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Supreme Court rejects D.C. marriage challenge

Action ends effort to force ballot measure



(Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an order today denying a request by a local minister to consider a case seeking to force the District of Columbia to allow voters to decide whether to repeal the city’s same-sex marriage law.

The order, which did not include any statement or opinion, ends the effort by Bishop Harry Jackson and other local opponents of same-sex marriage to go through the courts to impose a ballot measure calling for overturning the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Equality Amendment Act of 2009, which legalized same-sex marriage in the District.

None of the Supreme Court’s nine justices issued a dissent in their unanimous determination not to take the case.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court turned down Bishop Jackson’s request for review of the Court of Appeals decision on marriage equality,” said Peter Rosenstein, president of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, the local group that campaigned for passage of the marriage equality law.

“This confirms our belief that what the D.C. Council did is both legal and just,” he said. “Equality will not be denied.”

Rosenstein was referring to a decision last October by the D.C. Court of Appeals that upheld an earlier ruling by the city’s Board of Elections and Ethics to reject a voter initiative proposed by Jackson and other same-sex marriage opponents calling for repealing the marriage equality law.

In the case known as Jackson v. the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, Jackson sought to force the city to hold a voter initiative that, if approved, would repeal the same-sex marriage law and replace it with a new law defining marriage in the District as a union only between a man and a woman.

The Court of Appeals decision stated that D.C. City Council acted within its authority under the city’s congressionally mandated Home Rule Charter when it imposed certain restrictions more than 30 years ago on the types of initiatives and referenda that could be placed on the ballot.

Among the restrictions adopted then was a ban on ballot measures that, if approved by voters, violate the non-discrimination provisions of the D.C. Human Rights Act. The act, among other things, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Jackson and a team of lawyers representing him argued that Council violated the Home Rule Charter by adopting the ballot measure restrictions.

The Supreme Court today rejected Jackson’s request for a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari, which asked the court to hear the case to enable Jackson to appeal the ruling of the D.C. Court of Appeals. By denying that request, the Supreme Court allowed the Court of Appeals decision to permanently remain in effect.

“Today’s action by the Supreme Court makes abundantly clear that D.C.’s human rights protections are strong enough to withstand the hateful efforts by outside anti-LGBT groups to put people’s basic civil rights on the ballot,” said Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign.

“For almost two years, the National Organization for Marriage and the Alliance Defense Fund, along with Bishop Harry Jackson, have fought a losing battle to shamelessly harm gay and lesbian couples in D.C. who seek nothing more than to share in the rights and responsibilities of marriage,” Solmonese said.

According to the Supreme Court’s public docket, the nine justices deliberated over whether to hear the Jackson case in a private conference held last Friday. Under longstanding court rules, the justices usually announce a decision on whether to accept or reject a case on the next business day following such a conference.

With the Supreme Court denying Jackson’s court challenge to the same-sex marriage law, marriage equality opponents are expected to take their fight back to Congress by resuming earlier requests for Congress to either overturn the D.C. marriage law or to impose a new law forcing the city hold a ballot measure to allow voters to decide the issue.

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), who chairs the committee that shepherded the same-sex marriage law through the Council in 2009, said city voters have demonstrated through the city’s 2010 primary and general election that the marriage law was not a pressing issue for them.

He noted that despite promises by same-sex marriage opponents to work for the defeat of all Council members who voted for the marriage law, just a few candidates opposing the law surfaced in the elections and all of them lost by lopsided margins.

“They’ve lost in the courts, they lost overwhelmingly in the Council 12 to 1 [when the marriage bill came up for a vote in December 2009], and they lost at the ballot box,” he said. “Now they’ve lost their last chance, their last gasp in the judicial system.”

Jackson couldn’t be immediately reach for comment.

Rev. Anthony Evans, a D.C. minister who is working with Jackson to overturn the D.C. same-sex marriage law, called the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the Jackson case “a travesty of justice.”

“This law was forced down the church’s throat and what the Supreme Court has set up is the greatest civil war between the church and the gay community,” Evans said. “And let me just state for the record, we don’t want that fight. We love our gay brothers and sisters. But if the Supreme Court is not going to acknowledge the fact that we have a right as religious people to have a say-so in the framework of religious ethics for our culture and society, then we reject the Supreme Court on this issue.”

Supporters of the same-sex marriage law have noted that large numbers of local religious leaders from all denominations, including black churches, came out in support of the law. Many have begun peforming same-sex marriages.

Evans, an official with the D.C.-based National Black Church Initiative, said local same-sex marriage opponents have began discussions with “our Republican friends” in Congress to take steps to challenge the D.C. marriage law. He declined to disclose further details but said he and others opposed to the marriage law lobbied GOP leaders on the Hill to strip congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) of her voting privileges on the House floor.

Since Republicans took control of the House earlier this month, GOP leaders revoked Norton’s limited floor voting privileges that Democrats gave her when they took control of the House in 2007. House GOP leaders also revoked the limited voting privileges for delegates representing U.S. territories and Puerto Rico.

“[O]ur first action was to make sure that Eleanor didn’t get a vote as punishment for her wholehearted support for same-sex marriage in this city and also for her to ignore the black religious community,” Evans said. “There is a consequence to her actions. That was one of them.”

Norton, reached at her office late Wednesday, disputed Evans’ claim that same-sex marriage opponents played any role in her loss of House voting privileges.

“He can’t take credit for that. He had nothing to do with it,” she said. “I can tell you without fear of contradiction that our vote was taken this time in the same way it was taken last time — because the Republicans oppose voting rights for the District of Columbia, not because anybody in the District had any power to persuade them to do anything except what they want to do.”

Norton was referring to House Republican leaders’ decision to strip her of voting privileges when they gained control of the House in 1995. Democrats restored her voting privileges when they regained control of the House in 2007.

“But in any case, shame on any resident who wants the District of Columbia not to have a vote,” she said.

Norton said she expected some members of Congress to attempt to overturn the city’s same-sex marriage law through legislation, although she was hopeful that Democrats and moderate Republicans would join forces to defeat such legislation.

“I can tell you that I’ve had a good conversation with an important Republican who’s not interested,” she said, referring to efforts to overturn the D.C. marriage law. “That doesn’t mean that won’t happen. But there are Republicans here who would not like to get all mixed up with social issues.”

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  1. Lynn

    January 18, 2011 at 11:22 am


  2. Skeeter Sanders

    January 18, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Rev. Anthony Evans, a D.C. minister who is working with Bishop Harry Jackson to overturn the D.C. same-sex marriage law, called the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the Jackson case “a travesty of justice.”

    “This law was forced down the church’s throat and what the Supreme Court has set up is the greatest civil war between the church and the gay community,” Evans said. “And let me just state for the record, we don’t want that fight. We love our gay brothers and sisters. But if the Supreme Court is not going to acknowledge the fact that we have a right as religious people to have a say-so in the framework of religious ethics for our culture and society, then we reject the Supreme Court on this issue.”

    Excuse me, Rev. Evans, but it’s called SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. The fact is, Bishop Jackson and other religious leaders who sought to force the District of Columbia to put the marriage law up for a vote did not have legal standing to do so, as they were members of the clergy who unconstitutionally sought to impose a religious test on who can marry and who cannot.

    Article VI, section 2 of the U. S, Constitution is quite clear: “No religious test shall ever be used as a qualification for any office or public trust in the United States.” Civil marriage is a public trust.

    It’s time to give it up, Bishop Jackson. It’s over, and your side lost. Deal with it.

  3. Bobby Foster

    January 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Oh Good Lord, when will Hairy Jackson ever give up? He must be half cracked or either he’s a closet case himself and trying to cover it up by being against us so much.

  4. Bill Serrani

    January 18, 2011 at 5:36 pm


  5. Bill

    January 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Another attack by the Black conservative church against our community. All while their pews and choir stalls are filled with gays and lesbians. It is scurrilous to state that gay marriage will force “the church” to marry gays, and they know it.

  6. Syd Diamond

    January 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    I hope he can get out of his lease in SW.

  7. Doctor Whom

    January 19, 2011 at 10:58 am

    The Bible repeatedly commands Christians to submit to secular law. If those “reverends” ever preached any part of the Bible except the parts on homosexuality, they’d know that.

  8. Frankie James

    January 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    This law was forced down the church’s throat – and what is he trying to do to the citizens of DC. Jam something of his down our throats.

    Sad and a little disgusting. Most likely in the closet.

  9. straight to hell

    January 19, 2011 at 2:34 pm


    • Doctor Whom

      January 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm

      You needn’t bother telling me what the Bible says. I already know the Bible better than you evidently know it, since I managed to spot some glaring Biblical errors in your post.

    • C Reese Nebeker

      January 24, 2011 at 8:48 pm

      God’s Rites or Civil Right

      SACRAMENTS :Baptism, Confirmation, Initiation, the Holy Meal, the Eucharist, Matrimony, Holy Orders, Clergy Investiture, Penance, Extreme Unction, and Funeral Rites.(

      The churches are demanding that government not legislate the definition of sacraments.
      These are the provenance of GOD.

      Religion has good reason to be selfish of it’s perrogatives. It has only the Grace of God and the Will of the Law to protect it.

      The nature of our law demands seperation of Sacred & Mammon. The Law has no power to decide a question of morals. The churches have no power to legislate for all people. When religions dictate morals they are binding only on affiliates of that tradition. We cannot invest in a religious institution the power of legislation, nor remove from it the power of consecration.

      We have no public argument about whom a church may accept into their membership. We have no legal restriction on who can be Priest or Priestess. There is no Civil Right to the partaking of the Lords Supper. There is no disagreement that we can dispose of our dead in a manner pleasing to our own spiritual dictates, as long as certain health issues are dealt with. Of all the sacrements of varrious religions, Mattrimony is the only one tied to law so tightly that people see it as inextricable.

      Deciding how domestic resources are allocated. Delimiting the number of offspring. Defining what the children are inculcated with. Divorce and Remarriage. Decreeing what health choices to make. Dictating what sexual practices are followed. The gender of participants. The number of partners in a union. Are any of these things that you want someone else’s religion controlling?

      The only reason Marriage is any different is because of a legal entanglement that is, in itself, unconstitutional. If marriage had no legal standing, churches would be free to refuse or endow marriage consecration as Doctrine and Conscience dictate. When governments license and regulate a Sacrament such as Matrimony, that infringes on a religions right to regulate its Rites & Doctrine, even its very Lexicon. Even if government can agree as to what a sacrament means, it has no power to grant said sacrament any legal definition, regulation, or recognition. Neither should any sacrament confer any legal rights or privileges, however traditional those rights may be.

      What religion fears is that, in Legalizing Gay Marriage the Church looses it’s control.
      This is in fact true. It looses control of defining a word by insisting that a word is proprerty. It looses control of defining its own sacrements because it refuses to allow a word be applied to the loving unions of all people. It looses its controll because of insisting that morals be made into law. It looses it controll of reason.

      Legal contracts for Property, Finances, Habitation, Conjugal Action, or Progeny must not be subject to the moral positions of any segment of a population. Name them something else. Cohabitation Contract for the Purpose of Progeny. Civil Union. Whatever. The Rite of Marriage can never confer nor share in those rights, responsibilities, or privelages. We can not condone the Rites of any religious tradition being legally binding. Marriage will stay sacrosanct only when it has been severed from any legal standing.

      Having pitted God against the Law, God has remained inflexable.

      In refuseing to recognize the right of all people to chose their own domestic sittuation, and call that union marriage, the Church must forfit the inclusion of marriage in the realm of the Law. It must give up these rights that belong to unions, these responsibilities of being bonded, the privelages of having loved. The contract of Marriage can no longer be authorized by law.

      It appears the controll that was truly lost was that of being inclusive of Gods providence.

      Sanctity means sacred, blessed, hallowed.
      We must protect the sanctity of marriage.
      I revere and bless your choice and act of living sacramentally married.
      I support the right to legally contract in any way you will.
      I long for the day when Civil Rights are equal.
      This is what is desired.
      It can be achieved.

      NO Legal Right to Marriage = NO Rite of Legal Marriage

    • Skeeter Sanders

      January 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

      Excuse me, but you obviously are a THEOCRAT who has no respect for our Constitution. Article VI, Section 2 clearly PROHIBITS the imposition of a religious test to determine the validity of any person’s qualifications for public office, or that of any public trust. Since civil marriage is a public trust under the Constitution, your comment is legally worthless.

      You can rant all you want about what the Bible says, but the Bible is NOT the supreme law of the united States. The Constitution is — and the Constitution explicitly BARS the use of religion to justify discrimination, whether based on race, nationality, religion or gender,

      And contrary to popular belief, barring gay and lesbian couples from marrying is GENDER-based discrimination, NOT sexual orientation-based discrimination.

    • Skeeter Sanders

      January 27, 2011 at 11:21 am

      Your ignorance of our Constitution is astounding. You’ve confused civil marriage with the religious sacrament of matrimony. The two are NOT the same. Matrimony was created by God, but civil marriage is a creature of the GOVERNMENT.

      And under our Constitution, “no religious test shall ever be used” as a qualification for any PUBLIC office or PUBLIC trust in this country (Article VI, Section 2). You cannot impose a religious law as the law of the state — PERIOD.

      Civil marriage is none of religion’s business. Matrimony is likewise none of the government’s business. Jesus Christ himself laid the foundation for the separation of church and state when he said, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s [Matthew 22:21].”

  10. Nelly

    January 19, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I’d love to know when a Bishop from Maryland was suddenly allowed to call the shots in D.C. Maybe that’s why the Reverend jumped on board (for it to be officially a D.C. religious figure against D.C.’s people?). In all honesty, if you don’t live in the district, you have no real right to change laws there. That’s similar to Virginia suddenly saying “Hey Maryland, we’re coming in to change your laws.” Atrocious at worst; ridiculous at best.

  11. Evan

    January 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    So as a DC resident, he campaigned to take away what little voice we had in the House? There’s only one word for that:


  12. Rob

    January 19, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    So apparently there are no real problems in DC’s black community… poverty, homelessness, drug addiction? It’s nice the clergy has taken care of all those so now they can focus on the REAL crisis: a few gay couples they will never meet are getting married somewhere.

  13. Tim

    January 19, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Well that’s it for the rotten homophobic bishop and his congregation of anti-gay bigots, because there are no more appeals now that the Supreme Court turned him down. I can’t wait for his next queeny fit when same-sex marriage comes up in Maryland this year.

  14. J Balestreri

    January 20, 2011 at 12:06 am

    “Rev.” Anthony Evans wants to punish Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton by taking right of the citizens of DC to have equal repersentation in the House of Representatives, huh?

  15. Charles

    January 20, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Rev. Anthony Evans and Harry Jackson do not speak for all clergy. If a preacher does not want to perform a wedding –whether it is a man and a woman or two women –they can say “no.” There is no law that requires any minister to perform a wedding if they do not believe the couple should be married.

  16. Will Stewart

    January 20, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    As a devout Christian, I personally believe that the Bible says *nothing* about homosexuality (as I understand the term), and therefore there are no Biblical grounds to attack our community. I wish Bishop Jackson and his followers would stop using the Bible as a fig leaf for their bigotry.

  17. EL Dorado

    January 21, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    You do realize that anti-gay christian conservative groups are already working to get Congress to force a referendum on marriage equality in the district don’t you? They are turning to the new House Majority to impose their agenda on the district. See what the Family Research Council had made that clear on their website!

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Heather Mizeur congressional campaign raises more than $1M

Former Md. delegate challenging Andy Harris



Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade, momentum
Former Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur is running for Congress (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Heather Mizeur has raised more than $1 million in her campaign against anti-LGBTQ Republican Congressman Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.

“No candidate in #MD01 of either party, incumbent or challenger, has ever hit the $1M milestone this early in the election cycle,” Mizeur tweeted on Oct. 6.

The Victory Fund in an Oct. 8 press release said 80 percent of this $1 million came from Maryland-based donors, “a sign the district is ready for new representation.” And Mizeur continues to outpace Harris, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission that say she raised $717,445 for the cycle ending June 30, while Harris raised $425,288.

“Andy Harris has taken every opportunity to attack and vilify trans individuals, trying to score political points with his base at the expense of the safety of some of his constituents,” Mizeur told the Washington Blade.

In 2014 Harris made the Human Rights Campaign’s “Hall of Shame” for proactively working “to undermine existing legal protections and promote anti-LGBT discrimination.”

“In contrast, the LGBTQ community knows me for my record,” Mizeur said. “And knows I’ll always lead with compassion and stand up for civil and human rights. I think the 1st District will respond to my message of respect and understanding.”

Mizeur, who now lives on the Eastern Shore with her wife, served on the Takoma Park City Council. Mizeur was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates for eight years.

In 2014, she launched a long-shot, grassroots campaign for governor where she finished a strong third in the Democratic primary, despite being outraised by better-known opponents.

But Mizeur also said she is aware of the challenges her team faces in taking on a well-entrenched Republican in a solidly conservative district.

The Cook Partisan Voter Index in 2017 rated the district as R +14, meaning the previous two presidential election results in the district skewed 14 percentage points more Republican than the national average.

“We have over $760,000 in the bank, and we’ve outraised him during our time in the race,” Mizeur said. “We’re raising the money we need to go toe-to-toe with Andy Harris next year.”

The Baltimore Sun in February reported Harris was “flush with campaign cash” mostly due to a 2010 redistricting that “packed” the area with Republican voters to increase Democrats’ chances in other district races.

“Yes, Andy Harris has over $1 million in the bank, stockpiled over a decade in office,” Mizeur said. “But in the short time I’ve been in the race, we’ve cut significantly into his cash on hand advantage.”

Harris has represented the 1st Congressional District—which includes Maryland’s Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties—since 2011 and easily fended off most challenges with at least 60 percent of the vote. These challengers include Mia Mason, a transgender military veteran, who ran against him in 2020.

The 2010 redistricting made Harris’ seat safe enough not only to donate nearly a third of his war chest to conservative groups and candidates, such as U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), but to openly court controversy himself.

Harris last year openly defended then-President Trump’s discredited efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And in December he signed onto an amicus brief supporting a failed lawsuit contesting the presidential election results.

This year he downplayed the violence of the Jan. 6 insurrection in which numerous police officers were attacked, members of Congress were threatened, and the U.S. Capitol was vandalized.

Mizeur told the Blade that while Harris’ actions regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection were the catalyst for her challenging his seat, she feels the district is changing and he no longer represents their interests.

“Our supporters know he’s been embarrassing Maryland in Congress for far too long, and that some of his actions have shown he’s completely unfit to serve in public office, regardless of ideological views,” Mizeur said. “They want someone who will bring compassionate leadership and innovative thinking back to the first district. And that’s appealing to people across party lines.”

Maryland’s primary election is June 28, 2022, and its general election follows on Nov. 8.

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AU student expelled over arrest in attack on gay Asian man, parents

Patrick Trebat no longer affiliated with university



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An American University graduate student who was arrested by D.C. police on Aug. 7 on charges that he assaulted a gay Asian man and the man’s parents while shouting homophobic and anti-Asian slurs “is no longer affiliated with the university and will not be allowed on campus,” according to a report by WTOP News.

In an Oct. 9 broadcast that it updated this week, WTOP said Patrick Trebat, 38, who had been taking a night class at the university’s Kogod School of Business, was banned from returning to the campus.

Charging documents filed in D.C. Superior Court show that Trebat was charged by D.C. police with one count of felony assault, two counts of simple assault and one count of destruction of property for allegedly assaulting and injuring Sean Lai, 30, an out gay man of Chinese ancestry, and his parents on the 3700 block of Fulton Street, N.W., on Aug. 7.

The charging documents say Trebat allegedly began to follow Lai and his parents as they were walking along the street in the city’s Observatory Circle neighborhood near the National Cathedral. According to a statement by a police official from the police district whose officers made the arrest, Trebat punched and kicked the three victims as he stated, “Get out of my country.” The police statement says the family was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

A separate police report says Trebat shouted the word “faggots” at the family and shouted, “You are not Americans!”

Based on these allegations, prosecutors classified the assault charges as an anti-Asian bias related crime, but they did not add an anti-gay classification to the charges.

Court records show that Trebat was released two days after his arrest while awaiting trial under the court’s High Intensity Supervision Program, which, among other things, imposed a curfew requiring him to return home by 10 p.m.

An Oct. 8 story in The Eagle, the American University student newspaper, says it learned that Trebat’s attorney filed a motion in court, which the Washington Blade also discovered from court records, asking a judge to extend the curfew deadline from 10 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. so that Trebat could attend at night class at American University.

The motion, which prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not oppose and the judge approved, identified Trebat in the public court records as an AU graduate student.

According to the Eagle, representatives of the university’s Asian American and LGBTQ student groups criticized university officials for not alerting students that an AU student charged with an anti-Asian hate crime while hurling homophobic slurs had access to the campus and could pose a danger to students.

“Patrick Trebant is not affiliated with American University and is not allowed on campus,” AU told the Blade on Wednesday in a statement. “While we cannot discuss details of an individual matter, when a student has been arrested, charged, convicted of, or sentenced for a felony crime, the university’s student conduct code provides for an administrative adjudication process. The safety of our students and our community is our priority.”

The Eagle reports that the code of conduct states that the dean of students or their designee can administratively adjudicate a case when a student has been accused of a non-academic offense “where the student has been arrested, charged, convicted of, or sentenced for a felony crime” for certain misconduct. The code of conduct applies in a situation in which a student is arrested for an off-campus allegation.

Court records show Trebat is scheduled to return to court at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 15 for a felony status hearing before Superior Court Judge Judith Pipe.

Neither Trebat nor his attorney, Brandi Harden, could immediately be reached for comment.

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Two remaining defendants in D.C. trans murder case accept plea bargain

Dee Dee Dodds murdered in Northeast Washington in 2016



Deeniquia Dodds, gay news, Washington Blade
Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds was killed in 2016. (Photo via Facebook)

Two of the four D.C. men who were charged with first-degree murder while armed for the July 4, 2016, shooting death of transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds on a Northeast Washington street pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 to a charge of voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors.

A four-page letter providing details of the plea bargain offer made by prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which was filed in D.C. Superior Court, states that the agreement accepted by defendants Jolonta Little, 30, and Monte T. Johnson, 25, includes the decision to drop the murder charge in exchange for a guilty plea to a single count of voluntary manslaughter.

It says that in exchange for the guilty plea prosecutors will also drop additional charges originally brought against Little and Johnson, including robbery while armed, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and unlawful possession of a firearm.

The agreement also includes a promise by prosecutors to ask Superior Court Judge Milton C. Lee, who is presiding over the case, to issue a sentence of eight years in prison for both men.

The letter spelling out the details of the plea deal makes it clear that it will be up to Lee to decide whether to accept the eight-year jail term proposed by prosecutors, and there is no guarantee that Lee will not hand down a sentence with a longer prison term.

It states that under the D.C. criminal code, a conviction on a voluntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Attorneys and observers of the D.C. courts have said judges usually agree to a recommended sentence by prosecutors in cases involving a plea bargain agreement.   

The letter describing the terms of the plea agreement in the Johnson and Little cases does not say whether prosecutors will ask Lee to deduct from the proposed eight-year jail sentence the time that the two men have already spent in jail since the time of their arrest. But in most criminal cases, judges agree to provide full credit for time served in jail prior to a conviction and sentencing.

Johnson has been held without bond for just over five years since his September 2016 arrest. Little has been held without bond for four years and eight months since his arrest in February 2017.

The plea bargain deal came two and a half years after a D.C. Superior Court jury became deadlocked and could not reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charges brought against Johnson and Little following a month-long trial, prompting Lee to declare a mistrial on March 6, 2019.

The two other men charged in Dodd’s murder, Shareem Hall, 27, and his brother, Cyheme Hall, 25, accepted a separate plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors shortly before the start of the 2019 trial in which they pled guilty to second-degree murder. Both testified at the trial as government witnesses.

In dramatic testimony, Cyheme Hall told the jury that it was Johnson who fatally shot Dodds in the neck at point black range after she grabbed the barrel of his handgun as Johnson and Hall attempted to rob her on Division Avenue, N.E., near where she lived. Hall testified that the plan among the four men to rob Dodds did not include the intent to kill her.

In his testimony, Hall said that in the early morning hours of July 4, 2016, he and the other three men made plans to commit armed robberies for cash in areas of D.C. where trans women, most of whom were sex workers, congregated. He testified that the four men got into a car driven by Little and searched the streets for victims that they didn’t expect to offer resistance.

D.C. police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office initially designated the murder charges against Johnson and Little as a hate crime based on findings by homicide detectives that the men were targeting trans women for armed robberies. However, during Johnson and Little’s trial, Lee dismissed the hate crime designation on grounds that there was insufficient evidence by prosecutors to support a hate crime designation.

At the request of prosecutors, Lee scheduled a second trial for Johnson and Little following the deadlocked jury in the first trial. But court records show that for reasons not disclosed in the public court docket, the start of the second trial was postponed several times. The most recent postponement was due to restrictions placed on the court related to the COVID pandemic.

As of August, of this year, the court records show, the second murder trial for Johnson and Little was scheduled to begin on Feb. 17, 2022. But the records show that as of Sept. 30 of this year the defense attorneys and prosecutors reached an agreement over the plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors. It was on that day, the court records show, that the two men officially agreed to plead guilty to the lower charge of voluntary manslaughter and waived their right to a trial. The following day, on Oct. 1, Lee accepted the guilty pleas and scheduled the sentencing for Dec. 10.

Meanwhile, Cyheme Hall and Shareem Hall have remained in the D.C. jail since the time of their respective arrests. Court records show they were scheduled to be sentenced by Lee on Dec. 20, 10 days after the sentencing for Johnson and Little.

It couldn’t immediately be determined from the court records whether prosecutors allowed the Hall brothers to also plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and have dropped the second- degree murder charge to which the two men pled guilty back in 2019 as part of an earlier plea bargain deal.

At the time Johnson and Little’s trial ended with the deadlocked jury in March 2019, LGBTQ activists expressed alarm that the jury’s action appeared to be a repeat occurrence of several previous D.C. cases in which male attackers charged with assaulting and murdering trans women of color were not convicted for those crimes.

“This is a very dangerous move on the part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said Ruby Corado, founder and former executive director of Casa Ruby, the D.C. LGBTQ community services center, in referring to the plea deal.

“We need to be strengthening laws to ensure that the horrible epidemic of violence against LGBTQ people that we currently face ends, and not giving criminals a slap on the hand for committing murders against us,” Corado told the Washington Blade. “This sends a message that our lives don’t matter that much to those who already see us as easy targets; we are now becoming disposable people in the eyes of the law.”

D.C. trans rights advocate Alexis Blackmon, Casa Ruby’s interim executive director, called the plea bargain deal offered to Little and Johnson “very disturbing.” Added Blackmon, “How it’s being read across to me is if we can’t convict you on murder then we’re going to basically slap your wrist.”

Blackmon said she will consult with other local LGBTQ activists to determine whether a representative of the LGBTQ community should request to testify at Little and Johnson’s Dec. 10 sentencing hearing to ask the judge to hand down a sentence greater than eight years.

D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and trans advocate Monika Nemeth said she too is troubled over the plea bargain agreement.

“While I am stunned by a plea that reduces the charge from first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter, I should not be as we are still a society for whom trans people, particularly trans women of color, are not valued and are disposable,” Nemeth said. “I don’t see how you get to voluntary manslaughter when the victims were targeted for being trans. This is not justice.”

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said he would make inquires with the office’s prosecutors to obtain a response to a question from the Blade asking for an explanation of why the decision was made to issue the plea bargain offer rather than bring defendants Little and Johnson to trial on the murder charge.

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