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Judge finds probable cause in anti-gay stabbing outside D.C.’s Howard Theatre

Defendants reject plea bargain offer; two released while awaiting trial

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Howard Theatre, gay news, Washington Blade

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.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. brian

    July 10, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    *****
    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.

  2. Davis

    July 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Maybe, just maybe some justice will prevail. Maybe.

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Maryland

Judge rules trans teacher’s lawsuit against P.G. County can go to trial

Gay man files separate case charging discrimination

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Jennifer Eller, gay news, Washington Blade
Jennifer Eller alleges the P.G. County school system subjected her to discrimination and harassment. (Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal)

A federal judge in Maryland issued a ruling on Tuesday, Jan. 18, clearing the way for a lawsuit filed by transgender former English teacher Jennifer Eller in 2018 charging the Prince George’s County, Md., Public Schools with discrimination and harassment based on her gender identity to proceed to a trial.

In the ruling, Judge Theodore D. Chuang of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland denied key parts of several motions filed by attorneys representing the P.G. County Public Schools that in effect called for the dismissal of the lawsuit. The motions, among other things, claimed the lawsuit failed to provide sufficient evidence that Eller was subjected to discrimination and harassment, which forced her to resign due to a hostile work environment.

Chuang also ruled against a separate motion introduced by Eller’s attorneys calling for him to issue a summary judgement decision affirming all the lawsuit’s allegations that would have ended the litigation in Eller’s favor without the need to go to trial.

Eller’s lawsuit charges that school officials acted illegally by failing to intervene when she was subjected to a hostile work environment for five years that included abuse and harassment by students, parents, fellow teachers, and supervisors and retaliation by school administrators.

The lawsuit alleges that the school system and its administrators in its actions against Eller violated Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972, the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act, and the nondiscrimination provision of the Prince George’s County Code.

“We think the judge did as best he could,” said Omar Gonzales-Pagan, an attorney with the LGBTQ litigation group Lambda Legal, which, along with the D.C. law firm Arnold & Porter, are representing Eller in her lawsuit.

“The takeaway is that the case is now in a posture to proceed to trial,” Gonzales-Pagan told the Washington Blade. “The court found that the alleged facts and the information as discovered throughout the case in the discovery process is sufficient to allow a jury to find whether Jennifer Eller was subjected to a hostile work environment and constructive discharge and retaliation unlawfully by the defendants,” he said.

By the term constructive discharge, Gonzales-Pagan was referring to the lawsuit’s charge that Eller was forced to resign from her teaching job in 2017 after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder due to the alleged abuse she faced on the job.

P.G. County Public Schools officials have declined to comment on the lawsuit on grounds that the school system has a longstanding policy of not discussing pending litigation. However, in its response to the lawsuit in court filings, school system officials have denied Eller’s allegations of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

“For years, I was aggressively misgendered, attacked and harassed in the hallways and even in my own classroom by students, peers and supervisors,” Eller said in a statement released by her attorneys.

“My pleas for help and for sensitivity training on LGBTQ issues for students and staff, were ignored,” Eller said in her statement. “The relentless harassment stripped me of the joy of teaching and forced me to resign,” she said. “It is time for Prince George’s County Public Schools to be held accountable.”

The lawsuit says the harassment and discriminatory action against her began in 2011 when she began presenting as female during the school year. It says school officials initially responded to her complaints about the harassment by demanding that she stop dressing as a woman and return to wearing men’s clothes, which she refused to do.

In a separate action, gay former Spanish teacher Jared Hester filed on his own without an attorney a lawsuit in the Maryland federal court charging the P.G. County Public Schools with failing to take action to prevent him from being subjected to discrimination and harassment similar to some of the allegations made in Eller’s lawsuit.

Hester told the Blade that he was subjected to harassment by students who repeatedly called him “faggot,” but school officials, including the principal of the middle school where he taught, refused to take action to stop the harassment.

He provided the Blade with copies of earlier complaints he filed against school system officials with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, and the P.G County Public Schools’ internal Office of Equity Assurance. Each of the three agencies issued rulings against Hester’s complaints, with two of them saying sufficient evidence could not be found to support his allegations.

The EEOC, in a Nov. 3, 2021 “dismissal” notice, told Hester the EEOC “will not proceed further with its investigation, and makes no determination about whether further investigation would establish violations of the statute.” The notice added, “This does not mean the claims have no merit” or that the respondent, meaning the P.G. County Public Schools, “is in compliance with the statutes.”

The notice did not give a reason for why it chose to end its investigation into Hester’s complaint, but it said his filing with the EEOC cleared the way for him to file a lawsuit to further his case against the school system. 

Hester told the Blade he reached out to Lambda Legal to represent him in his lawsuit, but the LGBTQ litigation group declined to take on his case without giving a reason. Gonzalez-Pagan, the Lambda attorney working on the Eller case, said he was unfamiliar with Hester’s request for representation. Another Lambda official couldn’t immediately be reached to determine the reason for its decision not to represent Hester.

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Local

FreeState Justice outlines 2022 legislative priorities

Bills introduced to repeal ‘unnatural or perverted sexual practice’ law

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conversion therapy, gay news, Washington Blade

FreeState Justice has outlined its legislative priorities for the Maryland General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session that began on Jan. 12.

State Sen. Clarence Lam (D-Baltimore and Harford Counties) has introduced Senate Bill 22, which would repeal a provision of Maryland law that bans “unnatural or perverted sexual practice.” State Dels. David Moon (D-Montgomery County), Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery County) and Julie Palakovich Carr (D-Montgomery County) have introduced an identical bill in the House of Delegates.

A bill that repealed Maryland’s sodomy law took effect in 2020 without Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature, but the “unnatural or perverted sexual practice” provision that criminalizes oral sex and bestiality remains in place.

FreeState Justice Policy Director C.P. Hoffman on Jan. 12 noted during a virtual briefing that prosecutors rarely bring charges under the law. Hoffman nevertheless pointed out four men who were arrested at a video store in Harford County in May 2021 were indicted under it.

“Its really just offensive that this is being used against queer people in 2021,” said Hoffman. “So we want to see it repealed.”

Hoffman and their FreeState Justice colleagues also noted the ability for transgender Marylanders to more easily obtain official documents that correspond with their gender identity is another legislative priority.

Maryland since 2019 has allowed trans and non-binary people to receive a driver’s license with an “X” gender marker.

Hoffman said FreeState Justice will support bills that would allow Marylanders to change their name on their marriage certificate without a court order or getting divorced and remarry. FreeState Justice will also back a measure that would allow trans parents to amend their child’s birth certificate to accurately reflect their gender identity.

“We’re trying to clean that up to make one consistent policy that allows for trans folks to do this,” said Hoffman.

FreeState Justice Executive Director Jeremy LaMaster during the briefing noted another legislative priority is the Inclusive Schools Act, which would require Maryland public schools to implement a uniform non-discrimination policy through the state’s Department of Education. FreeState Justice Policy Coordinator Jamie Grace Alexander highlighted the organization will also urge lawmakers to expand access to PrEP and PEP in Maryland and to support legislation that would, among other things, prohibit housing incarcerated trans women with men.

“The conditions for transgender people — especially transgender women — while they’re incarcerated are extremely grim and dark,” said Alexander.

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Virginia

Mother says teen boy charged with assault in girl’s bathroom at Va. school is straight

Earlier reports that Loudoun County student was gender fluid triggered backlash

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Two sexual assaults by the same teen in Loudoun County schools attracted widespread media attention. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In a little-noticed interview last November with the British online newspaper, DailyMail.com, the mother of a 15-year-old boy charged with sexually assaulting a girl last May in the girl’s bathroom at a Loudoun County, Va., high school that the two students attended said her son identifies as heterosexual.

The May 28, 2021, sexual assault first surfaced in the news media in October at the same time law enforcement authorities disclosed that the boy allegedly sexually assaulted a girl on Oct. 6 in a vacant classroom at another high school to which he was transferred.

The disclosure of the two assaults triggered a furious backlash by some parents and conservative political activists against a Virginia school policy allowing transgender and gender fluid students to use the bathroom that conforms to their gender identity.

“First of all, he is not transgender,” the boy’s mother told DailyMail.com in a Nov. 2 interview. “And I think this is all doing an extreme disservice to those students who actually identify as transgender,” the newspaper quoted her as saying.

The mother, who agreed to the interview on grounds that she was not identified to protect the identity of her son, said her son identifies as heterosexual and absolutely does not identify as female.

LGBTQ activists have said the backlash against both the Virginia state and Loudoun County transgender non-discrimination policies — which spread to school districts across the country that have similar policies — was fueled by what they have said all along was unsubstantiated claims that the boy was transgender or gender fluid.

Conservative activists who strongly oppose the school systems’ trans supportive bathroom policies have said it was those policies that enabled the 15-year-old boy, who police say was wearing a skirt at the time of the May 28 sexual assault incident, to enter the girl’s bathroom to target the girl.

Since that time, testimony in a Loudoun County Juvenile Court where the boy was being prosecuted revealed that the 14-year-old girl who brought the charges against him said she and the boy had two consenting sexual encounters in a girl’s bathroom at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., prior to the incident in which the boy allegedly assaulted her. 

According to the Washington Post, whose reporter attended one of the juvenile court hearings, the girl testified that she agreed to meet the boy in the girl’s bathroom after he requested a third sexual encounter there, but she told him she did not want to have sex at that time.

“The girl previously testified in court that the defendant threw her to the ground in the bathroom and forced her to perform two sexual acts on him after she told him that she was not interested in sex on that occasion,” the Post reported in a story last week about the final outcome of the case.

At a Jan. 12 sentencing hearing, Loudoun County Juvenile Court Chief Judge Pamela Brooks placed the boy on the Virginia sex offender registry for life, the Post reported. After ruling in an earlier hearing in November that the evidence confirmed that the boy was responsible for sexually assaulting the two girls, Brooks sentenced the boy to a residential treatment facility rather than a juvenile detention facility and required that he remain on probation until he turns 18, the Post reported.

“He’s a 15-year-old boy that wanted to have sex in the bathroom, with somebody that was willing,” the boy’s mother told DailyMaiI.com. “And they’re twisting this just enough to make it a political hot button issue,” she said.

In her interview with the newspaper, the mother said her son wasn’t gender fluid despite the reports, which she confirms, that he wore a skirt at the time of the first of the two sexual assaults.

“He would wear a skirt one day and then the next day, he would wear jeans and a T-shirt, a Polo or hoodie,” she told the newspaper. “He was trying to find himself and that involved all kinds of styles. I believe he was doing it because it gave him attention he desperately needed and sought,” she said.

The mother acknowledged in the interview that her son was deeply troubled, saying he had a long history of misbehavior, including sending nude photos of himself to a girl when he was in the fifth grade.

On Jan. 12, the same day as the boy’s sentencing hearing, Virginia House of Delegates member John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced a bill calling for restricting the ability of transgender students from using bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

A separate bill introduced last month by Virginia State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) calls for eliminating the requirement that Virginia school districts adopt the state Department of Education’s nondiscrimination policies for trans and non-binary students.

Although Virginia’s newly inaugurated Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the GOP-controlled House of Delegates could move to advance the two bills, LGBTQ activists note that the state Senate remains in Democratic control and would block the two bills from being approved by the General Assembly.

Cris Candice Tuck, president of the LGBTQ group Equality Loudoun, told the Blade she expects opponents of LGBTQ nondiscrimination policies in the Loudoun County Public Schools and other school systems in Virginia to continue to use the sexual assault case of the Loudoun boy as a pretext to repeal LGBTQ and trans supportive policies. 

“We firmly believe it should have absolutely no bearing as the perpetrator was not transgender, non-binary, or gender fluid, and so that doesn’t apply to this policy at all,” Tuck said. “A single conviction of an individual who is not even part of the group in question is no reason to invalidate the rights and expose to potential violence the hundreds of students who identify as transgender or non-binary,” Tuck said in an email message.

“Currently, the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and hundreds of cisgender teachers, clergy, and coaches are embroiled in legal battles nationwide involving sexual molestation, rape, and abuse of children across the country that has been ongoing for decades,” Tuck said. “Yet no one is proposing restroom restrictions for any of those groups. A double standard cannot exist for the LGBTQ+ based on fear mongering, misinformation, and discrimination.”

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