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Woman charged in IHOP shooting released from jail

Defendant waives right to hearing; plea bargain possible

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IHOP, gay news, Washington Blade

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

A woman charged with aggravated assault while armed in the March 11 shooting of a gay man at the International House of Pancakes restaurant in Columbia Heights was released to home detention on Thursday, May 3, by a D.C. Superior Court judge.

The decision by Magistrate Judge Frederick J. Sullivan to order Lashawn Yvonne Carson, 27, confined to her home while wearing an electronic ankle bracelet came after Carson’s attorney waived her right to an evidentiary preliminary hearing, raising speculation that she may plead guilty to a lower charge under a government plea bargain deal.

“No good defense lawyer waives a preliminary hearing unless they get something important in return,” said Dale Edwin Sanders, an attorney who practices criminal law in D.C. and Virginia.

Sullivan scheduled a felony status conference for Carson on May 22, and Sanders said a plea agreement could be announced at that time.

Carson’s attorney, Patrick Christmas, did not respond to a request for comment. William Miller, a spokesperson for the United States Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, noted that the prosecutor from his office opposed Carson’s release and “urged continued detention” before the judge ruled against that request.

Miller said the U.S. Attorney’s office would have no further comment because the case remains pending.

According to accounts by police and witnesses, Carson allegedly shot the victim in the abdomen about 6:30 a.m. near the lobby of the IHOP restaurant after an off-duty D.C. police officer broke up a physical altercation between Carson and several of her friends and the victim and two or more of his friends.

Police and witnesses have said the altercation began shortly after people sitting with Carson at the restaurant made anti-gay remarks toward the victim and people sitting with him.

D.C. police listed the case as an anti-gay hate crime. The U.S. Attorney’s office, which prosecutes criminal cases in D.C., did not classify the case as a hate crime, saying it makes such a determination at a later time in its prosecution of all cases designated as a hate crime by police.

A D.C. police affidavit filed in court at the time Carson was arrested on March 26 says investigators obtained from the IHOP restaurant a video recording of the altercation and the shooting, which took place next to the hostess stand near the restaurant’s lobby.

“An off-duty police officer intervened and separated the two parties from fighting,” the affidavit says.

“After the parties were separated, at the time stamped 06:27:17 to 06:27:20 on camera #6, Carson is seen standing near the window of the restaurant by what appears to be a hostess stand and firing a single shot that struck the complainant,” says the affidavit. “The complainant appears to grab his right abdomen and stumble back and fall to the ground. Carson and the male subject then fled out of the restaurant,” it says.

A police charging document says a single bullet from the shooting lodged in the victim’s liver. Although the victim was treated and released from the Med Start Unit at Washington Hospital Center “the bullet has not been removed from the complainant’s liver because of the risk of complications involved in an operation to that vital organ,” the charging document says.

The arrest affidavit says Carson admitted to shooting the victim when questioned by police shortly before her arrest.

At a March 29 court hearing, attorney Christmas told another judge that Carson was pregnant and was experiencing a pregnancy-related medical problem. He asked that Carson be released under strict supervision. Judge Diana Harris Epps denied the request and ordered Carson held without bond pending a preliminary hearing.

At the hearing on Thursday, May 3, Christmas reiterated his earlier request that his client be released to home detention. This time Judge Sullivan, who is now presiding over the case, agreed to release Carson to home detention under the court’s High Intensity Supervision Program known as “HISP,” according to court records.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lauren Dickie, the prosecutor in the case, expressed opposition to the release, saying Carson could present a danger to the community.

A plea bargain offer by the U.S. Attorney’s office resulting in the lowering of the charge against Carson is likely to upset LGBT activists, who have raised objections in the past to decisions by the U.S. Attorney to lower charges in cases involving anti-gay violence.

Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s office have told activists in community meetings that the office must weigh the strength of the evidence and determine whether a jury is likely to hand down a conviction. If prosecutors don’t think they can obtain a conviction on a more stringent charge they sometimes must lower the charge to ensure that a person who committed a violent act receives some jail time rather than be released if a jury acquits the person, the officials have said.

Representatives of the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) have complained that the U.S. Attorney’s office appears reluctant to take cases involving anti-LGBT violence to trial even when evidence appears strong.

“We want to make sure that crimes against the LGBT community are prosecuted to the fullest extent,” said GLOV President A.J. Singletary.

Singletary noted that the U.S. Attorney’s office hasn’t explained why it charged Carson with aggravated assault while armed rather than attempted murder and why it so far has not charged her with a hate crime, which could lead to a longer prison sentence upon conviction.

He said GLOV would be further troubled if the office decides to lower the charge further in a plea bargain.

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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’

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‘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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Comings & Goings

Former D.C. resident opens art gallery in San Francisco

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Jonathan Carver Moore

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 Jonathan Carver Moore on opening his contemporary art gallery in San Francisco. The gallery specializes in working with emerging and established artists who are BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and women. As the only openly gay Black male-owned gallery in San Francisco, Moore is committed to amplifying the voices of the often-underrepresented artists through a Black queer lens. He said, “I want the gallery to be a place where the LGBTQ+ community and people of color walk inside and see themselves knowing that they belong. I want us to be able to collect work from and support underrepresented artists who are often overlooked, but add some much value to our culture.”

Moore is also the founder of ARTUCATED, a digital journal that helps share, spotlight, and educate people about marginalized artists. Previously he was director of Donor Relations, Partnerships & Programming Director with the Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco. He was Communications Manager, Rosenberg Foundation; and Associate Director of Public Relations, Out & Equal, San Francisco Bay Area. 

Moore earned his bachelor’s in Sociology, Women’s Studies, from George Washington University in D.C.; and his master’s in Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communications, also from George Washington University.

Congratulations also to Jim Bobick on having his paintings included in a permanent collection by Saks Fifth Avenue. He said, “I am thrilled Saks Fifth Avenue chose my art for its permanent collection. I have long been a customer of the store and an admirer of the fashion designers represented there. I am especially pleased to know my work is on public view in the Chevy Chase, Maryland store. Not only did I grow up in the area, for part of my education I attended art school nearby, where I had the good fortune of studying under the notable painter Allen Dester Carter of Washington, D.C., whose work is in the Smithsonian collection. My ties to the Washington area art scene and my love of Saks makes this professional moment especially important to me. I am grateful and honored the store chose my paintings for their collection.” 

He has had numerous exhibitions of his work, including: Gallery 101 Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (solo); Coral Springs Museum of Art, Coral Springs, Fla. (group); Studio B “Delicacies” Washington, D.C. (group); Columbia Art Center “Abstract Paintings” (solo); and Gallery 50 “Freestyle” (solo) Rehoboth Beach, Del. He has been written about in several publications including Michael Mills, Jim Bobick Creates Landscapes of the Mind at Gallery 101, New Times; Arterpillar South Florida Arts Blog; Stefan Braham, Eclectic Expressions, Coastal Style Magazine; Artist Looks Beyond the Temporal Beauty, Coast Press.

He earned his bachelor’s in Visual Arts, University of Maryland, College Park, Fine Art; and attended the Maryland College of Art and Design. 

Jim Bobick
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Arts & Entertainment

2023 Best of LGBTQ DC Readers’ Choice Award Finalist Voting

Vote for your favorite finalists through October 2nd!

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It is time to celebrate the best of LGBTQ+ DC! You nominated and now we have our finalists. Vote for your favorites in our 2023 Best of LGBTQ DC categories through October 2nd. Our 2023 Best of LGBTQ DC will be announced at the Best of LGBTQ DC Awards Party on October 19th and our special issue will come out on Friday, October 20th.

Thank you to our sponsors: ABSOLUT, Heineken, PEPCO, Shakers, Infinite Legacy.

VOTE BELOW OR BY CLICKING HERE!

ARE YOU A BEST OF FINALIST? DOWNLOAD ASSETS HERE!

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