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D.C. man found guilty in gay murder

Defendant accused of using chat line to lure ‘faggy’ for robbery



Murder victim Anthony Perkins. (Blade file photo)

A D.C. Superior Court jury Tuesday found a District man guilty of first-degree murder while armed in the December 2009 shooting death of gay D.C. resident Anthony Perkins, whom police say met his killer through a gay telephone chat line.

The jury returned its verdict after deliberating for a little more than five hours following a five-day trial in which prosecutors said Antwan Holcomb, 21, shot Perkins in the head in Perkins’ car after luring him to a secluded street in Southeast Washington.

A witness who knew Holcomb testified that he overheard Holcomb say on the night of the murder that he “shot the ‘faggy’ in the head and robbed him of a pack of Newport cigarettes” before leaving Perkins’ Lincoln Town Car and fleeing the scene on foot.

“The price that the defendant put on the head of Mr. Perkins was a pack of cigarettes,” Assistant United States Attorney Steven Swaney, one of two prosecutors in the case, told the jury on Tuesday.

Chief Judge Lee Satterfield, who presided over the trial, scheduled Holcomb’s sentencing for May 5.

Perkins, 29, lived with his mother, Stella Perkins, who testified at the trial that her son’s murder was a devastating loss. He worked as a dispatcher for an air conditioning and heating company and enjoyed meeting people on phone chat lines, witnesses said during the trial.

Swaney and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman presented law enforcement witnesses who pointed to phone records showing that Holcomb made repeated calls to a phone chat line called D.C. Raven. The chat line has separate lines for a variety of groups and interests, including a section with “gay chat numbers.”

Government witnesses testified that Holcomb met Perkins on the chat line on the night of Dec. 26, 2009 and engaged him in several conversations. The two exchanged their own phone numbers, the prosecutors said. Authorities later tracked the calls Holcomb made to Perkins on the night of the murder from a landline in a residence at 500 Lebaum St., S.E., where he had been staying.

“He stated that he posed as a homosexual in an attempt to lure a victim to his location for the purpose of robbing him,” according to a police affidavit used for Holcomb’s arrest in March 2010.

At the trial, prosecutors showed the jury a video of Holcomb being questioned by homicide detectives. Holcomb admitted to detectives that he talked to Perkins through the chat line and persuaded him to meet him on the night of the murder. But he denied he killed Perkins. Holcomb told the detectives in the taped interrogation that it was someone else who looked like him that entered Perkins’ car and shot Perkins. Police said Holcomb refused to identify that person.

The two prosecutors argued during the trial Holcomb fabricated that claim to get off the hook in the murder.

In the video recording of the interrogation session presented to the jury, one of the detectives joked with Holcomb about his decision to call a gay-oriented chat line. At one point, Holcomb said men using the chat line have money and likely would not report being robbed from someone they met through such a venue.

“I’m not of that nature … I’m a cold-blooded man,” he told the detectives. “I don’t like fags. I never will.”

At the time of Holcomb’s arraignment following his arrest in March 2010, Liebman told the Blade the U.S. Attorney’s office might consider asking a grand jury to classify the case as a hate crime. A subsequent grand jury indictment against Holcomb did not classify the case as a hate crime.

At the time the jury rendered its verdict Tuesday, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office said Liebman and Swaney would not be immediately available to discuss the case.

Defense attorney Ronald Horton argued that there were no eye witnesses to the murder. He said one of the government’s lead witnesses, who said she saw Holcomb near the scene of the murder, was drunk at the time.

Horton said another key witness, a woman who once dated Horton, was biased against him because she caught him in bed with another woman. She should not be taken at her word for testifying that Holcomb entered her bedroom and placed a gun under the bed shortly after the murder took place, he told the jury.

He noted that Holcomb’s finger prints and DNA were not found inside Perkins’ car, supporting Holcomb’s claim that it was someone else that entered Perkins’ Lincoln Town Car and shot him point blank in the head.

Saying the jury was obligated under the law not to find Holcomb guilty unless the government proves its case beyond a reasonable doubt, told the jury, “This case is full of reasonable doubt.”

In his rebuttal arguments, co-prosecutor Swaney recited a litany of evidence he said provided proof beyond a doubt that Holcomb committed the murder.

Among other things, he pointed to Holcomb’s arrest for an unrelated incident on Dec. 12, in which he was charged with shooting two men outside the Player’s Lounge, a popular Southeast D.C. nightclub that has hosted events organized by gay activists.

Swaney pointed to police and firearm experts’ testimony that the bullet removed from Perkins’ head had been fired from the same gun that Holcomb allegedly used to shoot the two men outside the Player’s Lounge, one of whom is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of the gunshot wound.

Several letters that Holcomb wrote to a female friend while in jail following his arrest asked the friend to arrange for others to tell police that they saw someone other than Holcomb enter Perkins’ car on the night of the murder, Swaney noted to the jury. He called this a clear attempt by Holcomb to get people to help him conceal his involvement in a murder.

In addition to the first-degree murder charge, the jury found Holcomb guilty of armed robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm, and carrying a pistol without a license.

The D.C. group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence has raised concern over reports of gay men being targeted by criminals on telephone and Internet chat lines.

A widely reported case came four months after Perkins’ murder, when Montgomery County police disclosed that gay D.C. middle school principal Brian Betts, who was found murdered in his Silver Spring, Md., home last April, met one or more of the four teenage males charged in the case through an Internet sex chat line.



Flight attendants union endorses Sarah McBride

Del. lawmaker would be first transgender member of Congress



Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride speaks at the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 10, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Delaware congressional candidate Sarah McBride has earned the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s most prominent flight attendant union.

It’s the second big labor endorsement for McBride after the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27’s endorsement. The Association of Flight Attendants praised her for spearheading efforts to bring paid family and medical leave to Delaware, which will take effect in 2026. 

“Sarah’s record in the Delaware Senate shows that she understands how to work collaboratively, build power and make big things happen,” the union’s president, Sara Nelson, wrote in a press release shared exclusively with the Washington Blade. “That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy.”

McBride also announced her support for creating a list of abusive passengers and banning them from flying. Each airline has a list of passengers banned from flying, but airlines don’t share the lists with each other, though Delta Air Lines has asked them, because of “legal and operational challenges,” as a representative for the airline industry trade group Airlines of America told a House committee in September 2021.

“Right now, someone can be violent towards a flight attendant or another passenger and walk directly off of that flight and onto one with a different airline to endanger more people,” an Association of Flight Attendants spokesperson wrote in a statement. 

The Protection from Abusive Passengers Act would put the Transportation Security Administration in charge of building the database of passengers fined or convicted of abuse and has bipartisan support but has sat idly in committee since March. It failed to pass last year, and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have charged that the list would disproportionately target people of color and strip and a better step to reducing hostility would be making flights more comfortable. Reports of defiant and unruly passengers have more than doubled between 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2022.

“I thank the Association of Flight Attendants for endorsing our campaign,” McBride wrote in the press release. “It’s important that we recognize and celebrate the symbiotic relationship between strong, unionized workforces and the continued growth of employers here in our state.”

The union representing 50,000 flight attendants across 19 airlines is putting pressure on airlines to grant union demands in contract negotiations. At American Airlines, unionized flight attendants voted to authorize a strike — putting pressure on the airline to accede to its demands. Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines say they are ready to strike but have not voted to authorize one yet. United Airlines flight attendants picketed at 19 airports around the country in August, ratcheting up the pressure. 

The union’s endorsement adds to a growing list of McBride endorsements, including 21 Delaware legislators, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, and Delaware Stonewall PAC. McBride, who would be the first openly transgender politician in Congress, has powerful connections in Washington — including with the White House — and is favored to win Delaware’s lone House seat. 

A poll commissioned by HRC shows her leading the pack of three candidates vying for the seat — 44 percent of “likely Democratic voters” told pollster company Change Research, which works with liberal organizations. The poll of 531 likely Delaware Democratic primary voters, though, was conducted only online — meaning those with less familiarity or access to the internet may not have been counted — and Change Research’s methodology for screening likely voters is unclear. The company also did not provide a breakdown of respondents by age, gender, and race, but says it uses an algorithm to make the results representative.  

Nelson said McBride’s time in Delaware’s state Senate shows her prowess in building power and working collaboratively.  

“That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy,” she wrote.

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Lawsuit seeks to force Virginia Beach schools to implement state guidelines for trans, nonbinary students

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July



(Bigstock photo)

Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

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HME Consulting and Advocacy stands on frontline of LGBTQ policy

Heidi Ellis is a consultant who doesn’t take clients ‘not aligned with my mission’



‘Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,’ says Heidi Ellis. (Photo courtesy of Ellis)

September is here, which means Congress and the D.C. Council return from their August recess and life for consultant Heidi Ellis quickly gets busy. 

Her days are filled with negotiating with Council members, phone calls with clients, and policy planning for advocacy groups. The organizations she represents are looking to her to help them push policy and she hopes to guide them to victory. 

Ellis’s company, HME Consulting and Advocacy, came after years of working in the public and private sectors as a consultant. In 2019, Ellis decided to shift her focus to work that stood at the center of the intersections in which she lives. She sought to figure out how she could better serve her community as a Black queer Latino woman. Ellis recognized that there was a niche for mission-driven consulting in the District. 

“I was sought out and recruited by a lot of organizations that wanted me and I took a beat, because I was like ‘Do I want to go back into a machine where even if I do effect change, I have to answer to someone?’”she said, in reference to consulting agencies that were in pursuit of her talent. Ultimately, she decided against continuing her work under another company. “By doing what I do, I have much more flexibility for one to say ‘Yes’ but also to say ‘No’.”

Although Ellis has considered going back to working in the corporate space, she still loves the flexibility of being able to be nimble as a private consultant. 

Although Ellis doesn’t work entirely in the advocacy space, her consulting clients still align with her personal values. She joked that she differs strongly from the stereotypical money-driven D.C. consultant who sports Brooks Brothers suits on K Street. 

“Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,” she said. “I don’t take any clients that are not aligned with my mission.”

Her mission is simple, Ellis is “committed to elevating issues that sit at the nexus of education, mental health, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color.”

“The more marginalized you are, the more you suffer from the failures of policy and the gaps of service,” she said. 

As a consultant in the advocacy space, Ellis does the behind-the-scenes work for organizations to help correct these policy failures and close the gaps. Whether she is facilitating training for companies to better understand how to serve their LGBTQ communities, or she is on the frontline of education policy changes –– Ellis aims to only do work that she is passionate about.

She said that the balance of her combined passion and level-headedness help her to build trusting relationships with her clients and in the end, “Get stuff  done.”

Since starting her organization, some of her proudest work has been done with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition. The coalition is made up of more than 30 organizations that aim to advocate for investments and policy changes that affect LGBTQ lives. As a leader of this coalition, her services include policy support, facilitation, training, initiative development and organizational redesign. Since she began leading the coalition, they have raised more than $5 million of investments in LGBTQ programs.

Later this fall, she will work with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition along with the ANC Rainbow Caucus to convene the first LGBTQ+ Housing Summit from Nov. 29-30.

“The one thing we all recognize is that housing is the common denominator of every other social affliction facing LGBTQ communities,” she said.  

At the summit they will focus on the barriers within the current housing system and explore revitalized approaches to dealing with the current housing market. To pre-register for the event, visit the LGBTQ+ Housing Summit website.

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