June 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Woman charged in IHOP shooting rejects plea bargain offer

IHOP, gay news, Washington Blade

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

A woman charged with shooting a gay man inside an International House of Pancakes restaurant in the city’s Columbia Heights section in March rejected a plea bargain deal from prosecutions on Tuesday during a court status hearing.

The government’s offer called for keeping in place the charge of aggravated assault while armed filed against Lashawn Yvonne Carson, 27, at the time of her arrest. However, the offer included a recommendation that she be sentenced to seven years in jail for an offense that carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a possible fine of $10,000.

D.C. Superior Court Judge J. Michael Ryan, who presided over the hearing, said the case would be sent to a grand jury, which observers said could indict Carson on the aggravated assault while armed charge as well as other charges, including a more severe charge of assault with intent to kill and the listing of the case as a hate crime.

D.C. police initially classified the case as an anti-gay hate crime. The U.S. Attorney’s office dropped the hate crime designation when it filed the case in court. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office said its prosecutors normally hold off on deciding whether to list cases as hate crimes until they are presented before a grand jury.

According to accounts by police and witnesses, Carson allegedly shot the victim in the abdomen about 6:30 a.m. on March 11 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 at least two of his friends.

A police arrest affidavit says the altercation began after people sitting with Carson at the restaurant made anti-gay remarks toward the victim and people sitting with him.

The affidavit says video footage taken by a surveillance camera at the IHOP shows Carson walking up to the victim after the police officer stopped the two parties from fighting. The affidavit says the video shows Carson firing a single shot that struck the victim, who is shown clutching his abdomen and falling to the floor.

The victim recovered from what police said was a serious but non-life threatening wound to his liver. Carson was initially held without bond. On May 3, another judge agreed to release her to home confinement, with the requirement that she wear an electronic ankle bracelet.

Carson wore the ankle bracelet in court on Tuesday. Her attorney, Patrick Christmas, told the court that Carson, who is pregnant, has complied with all requirements of the home release order issued on May 3 by Judge Magistrate Frederick Sullivan.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said that while the maximum sentence for aggravated assault while armed is 30 years in prison, the court’s guidelines for such a charge range from a four to ten year prison term depending on the circumstances of individual cases.

Gay D.C. attorney Dale Edwin Sanders, who practices criminal law in D.C. and Virginia, called the seven-year sentence offered by the government “a real good offer” given the fact that Carson’s action was captured on video.

“I would take that in a heartbeat,” he said.

Christmas, Carson’s attorney, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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

  • Perhaps she feels that an all blac jury in DC will acquit regardless of video evidence against her because the victim was White. Thats frequently what happens in DC so its probably a good bet by her.

  • Stupid wench! What’s she think she’s gonna get away with probation!? Go figure, some of these people just don’t get it. On video tape and she thinks she’ll get an all black jury to cut her loose? Doubt it. They’ll figure they know someone gay and it could have been that person. She’s gonna rot for at least 20 years, kid and all. She probably had one of the famous hormone rushes right before she shot her victim. I know attorney Christmas and he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. Plea bargain vs. Trial w/Public defender? she missed that boat!

    • This is why I carry my sidearm. I stopped an attack on me in downtown St Petersburg (where I live) Walking from my car into Sporters, when a very large man came up behind me, about to grab me by the neck and drag me into the alley. He ran like a little pissing child when I turned and pointed my Glock in his face AND had my finger on the trigger…. This is a small Gay club not in a seedy part of town but off the protected Gay Strip (Grand Central Ave.)

  • Thanks to the Blade for the followup on this particular case. Attorney Sanders’ expertise and perspective is helpful to our criminal justice understanding, too.

    But I’m wondering about the other two anti-LGBT hate crimes cases reported in the same week as the IHOP shooting (Ga. Ave. NW assaults and the WV Ave. NE assault on a trans woman). Does MPD have PROGRESS to report on those two cases? And what about the Gopalan homicide last September?

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