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Officers, activists recognized at police liaison reception

LGBT community leaders point to ‘reinvigorated’ GLLU in DC

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Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department, GLLU, MPD, Sergeant Carlos Mejia, gay news, Washington Blade, Dupont Circle
Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department, GLLU, MPD, Sergeant Carlos Mejia, Assistant Chief Diane Groomes, DCTC, D.C. Trans Coalition, Jason Terry, gay news, Washington Blade, Dupont Circle

Assistant Chief Diane Groomes speaks to members of the community attending the Metropolitan Police Department Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit meet-and-greet event. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than a dozen LGBT community activists and the five officers assigned to the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit were awarded by D.C. police officials with a certificate of appreciation Thursday night recognizing their service to community.

Capt. Edward Delgado and Sgts. Carlos Mejia and Matt Mahl, who serve as supervisors for the Dupont Circle headquartered GLLU, handed out the certificates at an open house reception. The event, hosted by the GLLU, attracted more than 50 people from the community and about a dozen police officers and police officials, including Deputy Police Chief Diane Groomes.

“Thank you on behalf of the chief,” said Groomes, referring to Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who was unable to attend the event.

“I know we aren’t perfect. We have a ways to go,” Groomes said. “But I think overall, with the support of the community, we’re definitely getting better every day. So I appreciate all of your support for us and I look forward to working with you.”

Groomes and Delgado told the Blade that Sgt. Mahl, who had been detailed earlier this year to serve as the GLLU’s full-time supervisor, was temporarily assigned earlier this month to a special police robbery unit in response to an upsurge in robberies throughout the city, including “snatch-and-grab” cell phone robberies.

Mahl had worked on robbery investigations prior to his assignment with the GLLU.

The two said Mahl, who is gay, would be returning shortly to the GLLU where he will resume his duties as supervisor.

LGBT activists, including officials with the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), have expressed concern that Chief Lanier several years ago placed the GLLU under the supervision of a sergeant — Mejia — who also headed the Latino Liaison Unit, requiring that he divide his time between two important units.

While praising Mejia for doing an excellent job in juggling his time between the two units, a number of LGBT activists called on Lanier to assign a sergeant as the full-time supervisor of the GLLU. Lanier has said limited MPD resources prevented her from doing that until earlier this year, when she said she was able to detail Sgt. Mahl to head the unit.

In response to Groomes’ remarks, gay activist Peter Rosenstein told the GLLU reception that he has seen an improvement in both the GLLU’s work and the department’s overall response to LGBT community concerns over the past year or so.

“I speak personally but I think for a lot of the community,” Rosenstein said. “We appreciate under this mayor and under your direction and under the unit’s direction that there is a reinvigorated look at what’s going on in the LGBT community and once again a reinvigorated GLLU.”

Rosenstein added, “As you well know, there was a period of time when the community felt the attention wasn’t being given to the community. But I think most of us now believe that there is a new effort to get together, to work together to make the city a safer place to be. So thank you all from the community for what you all do.”

A.J. Singletary, the head of GLOV, and Ruby Corado, the transgender activist who operates an LGBT community center with an outreach to the Latino community, said they, too, have seen an improvement in the department’s and GLLU’s activities and communication with the LGBT community.

The current full-time GLLU members stationed at the GLLU headquarters office are Officers Joseph Morquecho, Zunnobia Hakir, Juanita Foreman, Kevin Johnson and Justin Markiewicz.

Among the community activists receiving the police certificate of appreciation were Jason Terry of the D.C. Trans Coalition; Earline Budd, Jeri Hughes and Brian Watson of Transgender Health Empowerment (THE);  Singletary of GLOV; Corado of Casa Ruby community center; June Crenshaw of Rainbow Response; and Savannah Wanzer of the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee.

According to the MPD website, 91 officers assigned to one of the department’s seven police districts serve as part-time affiliate members of the GLLU. The affiliate program, created by Lanier, provides training officers assigned to the police districts to enable them to respond to calls on matters related to the GLLU in locations throughout the city.

In addition to the GLLU, the Special Liaison Division includes the Asian Liaison Unit, the Latino Liaison Unit and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Liaison Unit.

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Comings & Goings

Peter Chandler named executive director of Internet Works

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Peter Chandler

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].

Congratulations to Peter Chandler on being named executive director of Internet Works. Since 2020, Internet Works has worked to ensure the voice of small and medium-sized online platforms is included in policy discussions typically targeted at the largest companies.

Laura Bisesto, chair of the board, said “We’re thrilled that Peter Chandler has joined as Internet Works’ Executive Director. The tech policy space is constantly changing, especially around intermediary liability, and as we work to ensure small and medium-sized tech companies are included in the policy debates lawmakers are having around the country, Peter was a natural fit for us.”

Chandler has 30 years of campaign, political, legislative, and advocacy experience at the state and federal levels. He previously served as Senior Vice President of Federal Policy and Government Relations at TechNet. During his time at the association, Peter was named a “Top Lobbyist” by The Hill newspaper. Prior to that he served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine). Chandler has also consulted and trained numerous political and advocacy groups, including the ACLU, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in 1998. In 2020, he was elected to the board of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

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District of Columbia

New D.C. walking tour highlights LGBTQ history

Zach Patalingjug launched company in June in time for Pride Month

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Zach Patalingjug leads his Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour on July 13, 2024. (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

Want to learn more about the city’s LGBTQ history while seeing some of the sights? Beyond the Landmarks’ Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour could be just the choice.

Zach Patalingjug launched the company in June, and offers walks that highlights some of Washington’s LGBTQ history.

The LGBTQ-specific tour starts with him emailing each person on the route with a meet-up location and some advice for the tour itself. His business last month saw a lot of tourists participate in his tour — in part because of Pride Month, and Patalinjug is hoping to keep the momentum. 

Patalingjug, who is from California, has traveled to more than half of the country’s states and has traveled abroad numerous times to sightsee and absorb cultures. He told the Washington Blade he became inspired to create his company after reading James Kirchick’s “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington.”

Patalingjug spent a year researching his tour. He utilized the D.C. Central Library, where its fourth floor is dedicated entirely to the city’s history.

“I wanted to create a company that really explores the hidden gems, the lesser known history of Washington, D.C., to get the experiences that are truly authentic, and to tell stories that you don’t hear on most sightseeing tours,” he told the Washington Blade. 

The tours are between two to three hours long, depending on the group’s speed.

They officially start at 9:30 a.m., but Patalingjug recommends participants arrive 10 minutes earlier.

Each group meets in Farragut Square, directly outside of the Farragut West Metro station. The tour begins there and proceeds to Lafayette Square, where Patalingjug discusses the White House, the Hay-Adams Hotel, the former Lambda Rising bookstore, the Human Rights Campaign, the now-closed Chicken Hut near the White House, and myriad other locations. 

The tour ends in Dupont Circle.

Human Rights Campaign headquarters (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Patalingjug’s tour is more than a walk — each one is themed with topics that include “service, persecution, and liberation.

“Countless folks within the LGBTQ community have served and continue to serve the federal government,” he told the Blade.

He noted many of the people the tour highlights worked for the federal government before they lost their careers because they were outed or caught with a same-sex partner during the so-called “Lavender Scare.”

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry shortly before he stepped down in 2017 formally apologized to State Department personnel who were fired under the directive that then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued in 1953. President Joe Biden last year issued a formal proclamation on the policy’s 70th anniversary.

“For so many members of the LGBTQI+ community, hate, discrimination, and isolation throughout our country’s history have denied them the full promise of America,” Biden said. “The ‘Lavender Scare’ epitomized — and institutionalized — this injustice.”

Patalingjug’s tour highlights Frank Kameny, founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, the city’s first politically active LGBTQ rights group that organized one of the country’s first gay rights protest that took place in front of the White House in 1965.

The protest highlighted the federal government’s discrimination against gays and lesbians. Kameny in 1957 lost his job as an astronomer in the Army Map Service because he was gay.

Frank Kameny Way in Dupont Circle is part of Zach Patalingjug’s Beyond the Closet: The Persecution and Liberation of the LGBTQ Community in Washington, D.C., tour (Washington Blade photo by Sean Koperek)

The tour also highlights Margaret “Midge” Costanza, an advisor to former President Jimmy Carter who invited members of the National Gay Task Force, which is now known as the National LGBTQ Task Force, to the White House in 1977.

“I’m just incredibly excited to be able to tell the authentic stories of people who lived through this period of history,” said Patalingjug.

Log onto Beyond the Landmarks’ website for more information.

Michael K. Lavers and Lou Chibbaro, Jr., contributed to this story.

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District of Columbia

Ruby Corado pleads guilty to wire fraud in plea agreement

Reduced charge says she stole at least $150,000 in COVID-relief funds

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Ruby Corado in El Salvador (Photo via Facebook)

Ruby Corado, the founder and executive director of the now-defunct LGBTQ community services organization Casa Ruby, pleaded guilty Wednesday, July 17, to a single charge of wire fraud as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors with the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

The charge to which she pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for D.C. says she diverted at least $150,000 “in taxpayer-backed emergency COVID relief funds to private off-shore bank accounts for her personal use,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Court records show that U.S. District Court Judge Trevor N. McFadden, who is presiding over the case, has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 10, 2025.

Corado’s guilty plea came a little over six weeks after prosecutors on May 31 filed a one-count criminal information charge of wire fraud against her that replaced an earlier criminal complaint charging her with bank fraud, money laundering, monetary transactions in criminally derived proceeds, and failure to file a required report of a foreign bank account.

The earlier complaint was filed at the time the FBI arrested Corado on March 5 of this year at a hotel in Laurel, Md., shortly after she returned to the U.S. from El Salvador. The initial complaint, like the new criminal information that replaced it, accused Corado of diverting at least $150,000 of federal pandemic relief funds to her own bank accounts in El Salvador. The charges say the funds were intended for use by Casa Ruby to support indigent LGBTQ clients in need of housing and other support services.

At the request of Corado’s court-appointed attorney and against the wishes of federal prosecutors, who said Corado would be a flight risk, another judge agreed to release Corado into the custody of her niece in Rockville, Md., under a home detention order. The release order came seven days after Corado had been held in jail since the time of her arrest on March 5.

In addition to a prison sentence, the charge of wire fraud also includes a possible penalty of financial forfeiture for which Corado could be required to pay restitution to the government. The plea agreement filed in court includes this statement to Corado’s attorney: “Specifically, your client agrees to the entry of a forfeiture money judgment in an amount ordered by the Court, which is equal to the value of any property which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense in Count One of the Information in which your client is pleading guilty.”

However, legal observers have said that under a plea agreement like the one offered to Corado, prosecutors most likely will ask the judge for a lesser sentence. Corado’s attorney is also expected to point out that this is a nonviolent, first-time offense for Corado, which merits a lesser sentence.

Corado has denied wrongdoing in her operation of Casa Ruby in response to a separate civil complaint filed against her and Casa Ruby by the Office of the D.C. Attorney General. That complaint is still pending in D.C. Superior Court.

In its July 17 statement the U.S. Attorney’s office refers to court documents showing that Corado, “on behalf of Casa Ruby, received more than $1.3 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.” The statement adds, “Instead of using the funds as she promised, Corado stole at least $150,000 by transferring the money to bank accounts in El Salvador, which she hid from the IRS.”

The statement says that in 2022, “when financial irregularities at Casa Ruby became public, Corado sold her home in Prince George’s County and fled to El Salvador.” It says FBI agents arrested her at the hotel in Laurel, Md. on March 5 “after she unexpectedly returned to the United States.”

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