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Prosecutor offers reduced charge in murder case

D.C. detective says 72-year-old victim paid roommate for sex

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1630 Fuller St., N.W., The Mozart, gay news, Washington Blade
1630 Fuller St., N.W., The Mozart, gay news, Washington Blade

The victim was stabbed to death in his apartment at 1630 Fuller St., N.W. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Prosecutors have offered to lower the murder charge against a 21-year-old D.C. man arrested in February for allegedly stabbing his 72-year-old former roommate, Howard Venable, to death in exchange for a guilty plea.

At a May 8 status hearing in D.C. Superior Court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Holly Schick, the lead prosecutor in the case, said the government would lower the charge against David Jamal Wilson from second-degree murder while armed to voluntary manslaughter while armed if Wilson agrees to a guilty plea by May 31.

Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr. scheduled another hearing for May 31, at which time Wilson is expected to disclose through his attorney whether he accepts the offer.

A D.C. police homicide detective testified at a Feb. 20 preliminary hearing that the murder took place a few days after Wilson moved out of the apartment and on the same day Wilson and Venable exchanged text messages arranging for Wilson to return to the apartment to engage in sex with Venable.

According to Det. King Watts, the two men had a longstanding arrangement in which Venable paid Wilson for sex every two weeks. Watts testified that Wilson and another witness whom police haven’t identified told police about the sex for money arrangement.

The Feb. 20 hearing took a dramatic turn when Wilson’s court-appointed attorney, Jacqueline Cadman, told the court that Venable and Wilson had been in a longstanding “abusive” sexual relationship since Wilson was a “child.”

Cadman introduced a motion calling for the charge against Wilson to be lowered to manslaughter because of the alleged abuse. But Judge Stuart Nash, who presided over the case at that time, denied the motion, court records show.

Court records show that on April 25 Wilson dismissed Cadman as his attorney and retained a new attorney, James W. Beane, who represented him at the May 10 hearing.

A D.C. police affidavit filed in court at the time of Wilson’s arrest in February says Venable’s body was found lying face down in a pool of blood on the floor of his one-bedroom apartment at 1630 Fuller St., N.W., in a building known as the Mozart.

The affidavit says an autopsy found “multiple slashing wounds” on Venable’s neck, minor cuts on both hands “consistent with defensive wounds,” and two stab wounds to his upper torso, one of which struck his aorta.

According to the affidavit, police discovered Wilson used bank cards he allegedly stole from Venable’s apartment to withdraw more than $600 in cash from ATMs in District Heights, Md., on the night of the murder.

Detectives found Wilson at a residence in District Heights on Feb. 3, and Wilson agreed to go with the detectives to the homicide branch offices in Southwest D.C. to undergo questioning about the case, the affidavit says.

It says he gave “numerous inconsistent accounts” of his involvement in the murder, including an account that unknown intruders stabbed Venable. In one version, Wilson said Venable threatened him with a kitchen knife and the two argued and he and Venable struggled over the knife. Wilson told detectives Venable fell on the knife during the struggle and stabbed himself, the affidavit says.

The autopsy, however, found that the nature of Venable’s multiple wounds confirms that he could not have stabbed himself and that the manor of death was murder.

Court records show that Wilson had at least two encounters with police and the courts prior to his arrest for Venable’s murder.

In August 2012 he and two other men were charged with armed robbery for allegedly stealing a bicycle from another man at knifepoint in Meridian Hill Park. The charge was dropped after the victim, who was to be the lead witness, failed to show up at the trial.

In July 2011, court records show Wilson’s wife filed papers seeking a civil protection order against him after he allegedly assaulted her in the apartment where the two lived with their two children.

At the Feb. 20 court hearing, then defense attorney Cadman said Wilson’s wife was in the courtroom to show her support for him and favored a defense motion to release Wilson on bond. Judge Nash denied the motion, ordering Wilson to remain in custody.

Members of the D.C. group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) have complained in the past that the U.S. Attorney’s office has unnecessarily lowered charges against defendants charged with acts of anti-LGBT violence. A GLOV spokesperson couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the offer by the U.S. Attorney’s office to lower the change against Wilson.

D.C. attorney Dale Edwin Sanders, who represents clients in criminal cases, said concern about possible complications at a jury trial over the sexual relationship between Venable and Wilson may have prompted prosecutors to issue the plea bargain offer.

But Sanders said he doesn’t think reducing the charge would make a significant difference in the sentence Wilson would receive if Wilson accepts the offer.

He noted that second-degree murder while armed carries a maximum sentence of life in prison compared to a 30-year maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter while armed. However, Sanders said the voluntary sentencing guidelines that most judges follow would likely provide a range of sentences that overlap between second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.

“I’m sure the guidelines would not call for life in prison on the Murder II charge,” Sanders said. “So the functional difference between the two would probably be modest if any … The issue is they aren’t giving anything away. They just have a different label on it but essentially he would be pleading guilty to a homicide.”

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect that Howard Venable was 72 at the time of his death. D.C. police initially reported that Venable was 68 in a press release in February at the time of the murder and the Blade reported that age before new information surfaced that he was 72.

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District of Columbia

Inaugural Uptown Pride to take place June 10

Festival to feature drag storytime, makers’ market, DJs

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Logo created by Anthony Dihle (Courtesy of Justin Noble)

A new Pride festival is coming to D.C. 

The inaugural Uptown Pride will be hosted in Sixteenth Street Heights on June 10 with Pride celebrations for Washingtonians of all ages.

The festival, hosted at the intersection of 14th Street, Colorado Avenue and Kennedy Street, NW, will feature a drag storytime, a makers’ market, DJs and more. There will also be a raffle for various prizes, with all proceeds going to the Trevor Project, which provides suicide prevention services for LGBTQ teens.

The festival will be from 2-7 p.m. and is partnering with local businesses like Moreland’s Tavern, Captain Cookie and Lighthouse Yoga Center for activities and refreshments.

Justin Noble, one of the organizers of the festival, said that the inspiration for the event came out of wanting a Pride experience tailored to the residents of the Sixteenth Street Heights, Petworth and Brightwood neighborhoods.

“It can be a hassle to get to downtown,” Noble said. “There needs to be something in our community that supports LGBTQ+ people and the culture and all of that because we’re everywhere, right? We are everywhere.”

Organizer Max Davis said that the inclusion of children’s events like a drag storytime was purposeful, and helps make the event more accessible to LGBTQ families and youth. 

“Kids I feel are the most important in as far as just showing them, just visibly showing them that you can live out and you can be queer,” Davis said. “There is no more dangerous time than now to be queer, questioning youth … So who better to welcome into the fold than kids who might be questioning their sexuality.”

Davis said that a big part of wanting to bring Pride celebrations uptown was to have a physical representation of support for the LGBTQ community.

“I felt like because there wasn’t anything going on in Sixteenth Street Heights — the clientele that we were serving up at Moreland’s absolutely is supportive, and I never felt that it wasn’t a supportive environment — but if you don’t have something to actively support that I feel that your support is just words,” Davis said. “If our community had someplace to attend even for one day to just be like, ‘Hey, I stand with you,’ … that is something that every community should have available to them to actively support the LGBTQ community.”

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2023 honorees, grand marshals

Assistant Secretary of Health Levine among picks

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Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Assistant U.S. Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Rachel Levine and acclaimed longtime D.C. LGBTQ and transgender rights advocate Earline Budd are among nine prominent LGBTQ community leaders named on Wednesday by the Capital Pride Alliance as its 2023 Capital Pride honorees.

Capital Pride Alliance, which organizes D.C.’s annual Capital Pride parade, festival, and related events, announced in a May 24 statement that it will present the honoree awards to each of the recipients at a ceremony scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, June 2, at the Penn Social event and catering hall at 801 E St., N.W.

“The recipients are nominated each year by members of the community,” the Capital Pride statement says. “They represent individuals who and organizations that have advanced the causes of LGBTQ+ rights,” it says.

The statement says Levine was selected for the Capital Pride Paving the Way Award, which “acknowledges an individual or organization that has provided exemplary contributions, support, and/or advocacy that has positively impacted the LGBTQ+ community, and whose leadership has inspired continued progress.”

Levine, who was appointed by President Biden in 2021 as Assistant Secretary of Health, is a longtime pediatrician who also serves as an admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She became the first openly transgender person to hold the admiralty position.

Capital Pride named Earline Budd as recipient of the Capital Pride Super Hero Award, which “recognizes additional significant and important contributions to the LGBTQ+ community in the national capital region.”

The statement announcing the honorees says Levine and Budd will also serve as grand marshals for the June 10 Capital Pride Parade. It says each of the other honorees will serve as parade marshals.

The announcement says the following four people have been named as recipients of the Capital Pride Hero Award:

• Shi-Queeta Lee, the D.C.-based nationally acclaimed drag performer
• Benjamin Rosenbaum, longtime congressional staffer, LGBTQ rights advocate, and LGBTQ Jewish community advocate
• Nancy Canas, president of D.C. Latinx History Project and advocate for the LGBTQ Latinx community
• Abdur-Rahim Briggs, longtime leader of the D.C.-based Project Briggs, which provides philanthropic support for LGBTQ causes.

The following two organizations were named as recipients of the Capital Pride Breaking Barriers Community Impact Award, which recognizes individuals or organizations that have “demonstrated a significant impact to the LGBTQ+ community at either the local or national level and who helped eliminate barriers for social, personal, or professional growth of the LGBTQ+ community:

• Drag Story Hour DMV
• National LGBTQ Task Force

The Bill Miles Award for Outstanding Volunteer Services, which acknowledges “exemplary contributions to the Capital Pride Alliance, its programs, initiatives, or other Pride sponsored activities,” is being given to Brandon Bayton, Jr., a longtime Capital Pride volunteer, consultant, and organ transplant advocate, and LGBTQ rights advocate.

“We are fortunate to have such a vibrant honoree selection process, with so many outstanding individuals who were nominated,” said Ashley Smith, president of the Capital Pride Alliance Board of Directors. “We are very pleased to celebrate these individuals at the 2023 Capital Pride Honors,” Smith said in the CPA statement.

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District of Columbia

Blade names recipients of two summer fellowships

Kravis, Lev-Tov join LGBTQ news team

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Isabelle Kravis and Joel Lev-Tov are the Blade Foundation’s 2023 summer fellows.

The Blade Foundation this week announced the recipients of its 2023 summer fellowship program. 

Isabelle Kravis (she/they) is a senior at American University studying journalism and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. She will focus on covering LGBTQ issues in the local D.C. area for 12 weeks starting this week. The fellowship is made possible by a generous donation from the DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K event.

“I’ve been reading the Blade since I first moved to D.C. for my freshman year and I’m so excited to be able to contribute to such a historic paper,” Kravis said. “I love covering the LGBTQ community because of the diversity of experiences that each queer person has and the joy that queer people bring to everything they do. I’m incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to be able to cover both the city and community that I love.”

Joel Lev-Tov (they/them) is a senior at the University of Maryland College Park studying journalism. Lev-Tov also serves as president of the Association of LGBTQ Journalists at College Park. Lev-Tov is the sixth recipient of the Steve Elkins Memorial Journalism Fellowship, which honors the co-founder of CAMP Rehoboth. The fellow covers issues of interest to the LGBTQ community in Delaware, also for 12 weeks. The fellowship is funded by donations from the Rehoboth Beach community.

“I’m extremely excited to start reporting about my community for my community,” Lev-Tov said. “The Blade is offering me a special opportunity that I’m very grateful for. I can’t wait to start reporting!”

Kevin Naff, editor of the Blade, welcomed Kravis and Lev-Tov to work this week.

“We’re all excited to work with Isabelle and Joel this summer,” Naff said. “There’s never been more news to cover and they will add an important, fresh perspective to our work. Thank you to our donors and to the Front Runners for making this program possible.”

For more information on the fellowship program or to donate, visit bladefoundation.org.

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