May 5, 2012 at 9:02 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Woman charged in IHOP shooting released from jail

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.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • For [EXPLETIVE REMOVED] sake! This lousy [EXPLETIVE REMOVED] tried to kill a gay man and she’s out of jail wearing a ankle monitor?!

    If the U.S. Attorney’s office isn’t anti-gay then I’ve never seen the sky when it’s blue!

    If this victim were anyone else, absolutely anyone else, attempted murder would get you NO B O N D!!

    The L.G.B.T.Q. community has got to picket this U.S. Attorney’s office. This women tried to kill this man. Kill him!!

  • It is shameful that LGBT Americans have to worry about their public safety and that of their loved ones when visiting DC. It is THEIR nation’s capital, too.

    Haven’t we seen this song and dance routine from MPD and USAO-DC before?

    DC’s Chief of Police professes her personal outrage at an anti-LGBT hate crimes spontaneous street protest. The LGBT protesters are told what they want to hear. Vague promises of ‘quick closure’ by MPD are made. But when the protests dies down and the news falls off the front pages, MPD and USAO-DC (w/ jurisdiction over DC under the U.S. Department of Justice) continue their defacto policy of benign neglect of DC’s hate crimes law.

    MPD frequently passes the buck when queried by the LGBT press, claiming it is up to USAO-DC to charge for a hate crime. But USAO-DC claims they can “never comment” on the reasons for their decisions. So we get a nice and tidy stone wall from both agencies.

    Reading between the lines, tho… the fact is MPD can not really consistently charge and arrest for hate crimes when USAO-DC so clearly prefers to ignore DC’s hate crimes law. So maybe it is time to ask the President of the United States why his Department of Justice is not serious about enforcing the hate crimes law in the nation’s capital on behalf of LGBT victims.

    • once the investigtion is over and the case is done we can file for records that relate to the decision made my the USAO, so Glvo get right on that! We need to protest the USAO, Cathy’s house. I bet one night without sleep from them or their neighbors and this will end them looking the other way! Wake up Ron we’re coming for you!

  • We need a new US Atty! Ron if this case goes down without a hate crime conviction, or attempted murder charge I will call for your resignation! Enough is enough! stop fucking around and get these haters to serve hard time before this community is at your door and office night and day in protest! It is completely unacceptable and frankly disgusting wht is happening in this cas and judge Sullivan watch your step you could be next with the protests. Letting someone go who has shot someone. Oh she is pregant….big deal..she shot someone! Let her rot in jail for at least 20 years for her actions

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