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3 hospitalized after spate of anti-LGBT violence

One gay man shot, another beaten; trans woman knocked unconscious

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The International House of Pancakes restaurant in Columbia Heights (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

One gay man was shot in a Columbia Heights restaurant on March 11 and another gay man and a transgender woman were badly beaten on the street the following day in separate incidents during a period of just over 24 hours.

The gay male victims remained hospitalized this week, with one being treated for a bullet wound to his liver and the other awaiting surgery Wednesday afternoon to repair a broken jaw. The transgender woman was treated and released for a head injury after being knocked unconscious.

Police have listed the attacks against the two gay men as anti-gay hate crimes. The attack against the transgender woman was not listed as a hate crime but police are looking into the possibility that it may have been an anti-trans hate crime, according to a police report. Officers assigned to the police Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit were said to be involved in the investigation into each of the incidents.

“We appreciate [D.C.] Metropolitan Police Department’s prompt action regarding the recent attacks and we offer the victims our strongest support while recovering,” said A.J. Singletary, chair of the local group Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV). “We expect MPD to respond by increasing patrols in the affected areas and tenaciously investigating the crimes committed.”

A police report for the shooting incident says the incident began when a male suspect got into a verbal altercation with the victim, a 31-year-old gay man, about 6:30 a.m. Sunday, March 11. The report says the incident took place inside the International House of Pancakes restaurant on the 3100 block of 14th Street, N.W. in Columbia Heights.

The report says a fist fight ensued between the suspect and the victim and that two other suspects, a male and a female, got involved. It says a witness reported hearing a gunshot during the physical altercation and saw the three suspects leave the restaurant and flee in an eastbound direction along Irving Street, N.W.

“Complainant 1 complained of pain to his chest area,” the report says. “Further investigation revealed that C-1 had been shot with an unknown caliber of firearm and was transported to [a hospital] by ambulance.”

Aaron Woodland, who identified himself as the victim’s cousin, said he and another cousin were with the victim at the restaurant when the incident occurred. According to Woodland, the three suspects were sitting at a table near where the victim and the two cousins were seated. He said the suspects referred to the victim and the two cousins repeatedly as “faggies” while the two parties sat at their separate tables.

Woodland said the altercation began when the victim got up to pay the restaurant bill and the three suspects blocked his path. He said a fight started after the victim pushed his way past the suspects.

“Once he did that they started calling him faggy again,” said Woodland.

Woodland said the victim was being treated for a gunshot wound to the liver and was expected to be released from the hospital in about a week.

Police have listed the incident as a hate-related assault with intent to kill.

A police source said the second incident occurred about 9:30 p.m. Monday, March 12, at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Irving Street, N.W., when the victim, a 29-year-old gay man, got out of a cab about two blocks from his home. The source said accounts from witnesses indicate two or three male suspects attacked the victim while calling him anti-gay names as he began to walk home.

Rodney Shaffer, the victim’s partner, said the victim, who asked that his name not be disclosed, told him he remembers being dragged along the street by the attackers, who did not attempt to rob him. Shaffer said the victim called him for help on his cell phone after the attackers walked away. Seconds later, Shaffer said, another group of attackers took the victim’s cell phone, iPad and wallet, leaving the victim lying on the street in a semi-conscious state.

Shaffer said the victim was scheduled to undergo surgery Wednesday afternoon to repair a broken jaw. He said the attackers’ blows to his head and face that caused the jaw to break were so severe that the victim had to be sedated with a breathing tube inserted to prevent swelling of tissue caused by the injury from preventing him from breathing.

According to Shaffer, a detective said police were in the process of obtaining a video recording that they hoped has captured the attack through cameras installed in various locations near the site of the incident. Police planned to release posters seeking witnesses of the incident, Shaffer said.

Police reports show that the third incident occurred March 12 at about 11:50 p.m. when a transgender woman was attacked by two young male suspects on the street at West Virginia Avenue and Mt. Olivet Street, N.E.

A police report says the victim reported being hit from behind and knocked unconscious. The report says the victim initially told police she could not remember what, if anything, was said at the time of the assault.

Based on a lack of evidence to indicate the attackers used anti-transgender language or showed an anti-trans bias, the case could not immediately be listed as a hate crime, the police report said.

However, when the victim was being interviewed later at the hospital, she was asked if she thought she was targeted because of her status as a transgender woman, says the report, which was prepared by Officer S.D. Hall, an affiliate member of the police Special Liaison Unit.

Hall said in her report that the woman replied that she did believe she was attacked because of her status as a transgender woman.

The police report for the shooting incident at the IHOP restaurant provides these descriptions of the suspects: Suspect 1—black male between 20 and 23 years old, about 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 6 inches tall, brown eyes and black hair in a crew cut; light brown complexion and a slender build; Suspect 2: black male between 20 and 25 years old, 6 feet to 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing between 190 and 220 pounds, brown eyes, black dreadlocks, medium brown complexion and medium or average build; Suspect 3: black female between 20 and 23 years old, 5 feet 3 inches to 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing between 190 and 200 pounds, brown eyes, hair in braids, medium complexion and a “heavy/fat/stocky” build.

A description of the suspects in the other two incidents wasn’t immediately available.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. clyde casstevens

    March 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    how about passing law to a crime like this gets 99 yeas in prison and never be free under any circumstances til they are dead.you do it,if you are caught,there is no question about your cost that you will pay ,fixed it to where judge has no choice.if you don;t then them crooks wont follow the law..as they are more crooked then and one else..

  2. brian / ward 5 / 5D

    March 15, 2012 at 12:30 am

    ***
    A police report says the victim reported being hit from behind and knocked unconscious. The report says the victim initially told police she could not remember what, if anything, was said at the time of the assault.

    Based on a lack of evidence to indicate the attackers used anti-transgender language or showed an anti-trans bias, the case could not immediately be listed as a hate crime, the police report said.

    However, when the victim was being interviewed later at the hospital, she was asked if she thought she was targeted because of her status as a transgender woman, says the report, which was prepared by Officer S.D. Hall, an affiliate member of the police Special Liaison Unit.

    Hall said in her report that the woman replied that she did believe she was attacked because of her status as a transgender woman.
    ***

    Seriously??? MPD asked a transgender woman who was “KNOCKED UNCONSCIOUS” and “FROM BEHIND” whether SHE thought she was targeted because of her transgender status??? Given the stated facts, a highly speculative answer from a traumatized, recovering trans woman– in the negative– could have provided any less-than-honorable PD an excuse to sweep another inconvenient LGBT hate crimes case under the rug.

    In times past, I have personally seen 5D MPD officers– both rookies and veterans– do exactly that.
    I hope MPD’s detectives and GLLU will not use the victim’s inability to have heard an overt biased remark, or seen an overt biased action, as an excuse to NOT investigate this as a bias-related (hate) crime. Some circumstantial evidence is quite overwhelming. Juries and judges convict violent perps on circumstantial evidence every day on America’s criminal dockets.

    Unlike (in IMHO) most LGBs, trans people are often more identifiable by sight as transgender people by most reasonable observers. Given the numerous unsolved cases of assaults and homicides on trans women in DC– and lacking any other reported single motive to the contrary, MPD should give this anti-trans assault comparable priority to the two anti-gay assaults reported here.

    MPD dog and pony shows are no substitute for MPD and GLLU providing accurate information directly to interested LGBT activists. Given yet another spate of anti-LGBT violence, it was especially disturbing to hear Chief Lanier imply before CM Mendelson’s Judiciary Committee hearing on 29 Feb, that MPD was devoting too much police resources to anti-LGBT violent crimes. The Judiciary Committee should take note of Chief Lanier’s exaggerated protests against LGBT activists’ concerns. It is a smokescreen, and it was a wholly inappropriate, highly generalized assault on the city’s LGBT citizens.

    See Chief Lanier’s DC Council Judiciary Committee testimony (29 Feb 12)…
    http://dc.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=12&clip_id=1099
    (approx. at time: 2:27:00)

    More specifically, it is also troubling that MPD (by withholding the stats from GLLU) is not being transparent regarding their investigative progress in anti-trans violent crimes– and even the public statistical reporting of crimes against trans women– as reported by DCTC’s Jason Terry at the same said hearing I noted above.

  3. Brianna

    March 15, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    the 29-year old victim happens to be one of my 1st cousins and i could not believe this happened to him when i heard it. whoever did this is despicable and i hope the police deal with you because if it was me dealing it would not be pretty. i know my cousin is gay but he is also a pretty cool person and a nice guy. whoever did this you will pay for what you’ve done. we are all god’s children no matter if we are gay or straight.

  4. Dan

    March 15, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    There is absolutely NO PROOF this is an “anti-gay” hate crime. NONE at all. Most likely the facts will bear out it is a homosexual on homosexual crime and as usual, they blame it on people who they actually hate.

    • Alexander Stankoff

      March 16, 2012 at 8:34 am

      Hey, the only thing your words bear out, pal, is that you intensely hate yourself… or the gays… or both. Your choice.

    • Michael

      March 16, 2012 at 9:29 am

      I would like for you to share your references for homosexual hate crimes by other homosexuals since you speak so highly of this statistic.

    • scotty501

      March 16, 2012 at 10:30 am

      you think the restaurant suspects are gay????????????????????????? wow

    • NAP

      March 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      That has to be one of the stupidest comments I’ve ever read in my life.

  5. brian / Ward 5 (MPD's 5th District)

    March 16, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    “We appreciate [D.C.] Metropolitan Police Department’s prompt action regarding the recent attacks and we offer the victims our strongest support while recovering,” said A.J. Singletary, chair of the local group Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV). “We expect MPD to respond by increasing patrols in the affected areas and tenaciously investigating the crimes committed.”
    ***
    With great respect for A.J. Singletary and the dedicated work of GLOV, I will take some exception to his characterization of MPD’s response to these three anti-LGBT hate crimes– especially at this late date (nearly 4 to 5 full days after the crimes were committed).

    First, it is the DUTY of any police department to take “prompt action” ASAP after violent assaults upon anyone. Given DC’s tough hate crimes law, as well as Police Chief Lanier’s public pronouncements to give anti-LGBT violent hate crimes a high priority, Lanier– and the MPD she very closely manages, has failed to do so with respect to these three violent crimes this week.

    Everyone should understand, this is not a failure of GLLU, nor of the management of its parent unit, MPD’s Special Liaison Division (SLD). Captain Delgado and Sergeant Mejia are highly capable MPD pros with broad experience. The dedicated MPD officers of GLLU’s core and affiliate teams are top-notch, as well. We owe each and every one of them our gratitude for their service to MPD and the city, every day of the week.

    However, both SLD and GLLU are closely monitored and tightly controlled by Chief Cathy Lanier and her Asst. Chief for Patrol Services (and School Security), Diane Groomes. For those who also object to the chiefs’ policies and/or practices, but may occasionally be tempted to make personal attacks on either of them, or their professional integrity– let me assert that Chiefs Lanier and Groomes are two very good people. They are without question, extraordinarily talented managers– and extraordinarily dedicated, good cops. Despite my public criticism of their policies/ practices, I think they have nearly always been responsive to my private communications, usually prodding MPD about one issue or another.

    However, I continue to strongly disagree with Chief Lanier’s policies and practices which are adversely impacting effective law enforcement against violent, anti-LGBT hate crimes perpetrators (and would-be perps who are also watching MPD’s response) in the District of Columbia.

    Moreover, the anti-LGBT tone and comments made by Chief Lanier a few weeks ago, made before CM Mendelson’s Judiciary Committee hearing (of 29 Feb) are extremely troubling. They bespeak a chief of police who is seemingly frustrated at having to deal with the pesky concerns of DC’s LGBT activists concerned for the safety and very lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters.

    DC Council Judiciary Committee testimony (29 Feb 12)…
    http://dc.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=12&clip_id=1099

    In addition DC Trans Coalition’s Jason Terry reported at the same Judiciary Committee hearing that SLD/GLLU could not provide him with MPD stats and basic information of transgender-related violent crimes. That is outrageous and unacceptable. The public at large, and especially interested LGBT activists are entitled to such basic information from MPD– both to inform and warn LGBT residents for their own public safety, as well as to monitor MPD’s case closure issues.

    *LIAISON* with the LGBT community is an integral part of SLD/GLLU’s mission. If SLD/GLLU will not provide that basic information to DCTC and the public, it is likely that Chief Lanier is refusing to let them do so. Mayor Gray and members of the Council should take note of this apparently OFFICIAL MPD obstructionism and secrecy.

    What else is MPD’s top brass trying to hide? From whom? And why?

    Mayor Gray– as is appropriate and fitting for the city’s top popularly elected executive, has issued a public statement regarding the week’s anti-LGBT violence. Police Chief Lanier has not.

    What kind of message does that send to the city’s violent hate crimes perpetrators? When police departments remain officially silent about anti-LGBT hate crimes, they risk being, de facto, tacit accomplices in encouraging more anti-LGBT violence.

    Another item… the violent assault on a transgender woman on March 12th, which occurred here in Ward 5 and MPD’s 5th District (WV Avenue, NE, Gallaudet U. area) was not even reported as part of the MPD-5D listserv Daily Report… not on the 13th, nor on the 14th. Is anyone at MPD-5D, besides GLLU officers, paying attention to assaults on trans women? One has to ask, was that intentional on MPD’s part? And if so, why?

    We have had no public statement on our local listservs from MPD-5D Commander Andy Solberg or SLD/GLLU as to what is being done about this assault. The trans woman was apparently stalked and knocked unconscious from behind. In which direction was she walking from? Is MPD-5D canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses and potential video/cam evidence? Is Commander Solberg stepping up patrols? Should Gallaudet U./Trinidad area LGBT residents and visitors be concerned for their own public safety?

    Today’s MPD presser by Asst. Chief Peter Newsham is insufficient and unacceptable. The truth is, if MPD does not adequately investigate the NE assault on a trans woman as a hate crime, such evidence will not be found. So MPD’s ongoing “line” on this trans woman’s assault is pretty tidy, huh?

    The obvious truism that should be self-evident to everyone, is that, unlike most LGBs, many transgender women are recognizable, by sight, as transgender, and that– especially absent any other motive– there can be a reasonable presumption in this case that the assault was motivated by the woman’s status as a transgender.

    With this high level obfuscation, it is no wonder that many in DC’s transgender and LGB communities believe MPD is trying to COVER UP the now-commonplace hate crimes violence against DC’s transgender women.

    NO INFO ON MPD’s LISTSERVS…
    Despite Newsham’s press conference, as of this comment, we have had no MPD public statement on MPD’s SLU listserv, nor MPD’s District listservs and other MPD e-media– whether directly from Chief Lanier or SLD’s/ GLLU’s commands regarding this extraordinary rash of anti-LGBT violence.

    But the fact of the matter is, the buck (ie, the responsibility) stops solely with our Chief of Police.

    If Chief Lanier truly joins Mayor Gray in asserting that anti-LGBT hate crimes will not be tolerated in DC, then SHE should also be unequivocally conveying that message from all of her MPD listservs, e-media and via messages from her 7 district commanders– especially at times when hate crimes are committed so boldly. Anything less, just further reduces MPD’s credibility and effectiveness.

    And, BTW, Chief Lanier, herself, should be present at any public press conferences related to anti-LGBT violence. That sends a message as to how important Chief Lanier views this rash of anti-LGBT crimes, too.

  6. Rickindc

    March 18, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Dan I am also one who agrees with you, it’s like the ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ some people in our community see hate crimes everywhere after a while no one will listen. Get the stupid liberals judges in this town to give-out harder real time!

    • Sean

      March 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm

      “Rickindc”, did you even read the descriptions of the crimes? Two of them involve the suspects clearly and repeatedly using unambiguously anti-gay language. Do you REALLY want these facts ignored? And what the hell does a judge’s political leanings have to do with the facts of these assaults?? Clue to the clueless: “nothing”. Get a god-damn grip, bud.

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Heather Mizeur congressional campaign raises more than $1M

Former Md. delegate challenging Andy Harris

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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

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(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

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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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