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Jury rejects hate crime charge in gay murder

Defendant found guilty of slaying victim in bedroom



A D.C. Superior Court jury on Tuesday found District resident Justin L. Navarro, 25, guilty of first-degree murder while armed for stabbing a gay man at least 15 times in the back seconds after police said he referred to the victim as a “faggot.”

But the jury declined a request by prosecutors that it designate the Nov. 6, 2009 murder of District resident Kevin Massey, 31, as an anti-gay hate crime.

“The U.S. Attorney’s office had charged the defendant with committing this murder because of Mr. Massey’s sexual orientation, but the jury did not make that finding beyond a reasonable doubt,” the office said in a statement.

In addition to handing down a first-degree murder conviction, the jury found Navarro guilty of obstruction of justice, tampering with evidence, and carrying a dangerous weapon. He faces a minimum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life in prison.

“This murder was marked by an unspeakable brutality,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. “Today’s first-degree murder conviction ensures that the defendant will be held accountable for this senseless and deplorable act of violence.”

Machen told the Blade his office couldn’t discuss certain specifics, such as the jury’s decision not to convict on the hate crime charge, prior to sentencing, which is scheduled for May 24.

A law enforcement source said juries sometimes find it difficult to grapple with bias-related charges in criminal cases because it’s hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether a defendant used bias or hatred as his or her motive in committing a crime.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the department is committed to “fully investigate” hate crimes.

“In this case, MPD investigators worked diligently with the United States Attorney’s office to gather all of the facts that were available,” Lanier said. “It is unfortunate that the jury did not find in favor of the hate bias enhancement.”

The verdict in the case came two days after Machen and D.C. police officials joined LGBT activists in speaking at a community forum on anti-gay hate crimes hosted by Foundry United Methodist Church near Dupont Circle.

Machen told forum participants about his office’s prosecution of Antwan Holcomb, 21, who was convicted March 1 by a D.C. Superior Court jury of first-degree murder while armed in the December 2009 murder of gay District resident Anthony Perkins. Witnesses testified that Holcomb was overheard boasting about meeting Perkins on a gay telephone chat line and luring him to a secluded spot in Southeast D.C., where he shot him in the head inside Perkins’ car.

Machen told the forum his office considered but ruled out charging Holcomb with a hate crime in connection with the Perkins murder.

A statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office said witnesses testified during Navarro’s week-long trial that he became angry at Massey about a month before the murder when people saw someone carry him out of the apartment building where Massey lived while his pants were falling down.

The statement says witnesses saw Massey lean over to “pull up the defendant’s pants for him” while teenagers began laughing at Navarro. Some of the teens began teasing Navarro by “saying Mr. Massey was going to make the defendant ‘his next bitch,’” the U.S. Attorney’s office statement says.

The statement says witnesses reported that Navarro turned toward Massey and gave him the “evil eye.”

A source familiar with the case said the building where Massey lived was known as a place where illegal drugs were sold and sometimes used. The source said Navarro was being carried out of the building with his pants falling because he was highly impaired due to alleged drug use and apparently was unable to walk.

According to the statement, during the following month, Navarro became the target of rumors questioning his sexual orientation. It says that on at least one occasion he was overheard “loudly denying the rumors and vowing to kill Mr. Massey.”

On Nov. 6, 2009, Navarro knocked on the door of Massey’s apartment at 4211 2nd St., N.W., and asked, “Where’s the faggot,” the statement says. It says someone answered the door and told Navarro that Massey was in the bedroom.

The statement says witnesses reported that Navarro then went into the kitchen, grabbed a “large butcher knife,” walked into the bedroom and “without any warning began stabbing Mr. Massey repeatedly.”

It says Massey died on the scene. An autopsy later revealed that he had been stabbed between 18 and 20 times, including 15 times in the back.

“In the days that followed, the defendant threatened witnesses, burned his clothes, and told relatives he would not be around for a while,” the statement says. “Five days after the murder, the Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested the defendant in a hotel room in Southwest D.C.,” the statement says.

The statement says that during his trial, Navarro testified that he acted in self-defense, saying “he did not know Mr. Massey and that Mr. Massey attacked him for no apparent reason.”

Says the statement, “The defendant testified that he believed Mr. Massey was either going to kill him or rape him.”

Attempts to reach Navarro’s court appointed attorney, Nathan I. Silver II, for comment were unsuccessful.

A.J. Singletary, chair of Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence, said the group appreciates the U.S. Attorney’s office’s decision to charge Navarro with a hate crime in the Massey murder.

“As this case shows, it is ultimately up to the jury in the end, but it’s important to fiercely prosecute these cases to stem the growing level of hate in our community,” Singletary said.

He said GLOV will write a community impact statement to be submitted to the judge prior to Navarro’s sentencing that “conveys the effects of this crime on the LGBT community.”

Singletary also noted that Navarro, with the help of his attorney, sought to use a form of the so-called “gay panic defense” in the case.

In past cases, attorneys representing defendants charged with killing gay men have invoked the gay panic defense to persuade juries that their client lost control of his actions due to a fear of homosexuality and lashed out and killed the victim in a state of temporary insanity.

Gay rights attorneys have pointed to evidence showing that some defendants using this defense sought out and targeted gay victims for and assault and robbery and invoked the gay panic defense after being caught.

“We all must be vigilant to make sure that nothing remotely close to a gay panic defense is seriously considered, or worse, upheld in court,” Singletary said. “Police and prosecutors must always be skeptical when they hear the gay panic defense, which as this case shows, is prevalent and dangerous.”

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Pride flags vandalized, stolen in Loudoun County town

‘Bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand’



Vandals destroyed or stole several Pride flags that had been displayed at homes in Lovettsville, Va. (Screen capture via WUSA9))

Vandals this week destroyed or stole Pride flags that Lovettsville residents had displayed on their homes.

Calvin Woehrie told WUSA the vandals used a blade to slash the Pride flag that was hanging from his house. The D.C. television station reported the vandals also targeted Woehrie’s neighbors who are a lesbian couple with four children.

The Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office said the vandals damaged five Pride flags from three homes and they stole two more. A spokesperson for the Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office told WUSA the vandalism is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

“I wanted to address events that happened over the weekend, that are deplorable and devastating to the entire community,” said Lovettsville Mayor Nate Fontaine in a letter he sent to town residents on June 16. “Over the weekend, there was destruction of property that specifically targeted our LGBTQ community. To make this even more heinous is that the destruction of property was done during Pride Month. To have property destroyed targeting members of our community is horrible and can be frightening for those targeted.” 

“For the individuals who committed these crimes, know that your bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand,” added Fontaine. “We are working closely with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and this has also been added as an agenda item for our June 24th Council meeting.”

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, on Saturday described the vandalism as “absolutely unacceptable.”

“Whether someone is voicing an opinion or flying a flag, as Virginians — and as human beings — we must be respectful of one another,” wrote Youngkin in a Facebook post.

“Politicians always seem to be pitting neighbor against neighbor, but I am committed to bringing people together around our shared values, like treating others the same way you want to be treated,” he added. “We must all do better by respecting others’ right to live their lives freely, without being targeted because of who they are.”

WUSA reported Lovettsville residents bought Pride flags to replace the ones that had been vandalized and stolen.

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Transgender man murdered in Va.

EJ Boykin was shot outside Lynchburg store on June 14



EJ Boykin (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

A transgender man was murdered in Lynchburg, Va., on June 14.

The News and Advance, a local newspaper, reported EJ Boykin, who was also known as Novaa Watson, was shot outside a Family Dollar store on the city’s Fort Avenue at around 6 p.m. Boykin passed away at Lynchburg General Hospital a short time later.

A spokesperson for the Lynchburg Police Department told the News and Advance the shooting may have been the result of a domestic dispute. Authorities added there is no evidence to currently suggest the shooting was a hate crime based on Boykin’s gender identity.

Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents reported Boykin was born and raised in Baltimore and was a student at Morgan State University. The blog said Boykin celebrated his 23rd Birthday on June 10, four days before his murder.

Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, in a statement notes Boykin is the fifth trans man reported killed in 2021. HRC notes at least 29 trans or gender non-conforming people are known to have been murdered so far this year.

“The level of fatal violence we’ve recorded this year is higher than we’ve ever seen,” said Cooper. “All of these individuals deserved to live. We must strike at the roots of racism and transphobia, and continue to work toward justice and equality for trans and gender non-conforming people.”

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Comings & Goings

Jarvis lands lead consultant role at Meridian



Ted Jarvis

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success.

Congratulations to Ted Jarvis on his new position as Lead Consultant with Meridian Compensation Partners, in D.C. He will work on executive compensation, governance research and development. When asked for a response to news of his new role, Jarvis told this story: “I was on the prowl for a new job, I contacted the CEO of Meridian, who worked closely with me during our years at Towers Perrin. After half an hour on the phone, he asked: ‘Send me a list of things you really like to do.’ I followed up with a list of activities that continually engage my interest. Within a few days he mailed me a job description that reiterated my list almost word-for-word. I feel truly blessed to have a job so aligned with what I enjoy doing. This is going to be great.”

Prior to working for Meridian, Jarvis worked as Managing Director with Main Data Group in D.C. and Wilton Manors, Fla. He has also worked as Global Director of Executive Compensation Data, Research & Publications, Mercer, in D.C.; principal with Willis Towers Watson; and as a research consultant with McKinsey & Company. Jarvis is a member of the Lotos Club (New York); a benefactor at Drew University (Morristown, N.J.). He funded two undergraduate prizes (Wettstein Drama Prize; Norton Wettstein and Jane Brown Memorial Prize for Outstanding Academic Achievement); a benefactor, Woodmere Art Museum (Philadelphia): funded William Joseph Coverley-Smith Prize, awarded annually at the Juried Art Competition; and a benefactor, St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church (Rochester, N.Y.).

Jarvis earned his MBA from The University of Chicago, Booth School of Business; his bachelor’s (cum laude); his Ph.D. (ABD) major in music history, literature and theory from NYU. He earned a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Vienna.

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