November 26, 2012 at 10:02 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. gay business leader charged with unlawful entry
Mark Guenther, CAGLCC, Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Guenther, director of the Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, was arrested this month on charges of unlawful entry. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

The disposition of a misdemeanor charge of unlawful entry filed earlier this month against the head of the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce is under negotiation between prosecutors and the defense attorney, according to D.C. Superior Court records.

The records show the two parties in the case agreed at a Nov. 20 status hearing to “a brief continuance to further negotiate” the outcome of the charge against Mark Guenther, 42, who has served as executive director of CAGLCC for more than two years.

News of Guenther’s arrest on Nov. 7 on the unlawful entry charge was first reported by LGBTQ Nation.

According to a D.C. police arrest affidavit, Guenther allegedly entered a male neighbor’s apartment at 3 a.m. on Oct. 26 without permission.

“The complainant awoke at 0300 hours to find the defendant standing over him at his bedside,” the affidavit says. “The complainant yelled at the defendant, asked him what he was doing, and told him to get out of his apartment,” it says.

The affidavit says Guenther fled the second floor apartment through the front door and the complainant heard him close the door to his own apartment, which is located across the hall in an apartment building on the 1400 block of Chapin Street, N.W.

It says the complainant told authorities Guenther sent him an email at 9:42 a.m. that same day admitting to entering the complainant’s apartment and apologizing for doing so.

Court records show Guenther pleaded not guilty to the unlawful entry charge at an arraignment on Nov. 7, two days after the complainant identified Guenther to police from a photo presented to him by a police investigator.

Superior Court Judge Marisa Demeo released Guenther on his own recognizance and issued a stay-away order prohibiting him from engaging in “threatening, abusive, harassing, or stalking behavior toward” the complainant, court records state. The judge scheduled another status hearing for Dec. 13.

Under D.C. law, a conviction for a misdemeanor charge of unlawful entry could result in a maximum sentence of up to 180 days in jail or a fine up to $1,000. There is no required minimum sentence for the offense, allowing judges to hand down a sentence of probation with no jail time or fine.

None of the public court or police records say how Guenther gained entry into the complainant’s apartment or how he obtained his email address. The public records make no mention of a forced entry.

“The complainant reported he has seen the defendant on a weekly basis for over a year as they reside in the same apartment complex,” the affidavit says.

Court observers say negotiations between prosecutors and defense attorneys in criminal cases are usually over a plea bargain offer made by prosecutors. Such an offer usually, but not always, involves a promise to lower the charge or a promise to ask the judge for a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

Guenther, the complainant, and the United States Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case, have declined to comment on the case.

Guenther’s attorney, Meaghan Hearn of Ackerman Brown, said Guenther would not be issuing any statements at this time. Ernesto Santalla, president of CAGLCC, declined to comment on specifics of the case.

“The Executive Director of CAGLCC serves at the pleasure of the Board of Directors,” he said. Santalla added that CAGLCC has no internal policy that calls for the executive director’s dismissal in the event of a misdemeanor conviction.

The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce named CAGLCC as the winner of its 2012 Chamber of the Year Award and Guenther accepted the award at the group’s annual Washington dinner earlier this month.

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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