July 10, 2012 at 10:15 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Judge finds probable cause in anti-gay stabbing outside D.C.’s Howard Theatre

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Monday ruled that probable cause exists that a woman and two men committed an anti-gay assault with a dangerous weapon in connection with a June 26 stabbing of a 16-year-old male in Northwest Washington.

Judge Frederick Sullivan issued his ruling following a two-and-a-half-hour preliminary hearing in which a D.C. police detective testified that an eye witness saw Ali Jackson, 19, stab the victim in the left bicep, lower back, and left leg after shouting anti-gay names at him outside the Howard Theatre at 6th and T streets, N.W.

Det. Kenneth Arrington told the court the stabbing occurred after Desmond Campbell, 33, grabbed the victim from behind and held him in a headlock and Alvonica Jackson, 25, assisted Campbell by preventing the victim from defending himself by holding his arms.

“I’m going to poke your faggy ass,” Arrington said the witness quoted Ali Jackson as saying while pointing a knife at the victim.

A probable cause finding means the case can proceed to trial.

Assistant United States Attorney Jin Park, the prosecutor in the case, told the court the three defendants rejected a plea bargain offer issued by the government.

Park said the offer issued to Alvonica Jackson and Desmond Campbell called for them to plead guilty to one count of assault with a dangerous weapon, the same charge filed against them by D.C. police at the time of their arrest. But Park said the plea offer would not be accompanied with a hate crime designation, which could lead to a stiffer sentence under the city’s hate crimes law.

D.C. police listed the charges against each of the defendants as hate crimes based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation.

In the government’s plea offer to Ali Jackson, Park said he would have to plead guilty to a single count of assault with a dangerous weapon, a knife, with the hate crime designation included with the charge.

Attorneys representing the three defendants told Sullivan their clients rejected the offer.

In arguments during the hearing, the attorneys said their clients acted in self-defense, noting that police charging documents and testimony by Det. Arrington stated that the stabbing took place after the victim sprayed each of the defendants with mace.

In responding to questions from the defense attorneys, Arrington said it was the victim who acted in self-defense by using the mace, or pepper spray, after Ali Jackson threatened him with the knife.

In response to requests by defense attorney Bernard Crane, who represents Campbell, and Mani Golzari, who represents Alvonica Jackson, Sullivan agreed to order the release of the two defendants while they await trial. All three defendants have been held in jail since their arrest.

Over strong objections from prosecutor Park, Sullivan agreed to release Alvonica Jackson on her own recognizance on condition that she stay away from the victim and from the area around the Howard Theatre. He set more stringent conditions on Campbell’s release, which include entering the court’s “high intensity supervision program” that includes wearing an electronic ankle bracelet.

The judge rejected defense attorney Camilla Hsu’s request that her client, Ali Jackson, be released while he awaits trial. Sullivan said he could find no conditions for releasing Ali Jackson that would ensure the safety of the community.

Park pointed out that Ali Jackson has a “lengthy” prior criminal record, including an arrest for assaulting a police officer and a recent conviction of simple assault.

Court records show that Jackson was arrested in a separate case in October 2011 on a charge of possession of a dangerous weapon after he allegedly threatened a group of transgender women in D.C. with a knife while riding a bicycle. Court records show a jury acquitted him on that charge.

Monday’s hearing came three days after the head of the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) sent Park a letter by email expressing concern over prosecutors’ plans to offer a plea bargain in the case.

“This is a clear case of anti-gay bias where the defendants could have killed a member of Washington’s LGBT community,” GLOV Chair Arthur “A.J.” Singletary wrote in the email. “Furthermore, the actual defendant who stabbed the victim showed previous bias against LGBT people (and was arrested) and another defendant was also arrested for assault,” he said.

“For defendants with previous records, offering a plea deal so quickly raises major concern with the handling of this case,” Singletary wrote.

Singletary also asked Park in his email to explain why the government charged the defendants with assault with a dangerous weapon rather than attempted murder.

But after Monday’s hearing, Singletary said GLOV was pleased that the U.S. Attorney’s office chose not to lower the charges further in its plea offer and that it called for retaining the hate-bias designation in its plea bargain offer for Ali Jackson.

Crane and Golzari argued during the hearing that police charging documents show that their clients, Alvonica Jackson and Desmond Campbell, were not present on the scene and did not become involved in what began as an altercation between Ali Jackson and the victim. The two attorneys said that when their clients arrived on the scene they saw the victim pointing a mace canister at Ali Jackson.

Crane said that Ali Jackson is the “little brother” of Campbell’s girlfriend and Campbell entered the altercation to defend his girlfriend’s brother.

Crane told the Blade after the hearing that the charging documents show that Campbell referred to the victim as a “faggy” when he was questioned by police after his arrest. He noted that Campbell did not use anti-gay language during the altercation with the victim.

“My client didn’t commit a hate crime,” he said.

Det. Arrington testified at the hearing that the victim reported being threatened by Ali Jackson several weeks before the Howard Theatre incident.

“He called him a fag at that time,” Arrington said of the prior incident.

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

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    But after Monday’s hearing, Singletary said GLOV was pleased that the U.S. Attorney’s office chose not to lower the charges further in its plea offer and that it called for retaining the hate-bias designation in its plea bargain offer for Ali Jackson.

    Thank you. A.J. Singletary. GLOV’s continued diligence in communicating LGBT residents’ concerns to USAO regarding their prosecution of anti-LGBT hate crimes is deeply appreciated.

    I’m sure USAO-DC wants to do the right thing. But as with communicating community impacts to sentencing judges, it does not hurt at all to repeatedly remind USAO-DC of the deep and widespread impact when the entire LGBT community is threatened by such obvious hate violence.

    If USAO repeatedly fails to prosecute clear, bold violations of DC’s hate crimes law, that only encourages more anti-LGBT hate crimes. That’s a problem we have when MPD does not ROBUSTLY (Look it up, Chief.) pursue and investigate hate crimes cases, as well.

    Singletary and GLOV also offered an informative, newsy presentation to Council’s Judiciary Committee hearing on hate crimes on June 29th. Their (and DC Center’s) stats and comparison charts on the increase in hate crimes in DC were helpful and appeared to be accurate. That Chairman Phil Mendelson continues to express his doubts about comparisons with other cities’ stats, as well as the apparent increase in violent hate crimes in DC against LGBT residents and visitors is now just an odd stretch– and frankly, disappointing given the rising level of violence and community fear.

    Likewise, it was disappointing to hear of the lack of communications, transparency and interactive fair play with DC’s LGBT organizations from Mayor Gray’s Office of GLBT Affairs regarding the spending by that office of up to $70,000 in city funds. We ought to expect better from Jeffrey Richardson and Mayor Gray.

  • Maybe, just maybe some justice will prevail. Maybe.

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