ruby door.

“Several people were in the Casa Ruby drop in center when this happened,” Hakir said in response to a question by the lead prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bianca Forte.

“Almost everyone in there knew him,” Hakir testified. “They provided photos of him.”

Ruby Corado, Casa Ruby’s founder and executive director, told the Blade at the time the incident occurred that Cook had been a regular visitor to Casa Ruby. She said Cook identified as being straight but had expressed an interest in meeting transgender women.

“They let him hang out there until he got angry,” Hakir testified in response to a question from Cook’s defense attorney, John Carney.

Hakir testified that witnesses told her Cook has a history of being violent toward transgender people. She told the court that according to witnesses, he became enraged after becoming convinced that the trans women at Casa Ruby on the day of the incident “were talking about him.”

The police arrest affidavit quotes witnesses as saying he shouted, “I’ll kill your mother fucking ass! Y’all tranny mother fuckers think somebody won’t fuck you up!”

The affidavit says Cook picked up a bar of soap from a table and threw it at one of the trans women, which struck her in the right shoulder. It says no injury resulted. He then stormed out of the building and one of the witnesses locked the door, the affidavit says.

It was at that time that he picked up a brick and threw it twice into the door, shattering the double paned glass section of the door, before fleeing the area.

D.C. police initially charged Cook with misdemeanor assault and felony threats to kill in addition to destruction of property. The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed only the felony destruction of property charge in court. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said prosecutors might file additional charges against Cook as the case moves forward.

Following the judge’s finding of probable cause on Monday the case has been referred to a grand jury, according to court records.

At Monday’s hearing Judge Staples also denied a request by prosecutor Forte that Cook’s release status be revoked and that he be held pending trial. Forte asked for the change in the release status because of Cook’s latest arrest on March 31 for assault.

Defense attorney Carney argued that the existing status, in which Cook was released on his own recognizance and which orders him to stay away from Casa Ruby and all potential prosecution witnesses, should remain in place. He said incarcerating Cook was unwarranted because the charge in the March 31 arrest was “no papered” by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Bill Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, told the Blade on Monday that the office has a policy of not disclosing its reasons for dropping charges in cases like this one.

A police incident report for the March 31 arrest lists a male name for the victim of the assault and classifies it as an incident of domestic violence. It says Cook and the victim are in a “romantic relationship.”

However, sources familiar with the case say the victim is a transgender woman who apparently was misidentified in the police incident report.

When Cook appeared in court on Monday he was accompanied by a transgender woman who sat next to him in the courtroom’s public seating area while Cook waited for his case to be called.

The Washington Blade couldn’t immediately determine whether the woman who sat next to Cook in court was the same woman whom Cook allegedly assaulted in the March 31 incident.

Experts on the subject of domestic violence have said domestic violence victims frequently change their minds and refuse to cooperate with police and prosecutors following an arrest, saying they have “made up” with their spouse or partner and don’t want him or her to be prosecuted.

Acting D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the LGBT Liaison Unit, said police are continuing to investigate the March 31 assault incident even though the initial assault charge against Cook has been dropped.

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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