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Cuccinelli challenges Va. sodomy ruling

Att’y gen’l asks appeals court for re-hearing of case

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Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade
Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli is challenging a ruling that overturned the state’s sodomy law. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli has filed a petition with the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond asking the full 15-judge court to reconsider a decision by a three-judge panel last month that overturned the state’s sodomy law.

The three-judge panel ruled 2-1 on March 12 that a section of Virginia’s “Crimes Against Nature” statute that outlaws sodomy between consenting adults, gay or straight, is unconstitutional based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2003 known as Lawrence v. Texas.

A clerk with the 4th Circuit appeals court said a representative of the Virginia Attorney General’s office filed the petition on Cuccinelli’s behalf on March 26. The petition requests what is known as an en banc hearing before the full 15 judges to reconsider the earlier ruling by the three-judge panel.

“We certainly hope they won’t,” said Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU of Virginia, which filed a friend of the court brief urging the three-judge panel to overturn the state sodomy law.

“We think it’s a situation in which everybody agrees that the statute is unconstitutional,” Gastanaga told the Blade.

Greg Nevins, an attorney with the LGBT litigation group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, which joined the ACLU in filing the friend of the court brief calling for overturning the Virginia sodomy law, said requests for en banc hearings are turned down most of the time.

He quoted a federal appeals court rule as stating, “Although petitions for rehearing are filed in a great many cases, few are granted.”

Caroline Gibson, a spokesperson for Cuccinelli, told the Blade in an email that Cuccinelli believes the dissenting judge on the three-judge panel was correct in stating the Lawrence decision applies only to sex between consenting adults in private and doesn’t apply to cases involving a minor. The case in which the three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Virginia sodomy law involved a man charged with soliciting oral sex from a 17-year-old woman.

“We believe the panel decision was erroneous, and that the dissent correctly concludes that the petitioner was not entitled to federal habeas corpus relief, Gibson said, referring to the court’s decision to overturn the man’s conviction under the sodomy law. “So the full court should have the opportunity to decide this matter,” she said.

“Like most people, we think the court made the right decision,” said James Parrish, executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Equality Virginia.

“We think what needs to happen is the General Assembly needs to remove the current sodomy law that has been declared unconstitutional,” he said.

Parrish said Equality Virginia wouldn’t object to a careful revision by the legislature of the state’s criminal code to allow for continued prosecution of offenses such as sex with minors.

“What we’re saying is we agree with the court ruling that, in this case, the law was used unconstitutionally. The best course of action would be for the General Assembly to address that, just like they did with the cohabitation law that they took off the books this year,” he said.

“We think that’s a better recourse than the Attorney General filing another appeal and diverting precious state resources on an issue that the General Assembly should address because the court made the correct ruling on March 12,” Parris said.

Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who’s gay, said he is looking into the issue and the possibility of introducing legislation to address it.

“I’m reviewing this and will consider introducing a bill next year to repeal the Virginia Crimes Against Nature law for consenting adults,” he told the Blade.

The March 12 ruling of the appeals court’s three-judge panel overturned a lower court decision upholding the conviction of a 37-year-old man charged in 2005 with soliciting a 17-year-old woman to engage in oral sex. No sexual encounter took place, records show.

The Attorney General’s office argued that the Supreme Court’s Lawrence decision didn’t apply to cases involving minors. But 4th Circuit Appeals Court Judge Robert King, who wrote the majority opinion, said the Lawrence decision rendered the Virginia sodomy statue “facially” or completely unconstitutional.

He stated other laws could be used to prosecute an adult for engaging in sex with a minor and that the Virginia General Assembly would likely have authority under the Lawrence decision to pass a new law specifically outlawing sodomy between an adult and a minor.

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42 Comments

42 Comments

  1. Jerry Blackburn

    April 3, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Crime against nature? That's funny because over 1500 animal species naturally exhibit homosexuality from pair-bonding to parenting. It is brain damaged people like Cookoo-nelly that are a crime against nature. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_displaying_homosexual_behavior

    • Kìng Samolas Stormhold

      April 3, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      No, it's completely uneducated people like you and the wikipedia community of homosexual animals that don't understand that animals do not exhibit homosexuality.

      First, animals do not have sex for pleasure. Yes, an animal can gain some sort of pleasure through sex, but sex is not an act that animals do for fun. They do not have mental sexual development. They turn about a year old, and some male knocks them up. Using nature to defend homosexuality is broken, because grandparents have sex with their grandchildren all the time. A male responds to female mating ques, and deposits semen into a female.

      Second, every single case of "homosexuality" that you speak of is either a fluke or a means to an end. There are explosive breeders that will mount anything that moves, including fallen logs. The males of these species have release calls to say "Hey, I'm a dude, get the hell off of me." Which they utilize EVERY SINGLE TIME. There is also a species of wasp that you idiots would say is homosexual. Wrong again. The males of this species create a gift to give to female wasps. Smaller males, instead of making lesser gifts and mating with lesser females, will pretend to be a female in order to steal the male's gift, escaping long before any penetration happens.

      Third, let's talk about your stupid gay penguins you people like to rally behind. Male penguins sit on eggs. It's not because they are gay. It's because that's what they do. They sit on eggs in a gigantic group of other men, together, in a giant mass of men. Zero of these penguins are gay.

      Fourth, males mounting other males in nature almost never leads to penetration, is absolutely HATED by the male being mounted, and is usually done in dominance or on accident because of castration confusion.

      So at the very most, I'll give you and the other art majors that moderate the list of homosexual animals page rape.

      It's completely natural for men to rape other men on accident or in a show of dominance.

      Animals are not gay.

    • Kìng Samolas Stormhold

      April 3, 2013 at 9:19 pm

      But why listen to people who are doing the current day research in animal ecology and behavior, someone like me who actually has a degree in this kind of thing.

      I'll say it again. Animals are not gay. Biologically the ONLY goal of an animal is to pass along its genetic code. Homosexual animals would be literally and figuratively laughed out of the gene pool. Stop using nature as another bad argument for your standardless views.

    • Harry Baer IV

      April 3, 2013 at 9:44 pm

      Kìng Samolas Stormhold: One who purports to be a scientist should check one's facts prior to positing sweeping statements. Moreover, if one is a good scientist, one hedges – because a good scientist always knows that he has not encountered every possibility.

      Regarding animal sexuality, it is impossible to state that animals do not mate for pleasure. That is a myth that was debunked in the 2006 Danish Animal Ethics Council report. Why WOULD anyone listen to you, when your "facts" are provably nonfactual?

    • Mike Parido

      April 3, 2013 at 9:45 pm

      Kìng Samolas Stormhold, you may want to take a look at this. It is from a "news" outlet that I'd bet you trust.
      http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,572326,00.html

    • Harry Baer IV

      April 3, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      Mike Parido: LOL!

      "King" (snicker): For even more scientific data (and see, I corroborate with peer-reviewed articles, something every scientist learns to do in his or her undergraduate education):

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2714225/

      Hope the terms aren't too technical for you.

    • D.c. Wilson

      April 3, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      King, you wouldn't have to have a source for your claim, would you?

    • D.c. Wilson

      April 3, 2013 at 10:07 pm

      King, you wouldn't have to have a source for your claim, would you?

    • Rick Loesser

      April 3, 2013 at 10:30 pm

      King Samolas Stormhold (if that is your name) your display of ignorance is truly breathtaking. Keep the conservative faith bro!

    • Kimberly Mckay

      April 4, 2013 at 6:44 am

      So King supposedly has a degree in animal ecology? I guess that explains his fascination for Pokemon..

    • Brenda Bloom

      April 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm

      King… you sir are an idiot!!! lol

    • Marco Mirenzi

      April 4, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      Kìng Samolas Stormhold You're 100% incorrect, the Bonobo monkey (just for one example) ABSOLUTELY has sex for pleasure. It's irrefutable. And you're a bigot and a moron.

  2. brian

    April 3, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Don’t get mad. Get even. Support Terry McAuliffe for Governor.

    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/02/22/mcauliffe-endorses-same-sex-marriage/

  3. Mark Dammann Ungemach

    April 3, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Has he nothing better on which to focus?

    • Scott Rose

      April 3, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      Your last name is really "Ungemach"?

    • D.c. Wilson

      April 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      He must have run out of climate scientists to persecute.

    • D.c. Wilson

      April 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      He must have run out of climate scientists to persecute.

  4. Mark Sutton

    April 3, 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Virginia just took the cohabitation law off the books last year? Good grief, I thought they did that in the mid '60's! Well, I guess that is pretty quick, considering it is Virginia. Maybe they will be a bit faster on this one–perhaps 3 or 4 years?

  5. Epicurus

    April 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    The GOP; minding other people’s business for over a century. Hey, Cooch, why don’t you stop the panty-sniffing? Does it really bother you so much that other people might be having more fun than you? This idiot would make the Puritans blush, he’s just an embarrassment. Way to go, Virginia!

  6. bayhuntr

    April 3, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    These evangelical men think more about butt sex then gay people do.

  7. Cathie Gorman Freeman

    April 3, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Oh my, next thing you know he's going to try to undo VA v Loving! That'll be a hoot but not out of the realm of belief.

  8. Eli Rivera

    April 3, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    what's up with the Cuch! since he has taken office he seems way to interested in demonstating his distaste for the gay citizens of the state or anything to do with Barack Obama.Why waste your time in beating dead horses.Why can't these people work on things like building Police and public safety infrastucture to include real policy and enforcement plans.Why waste everybody's time and the states energy on questionable morality witchhunts whose only purpose seems to be made for television mini-series featuring The Cuch coming down the mountain carrying stone tablets with the eleventh scrawling saying elect the Cuch to govenor.

  9. Glen Ashman

    April 3, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Virginia's attorney general needs to be disbarred.

    In 2003 the US Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, invalidated sodomy laws in the fourteen states (Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia).

    Since he's had 10 years to read that, I hope the judge he appears in front of fines him for wasting the court's time and turns him into the state bar. There is no excuse for that type of idiot practicing law.

  10. Thomas Irvin

    April 4, 2013 at 3:47 am

    Don't be so quick to think this is just another out-of-touch Republican (though perhaps he is on other issues). The attorney general here is trying to find a way to use this now-unconstitutional Virginia law to prosecute a dude for propositioning a minor (a 17-year-old in this case). If it had been standard intercourse they could presumably call it statutory rape, but apparently Virginia doesn't include oral sex in with statutory rape. So the AG here is arguing that Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court case that invalidated all these sodomy laws, addressing as it does consenting adults, should only apply to consenting adults.

    Basically the Virginia legislature needs to expand their definition of statutory rape to protect minors from creepy old dudes looking for a BJ, but since they haven't yet done so, the AG would like to find a way to prosecute this guy anyway. And that's not such a bad thing, and it wouldn't affect any adult's right to engage in whatever sex acts they enjoy.

    • Angie Rayfield

      April 4, 2013 at 7:58 pm

      Except he still wouldn't be able to prosecute this case – prosecution would have to be on the basis of the state of the law at the time of the offense. Nothing he does would make this a prosecutable case. If he wants to prosecute such cases in the future, then he needs to quit wasting time like this and work towards getting the current laws regarding conduct with a minor changed to include oral sex. He could have already gotten that accomplished in the time he's spent piddling around with this.

  11. Shannon Martinez

    April 4, 2013 at 4:12 am

    I don't know what to say about this. I can't help but feel that Cuch is wasting his time and making his state more patehtic. 17 year olds are in high school possibly having sex with each other. So the 37 year old was being a creep.

  12. Whatevia Santiago

    April 4, 2013 at 4:30 am

    If this type of activity is made illegal, what will I give my husband for his birthday from now on?

    • Francisco Moncaleano

      April 4, 2013 at 7:03 am

      As long as no one gets hurt what happens in my bedroom is private! Between consenting adults. 17? questionable. Creepy guys? All over the place old and young.

      Unfortunately most likely what this guy is against is what he is doing. George W. anti drug? hmmm coke and alcohol when he was in his twenties-thirties. Whenever someone is so vehement against something I stop to wonder if they have done it in the past or are currently doing it.

  13. Youngstown Pflag

    April 4, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    'Crimes against nature'! What about the crime of 'clear-cutting', of 'mountaintop removal', of the endless polluting and destroying of our natural environment? Global warming… there's a world-ending crime against Nature right there that no one is doing anything about! Yes, I agree, let's put a stop to crimes against nature…before it's too late and the planet dies. As for consenting adults sexually stimulating each other for pleasure… c'mon, give me a break!

  14. Belinda Paysinger

    April 17, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    Why isn't this guy concerned about jobs? Does he think good governance, is related to an individual's sexual habits?

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Heather Mizeur congressional campaign raises more than $1M

Former Md. delegate challenging Andy Harris

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Heather Mizeur, Delman Coates, Montgomery County, Silver Spring, Maryland, Maryland House of Delegates, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade, momentum
Former Maryland state Del. Heather Mizeur is running for Congress (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Heather Mizeur has raised more than $1 million in her campaign against anti-LGBTQ Republican Congressman Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District.

“No candidate in #MD01 of either party, incumbent or challenger, has ever hit the $1M milestone this early in the election cycle,” Mizeur tweeted on Oct. 6.

The Victory Fund in an Oct. 8 press release said 80 percent of this $1 million came from Maryland-based donors, “a sign the district is ready for new representation.” And Mizeur continues to outpace Harris, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission that say she raised $717,445 for the cycle ending June 30, while Harris raised $425,288.

“Andy Harris has taken every opportunity to attack and vilify trans individuals, trying to score political points with his base at the expense of the safety of some of his constituents,” Mizeur told the Washington Blade.

In 2014 Harris made the Human Rights Campaign’s “Hall of Shame” for proactively working “to undermine existing legal protections and promote anti-LGBT discrimination.”

“In contrast, the LGBTQ community knows me for my record,” Mizeur said. “And knows I’ll always lead with compassion and stand up for civil and human rights. I think the 1st District will respond to my message of respect and understanding.”

Mizeur, who now lives on the Eastern Shore with her wife, served on the Takoma Park City Council. Mizeur was a member of the Maryland House of Delegates for eight years.

In 2014, she launched a long-shot, grassroots campaign for governor where she finished a strong third in the Democratic primary, despite being outraised by better-known opponents.

But Mizeur also said she is aware of the challenges her team faces in taking on a well-entrenched Republican in a solidly conservative district.

The Cook Partisan Voter Index in 2017 rated the district as R +14, meaning the previous two presidential election results in the district skewed 14 percentage points more Republican than the national average.

“We have over $760,000 in the bank, and we’ve outraised him during our time in the race,” Mizeur said. “We’re raising the money we need to go toe-to-toe with Andy Harris next year.”

The Baltimore Sun in February reported Harris was “flush with campaign cash” mostly due to a 2010 redistricting that “packed” the area with Republican voters to increase Democrats’ chances in other district races.

“Yes, Andy Harris has over $1 million in the bank, stockpiled over a decade in office,” Mizeur said. “But in the short time I’ve been in the race, we’ve cut significantly into his cash on hand advantage.”

Harris has represented the 1st Congressional District—which includes Maryland’s Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties—since 2011 and easily fended off most challenges with at least 60 percent of the vote. These challengers include Mia Mason, a transgender military veteran, who ran against him in 2020.

The 2010 redistricting made Harris’ seat safe enough not only to donate nearly a third of his war chest to conservative groups and candidates, such as U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), but to openly court controversy himself.

Harris last year openly defended then-President Trump’s discredited efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And in December he signed onto an amicus brief supporting a failed lawsuit contesting the presidential election results.

This year he downplayed the violence of the Jan. 6 insurrection in which numerous police officers were attacked, members of Congress were threatened, and the U.S. Capitol was vandalized.

Mizeur told the Blade that while Harris’ actions regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection were the catalyst for her challenging his seat, she feels the district is changing and he no longer represents their interests.

“Our supporters know he’s been embarrassing Maryland in Congress for far too long, and that some of his actions have shown he’s completely unfit to serve in public office, regardless of ideological views,” Mizeur said. “They want someone who will bring compassionate leadership and innovative thinking back to the first district. And that’s appealing to people across party lines.”

Maryland’s primary election is June 28, 2022, and its general election follows on Nov. 8.

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AU student expelled over arrest in attack on gay Asian man, parents

Patrick Trebat no longer affiliated with university

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

An American University graduate student who was arrested by D.C. police on Aug. 7 on charges that he assaulted a gay Asian man and the man’s parents while shouting homophobic and anti-Asian slurs “is no longer affiliated with the university and will not be allowed on campus,” according to a report by WTOP News.

In an Oct. 9 broadcast that it updated this week, WTOP said Patrick Trebat, 38, who had been taking a night class at the university’s Kogod School of Business, was banned from returning to the campus.

Charging documents filed in D.C. Superior Court show that Trebat was charged by D.C. police with one count of felony assault, two counts of simple assault and one count of destruction of property for allegedly assaulting and injuring Sean Lai, 30, an out gay man of Chinese ancestry, and his parents on the 3700 block of Fulton Street, N.W., on Aug. 7.

The charging documents say Trebat allegedly began to follow Lai and his parents as they were walking along the street in the city’s Observatory Circle neighborhood near the National Cathedral. According to a statement by a police official from the police district whose officers made the arrest, Trebat punched and kicked the three victims as he stated, “Get out of my country.” The police statement says the family was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

A separate police report says Trebat shouted the word “faggots” at the family and shouted, “You are not Americans!”

Based on these allegations, prosecutors classified the assault charges as an anti-Asian bias related crime, but they did not add an anti-gay classification to the charges.

Court records show that Trebat was released two days after his arrest while awaiting trial under the court’s High Intensity Supervision Program, which, among other things, imposed a curfew requiring him to return home by 10 p.m.

An Oct. 8 story in The Eagle, the American University student newspaper, says it learned that Trebat’s attorney filed a motion in court, which the Washington Blade also discovered from court records, asking a judge to extend the curfew deadline from 10 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. so that Trebat could attend at night class at American University.

The motion, which prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not oppose and the judge approved, identified Trebat in the public court records as an AU graduate student.

According to the Eagle, representatives of the university’s Asian American and LGBTQ student groups criticized university officials for not alerting students that an AU student charged with an anti-Asian hate crime while hurling homophobic slurs had access to the campus and could pose a danger to students.

“Patrick Trebant is not affiliated with American University and is not allowed on campus,” AU told the Blade on Wednesday in a statement. “While we cannot discuss details of an individual matter, when a student has been arrested, charged, convicted of, or sentenced for a felony crime, the university’s student conduct code provides for an administrative adjudication process. The safety of our students and our community is our priority.”

The Eagle reports that the code of conduct states that the dean of students or their designee can administratively adjudicate a case when a student has been accused of a non-academic offense “where the student has been arrested, charged, convicted of, or sentenced for a felony crime” for certain misconduct. The code of conduct applies in a situation in which a student is arrested for an off-campus allegation.

Court records show Trebat is scheduled to return to court at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 15 for a felony status hearing before Superior Court Judge Judith Pipe.

Neither Trebat nor his attorney, Brandi Harden, could immediately be reached for comment.

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Two remaining defendants in D.C. trans murder case accept plea bargain

Dee Dee Dodds murdered in Northeast Washington in 2016

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Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds was killed in 2016. (Photo via Facebook)

Two of the four D.C. men who were charged with first-degree murder while armed for the July 4, 2016, shooting death of transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds on a Northeast Washington street pleaded guilty on Sept. 30 to a charge of voluntary manslaughter as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors.

A four-page letter providing details of the plea bargain offer made by prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which was filed in D.C. Superior Court, states that the agreement accepted by defendants Jolonta Little, 30, and Monte T. Johnson, 25, includes the decision to drop the murder charge in exchange for a guilty plea to a single count of voluntary manslaughter.

It says that in exchange for the guilty plea prosecutors will also drop additional charges originally brought against Little and Johnson, including robbery while armed, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and unlawful possession of a firearm.

The agreement also includes a promise by prosecutors to ask Superior Court Judge Milton C. Lee, who is presiding over the case, to issue a sentence of eight years in prison for both men.

The letter spelling out the details of the plea deal makes it clear that it will be up to Lee to decide whether to accept the eight-year jail term proposed by prosecutors, and there is no guarantee that Lee will not hand down a sentence with a longer prison term.

It states that under the D.C. criminal code, a conviction on a voluntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Attorneys and observers of the D.C. courts have said judges usually agree to a recommended sentence by prosecutors in cases involving a plea bargain agreement.   

The letter describing the terms of the plea agreement in the Johnson and Little cases does not say whether prosecutors will ask Lee to deduct from the proposed eight-year jail sentence the time that the two men have already spent in jail since the time of their arrest. But in most criminal cases, judges agree to provide full credit for time served in jail prior to a conviction and sentencing.

Johnson has been held without bond for just over five years since his September 2016 arrest. Little has been held without bond for four years and eight months since his arrest in February 2017.

The plea bargain deal came two and a half years after a D.C. Superior Court jury became deadlocked and could not reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charges brought against Johnson and Little following a month-long trial, prompting Lee to declare a mistrial on March 6, 2019.

The two other men charged in Dodd’s murder, Shareem Hall, 27, and his brother, Cyheme Hall, 25, accepted a separate plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors shortly before the start of the 2019 trial in which they pled guilty to second-degree murder. Both testified at the trial as government witnesses.

In dramatic testimony, Cyheme Hall told the jury that it was Johnson who fatally shot Dodds in the neck at point black range after she grabbed the barrel of his handgun as Johnson and Hall attempted to rob her on Division Avenue, N.E., near where she lived. Hall testified that the plan among the four men to rob Dodds did not include the intent to kill her.

In his testimony, Hall said that in the early morning hours of July 4, 2016, he and the other three men made plans to commit armed robberies for cash in areas of D.C. where trans women, most of whom were sex workers, congregated. He testified that the four men got into a car driven by Little and searched the streets for victims that they didn’t expect to offer resistance.

D.C. police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office initially designated the murder charges against Johnson and Little as a hate crime based on findings by homicide detectives that the men were targeting trans women for armed robberies. However, during Johnson and Little’s trial, Lee dismissed the hate crime designation on grounds that there was insufficient evidence by prosecutors to support a hate crime designation.

At the request of prosecutors, Lee scheduled a second trial for Johnson and Little following the deadlocked jury in the first trial. But court records show that for reasons not disclosed in the public court docket, the start of the second trial was postponed several times. The most recent postponement was due to restrictions placed on the court related to the COVID pandemic.

As of August, of this year, the court records show, the second murder trial for Johnson and Little was scheduled to begin on Feb. 17, 2022. But the records show that as of Sept. 30 of this year the defense attorneys and prosecutors reached an agreement over the plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors. It was on that day, the court records show, that the two men officially agreed to plead guilty to the lower charge of voluntary manslaughter and waived their right to a trial. The following day, on Oct. 1, Lee accepted the guilty pleas and scheduled the sentencing for Dec. 10.

Meanwhile, Cyheme Hall and Shareem Hall have remained in the D.C. jail since the time of their respective arrests. Court records show they were scheduled to be sentenced by Lee on Dec. 20, 10 days after the sentencing for Johnson and Little.

It couldn’t immediately be determined from the court records whether prosecutors allowed the Hall brothers to also plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter and have dropped the second- degree murder charge to which the two men pled guilty back in 2019 as part of an earlier plea bargain deal.

At the time Johnson and Little’s trial ended with the deadlocked jury in March 2019, LGBTQ activists expressed alarm that the jury’s action appeared to be a repeat occurrence of several previous D.C. cases in which male attackers charged with assaulting and murdering trans women of color were not convicted for those crimes.

“This is a very dangerous move on the part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said Ruby Corado, founder and former executive director of Casa Ruby, the D.C. LGBTQ community services center, in referring to the plea deal.

“We need to be strengthening laws to ensure that the horrible epidemic of violence against LGBTQ people that we currently face ends, and not giving criminals a slap on the hand for committing murders against us,” Corado told the Washington Blade. “This sends a message that our lives don’t matter that much to those who already see us as easy targets; we are now becoming disposable people in the eyes of the law.”

D.C. trans rights advocate Alexis Blackmon, Casa Ruby’s interim executive director, called the plea bargain deal offered to Little and Johnson “very disturbing.” Added Blackmon, “How it’s being read across to me is if we can’t convict you on murder then we’re going to basically slap your wrist.”

Blackmon said she will consult with other local LGBTQ activists to determine whether a representative of the LGBTQ community should request to testify at Little and Johnson’s Dec. 10 sentencing hearing to ask the judge to hand down a sentence greater than eight years.

D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and trans advocate Monika Nemeth said she too is troubled over the plea bargain agreement.

“While I am stunned by a plea that reduces the charge from first-degree murder to voluntary manslaughter, I should not be as we are still a society for whom trans people, particularly trans women of color, are not valued and are disposable,” Nemeth said. “I don’t see how you get to voluntary manslaughter when the victims were targeted for being trans. This is not justice.”

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said he would make inquires with the office’s prosecutors to obtain a response to a question from the Blade asking for an explanation of why the decision was made to issue the plea bargain offer rather than bring defendants Little and Johnson to trial on the murder charge.

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