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Marine charged with killing another Marine after anti-gay slur claims self-defense

Judge orders defendant held without bail; finds probable cause



Marine Barracks on Capitol Hill (Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Marine charged with fatally stabbing another Marine on a D.C. sidewalk after allegedly calling the victim an anti-gay name told police he acted in self-defense.

A police affidavit released Monday during a court hearing says Michael Joseph Poth, 20, told police he stabbed Marine Lance Cpl. Philip Bushong, 23, on April 21 after Bushong followed him on the sidewalk across the street from the Marine Barracks on Capitol Hill and after Bushong allegedly punched him in the face.

A police homicide detective who prepared the affidavit says in the document that there were no signs of an injury or bruise on Poth’s face or head when police questioned him at the Homicide Branch office a short time after the incident occurred.

Police charged Poth with second-degree murder while armed after Marine guards who witnessed the stabbing apprehended Poth. A police statement says the incident took place about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, April 21, on the sidewalk in front of 727 8th Street, S.E.

The affidavit says police found a blood-stained pocket knife attached to Poth’s pants pocket at the time they took him into custody. The D.C. Medical Examiner’s office says an autopsy found that Bushong died from a puncture wound to the heart caused by a knife penetrating his upper chest.

“Information uncovered during the course of the preliminary investigation indicates that there was a verbal exchange, and during the exchange a homophobic slur was heard from the suspect prior to the stabbing,” a police statement says.

D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Karen Howze ruled at Monday’s presentment hearing that prosecutors provided sufficient evidence to establish probable cause that Poth committed second-degree murder in connection with the case. She ordered him held without bond and scheduled a preliminary hearing for the case on May 15.

No mention was made during the hearing about the police statement that a witness heard Poth make an anti-gay slur at the time Poth and Bushong got into a verbal altercation on the street that turned violent.

A police incident report doesn’t list the murder as a hate crime. Lt. Robert Alder, commander of the Homicide Branch, said a hate crime designation could be added to the report depending upon the findings of an ongoing police investigation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman, the prosecutor in the case, said during Monday’s hearing that a witness observed someone believed to be Poth walking along 8th Street near where the stabbing took place but between 30 and 60 minutes earlier. He said the witness reported that the person, who fits the description of Poth, stated in an agitated way, “I’m going to stab somebody, or cut their lungs out. They are fucking with the wrong person.”

Liebman also said at the hearing that prior to the incident Marine officials were in the process of discharging Poth under less than honorable circumstances as a result of drug related offenses and “belligerent” behavior toward other Marines.

727 8th Street, S.E. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

David Benowitz, Poth’s attorney, disputed the significance of Poth’s pending discharge to the case at hand. He pointed to the police arrest affidavit’s account by another Marine guard witness who said he saw Bushong retract his arm as if he was about to punch Poth just prior to the stabbing.

Benowitz said the account by the Marine witness supports his contention that Poth acted in self-defense. He told the court that a second-degree murder charge isn’t supported by the facts of the case.

In responding to questions by reporters after the hearing, Benowitz declined to discuss the allegation by one of the Marine witnesses that Poth hurled an anti-gay slur at Bushong shortly before the stabbing.

Gay activists, including officials of the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), had not weighed in as of Monday on whether they agreed with the initial police decision not to list the murder as an anti-gay hate crime.

Friends of Bushong said he was neither gay nor homophobic, according to the Washington Post, which interviewed some of his friends. The Post reported that friends described Bushing as a “warm and sincere young man who loved to read” and “shattered the stereotype” of a Marine rifleman.

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  1. brian

    April 24, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    “Information uncovered during the course of the preliminary investigation indicates that there was a verbal exchange, and during the exchange a homophobic slur was heard from the suspect prior to the stabbing,” a police statement says.

    A police incident report doesn’t list the murder as a hate crime. Lt. Robert Alder, commander of the Homicide Branch, said a hate crime designation could be added to the report depending upon the findings of an ongoing police investigation.

    Or, then again… “a hate crime designation could be added to the report depending upon…” whether or not the LGBT investigative press catches MPD ignoring obvious evidence that elements of a hate crime existed.

    That’s discriminatory, ‘squeaky wheels’ policing. C’mon! Who does MPD think they’re kidding??? Again!

    This excuse-making by MPD is simply NOT credible. Why is MPD bending over backwards to IGNORE DC’s hate crimes law?

    Moreover, MPD now appears to be consistently peddling a very significant change in long-standing MPD procedure to always list a “suspected” hate crime on the incident report if there was any credible evidence that the elements of a hate crime existed.

    “Later” and “ongoing investigation” have become MPD’s operative stalling words in lame response to LGBT press questions as to their now-obvious failure to enforce DC’s hate crimes law.

    DC’s Bias-Related Crimes Act is very clear…
    (1) “Bias-related crime” means a designated act that demonstrates an accused’s prejudice based on the actual or *perceived* race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibility, physical handicap, matriculation, or political affiliation of a victim of the subject designated act.

    (2) “Designated act” means a criminal act, including arson, assault, burglary, injury to property, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, rape, robbery, theft, or unlawful entry, and attempting, aiding, abetting, advising, inciting, conniving, or conspiring to commit arson, assault, burglary, injury to property, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, rape, robbery, theft, or unlawful entry.
    It matters not whether the victim was gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. If the suspect gave any overt indication that he/she PERCEIVED the person to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender or that sexual orientation had anything to do with committing the designated act (murder, in this case), then the responding MPD should have checked off “suspected hate crime” and “sexual orientation”– or however it is listed on their pad these days.

    Once again we see MPD dragging its feet in enforcing DC’s Bias-Related Crimes Act in what appears increasingly to be official anti-LGBT discrimination.

    That begs other questions, however… e.g., Is MPD’s continued foot-dragging really at the behest of low-staffed prosecutors at USAO-DC?

  2. rickindc

    April 25, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Because it was no a HATE CRIME, stop throwing that term around!

  3. Laura

    April 28, 2012 at 8:57 am

    Not every crime resulting from the use of a anti-anti gay slur is a hate crime. It seems to me that most of the readers of the Blade seem to have a persecution complex.You do realize that every other word out of a Marines mouth is fag or faggot. They’re all preoccupied with homo-sex. But that doesn’t mean that Poth meant what he said. We all know that straights use the words with great regularity to prove just how hetero they are.

    Poth is just a P.O.S. that joined the Marines for a free ride. Once they found that he was a useless scumbag, they were dumping him so Poth was raging cause he was losing his meal ticket.

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Comings & Goings

Umana named associate with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol



Wolfgang Umana (Photo courtesy of Umana)

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]

Congratulations to Wolfgang Umana on being named an associate with Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN). He has been with them for more than five years and is currently its D.C. studio’s office manager. 

“I am honored to become GGN’s newest Associate,” Umana said.I have the glorious privilege of supporting GGN’s continuing dedication to progress, inclusion, social justice, sustainability, and beautification of the world we live in.”

Umana also works with NBR Computer Consulting as an LLC Computer Technician consultant. He has experience in social media, communications, outreach, and technical services, and provides a dynamic approach to the fast-changing world of technology. NBR Computer Consulting, LLC is a gay-owned business. 

Umana has also served as D.C. Army National Guard Director of Environmental Affairs and with EMS Consultation Services. 

He has his bachelor’s in Environmental Science & Public Policy, Human and Ecosystem Response to Climate Change, from George Mason University. 

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Capital Pride bids for D.C. to host World Pride 2025

International event draws thousands of visitors



Confetti rained down in New York’s Times Square at Stonewall 50 WorldPride New York’s closing ceremony two years ago. D.C. organizers hope to host the event in 2025. (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual LGBTQ Pride events, announced on Sept. 21 that it has submitted a bid to host 2025 World Pride, the international Pride event that draws thousands of participants from throughout the world to the host city.

The announcement by Capital Pride says its bid to host the event in D.C. notes that the event, among other things, would commemorate the 50th anniversary of D.C.’s first LGBTQ Pride event in 1975, which began as a block party near Dupont Circle.

World Pride is licensed and administered by the international LGBTQ organization InterPride. The World Pride events themselves, which usually take place every other year, are organized by InterPride’s member organizations such as Capital Pride Alliance.

The Capital Pride announcement notes that World Pride “promotes visibility and awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) issues on a global level.” The announcement adds, “World Pride events include parades, marches, festivals and other cultural activities often enjoyed at Pride celebrations, along with other components such as a human rights conference and large-scale opening and closing ceremonies.”

The InterPride website says the deadline for submitting a bid for the 2025 World Pride has passed. It says D.C.’s Capital Pride and Kaohsiung Pride, located in the large Taiwan port city of Kaohsiung, are the only two remaining cities in competition for hosting the 2025 World Pride.

Ryan Bos, Capital Pride’s executive director, said InterPride was expected to make its decision on which of the two cities to select sometime in November of this year.

“A recent study conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton revealed that the annual Capital Pride Celebrations, during normal years, result in approximately $371 million in positive economic impacts to the region, a number that may be doubled if the organization is awarded the prestigious event,” the Capital Pride statement says.

The 2021 World Pride took place earlier this year in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 2019 World Pride was held in New York City to commemorate the 50th anniversary of New York’s Stonewall riots, which many activists consider the start of the modern LGBTQ rights movement.

InterPride says the 2023 World Pride will take place in Sydney, Australia.

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Va. county supervisors back resolution against ‘required’ pronoun questions

Unanimous vote in Stafford County allows school defunding



What's Your Pronoun? review, gay news, Washington Blade
(Image courtesy of Liveright Publishing)

The Stafford County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution that gives it the authority to deny funds to schools that require students to give their pronouns and teach the 1619 Project and critical race theory.

The resolution denounces “the teaching of the 1619 Project and critical race theory (CRT) and related principles in Stafford County Public Schools,” and states the board does not support Stafford County Public School students “being required to identify their chosen pronouns.”

The approved document had been updated to change “requested” to give pronouns to “required.”

Republican Supervisor Gary Snellings told the board he brought the resolution forward, which passed by a 6-0 vote margin, in response to communication from parents. One supervisor was not present.

Snellings called critical race theory “racism.” He also called the New York Times’ 1619 Project published on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to the Virginia colony a “theory.”

Critical race theory is not taught in Virginia public schools, but a state law passed in 2020 requires local school boards to adopt policies that are more inclusive for transgender and non-binary students that follow, or exceed, guidelines from the state’s Department of Education.

Snellings said the problem with preferred pronouns was in requiring students to give them. He said that was not in the governing Virginia law.

“This (resolution) does not eliminate anything. It just follows state law,” Snellings said.

A Virginia court in July dismissed a lawsuit that challenged the Department of Education’s guidelines for trans and non-binary students. Equality Virginia and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia were parties to the amicus brief in support of the protections.

“We are deeply disappointed that these adults made such a hateful decision for kids in the community,” tweeted the ACLU of Virginia in response to the board’s vote.

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