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Case of assault on drag performer expected to be dropped

No hate crime designation; ‘ridiculously lenient’ outcome



Miles DeNiro, Manny & Olga's, hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade
Miles DeNiro, Manny & Olga's, hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

Miles Denaro (Screen capture)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Friday approved a plea bargain agreement expected to result in the dismissal of a charge of simple assault against the second of two women accused of dragging a gay male drag performer by the hair at a D.C. carry-out pizzeria in June that was captured on video.

Under the agreement offered by the U.S. Attorney’s office, Raymone Harding, 28, of Gaithersburg, Md., pleaded guilty to the assault charge in exchange for being allowed to withdraw the plea and have the charge dismissed if she successfully completes 48 hours of community service over a period of six months.

The agreement also requires her to stay out of trouble, stay away from the man she was charged with assaulting — Miles Denaro, 24 — and undergo a drug test as directed by the court’s Pre-Trial Services Agency.

Judge Juliet J. McKenna approved the agreement for Harding one week after she approved an identical plea agreement for co-defendant Rachel M. Sahle, 22, also from Gaithersburg.

“This is essentially less than a slap on the wrist,” Denaro told the Blade when informed of the outcome of Friday’s court proceeding.

He said one of the prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Missler, called him a little over a week ago to inform him of plans for the plea bargain offer and to get his thoughts on the matter. Denaro said Missler told him the two women would be required to perform community service work rather than jail time.

“He said allegedly the judge they are seeing is lenient so he was leaning toward doing this so that way they get community service no matter what,” said Denaro.

hate crime, Manny & Olga's, gay news, Washington Blade

A video of the altercation involving drag performer Miles Denaro at Manny & Olga’s pizzeria on 14th Street, N.W., shows these two women assaulting Denaro as one of them drags him by his hair across the floor. (Screen captures)

In a development that had not been previously disclosed, Denaro told the Blade on Friday that he was called to testify before a grand jury convened by prosecutors in July in connection with the assault charges pending against Harding and Sahle.

According to court records, the grand jury did not hand down an indictment in the case, an outcome that court observers consider unusual because grand juries usually follow the recommendation of prosecutors by approving an indictment.

The decision by prosecutors to offer the two women the plea agreement is likely to surprise LGBT activists because it came shortly after the U.S. Attorney’s office told the court it was looking into the possibility of upgrading the assault charge with a “bias” or hate crime designation.

“The government is not seeking a bias enhancement based on the results of a thorough investigation and review of the case,” William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, told the Blade.

Miller said he could not comment on whether a grand jury is convened on a specific case but said that in general grand juries are sometimes called to assist in an investigation rather than for the purpose of an indictment.

“It is used to get people to testify under oath as an investigative tool,” he said.

D.C. attorney Dale Edwin Sanders, who practices criminal law in D.C. and Virginia, said the fact that the assault against Denaro was captured on video provided prosecutors with a strong case with a good chance of obtaining a conviction against the two women had the case gone to trial.

He said Denaro’s statements that the two women made anti-transgender and anti-gay remarks toward him during and immediately after the attack made a strong case for designating the incident as a hate crime.

“I think this is ridiculously lenient for what happened,” said Sanders in referring to the plea agreement. “To me this sounds like a total whitewash.”

The June 23 incident at Manny & Olga’s pizzeria at 1841 14th St., N.W., created an uproar in the LGBT community after a customer used his cell phone to record the altercation on video and posted the video on a popular hip-hop music website, resulting in it being viewed by thousands in D.C. and across the country.

According to police and court records, the video taken by the customer and a separate video taken by security cameras at the restaurant show Denaro being punched, kicked and dragged across the floor by the hair after being knocked down by the two women. The video posted online also shows that many of the bystanders screamed and laughed as the altercation unfolded. Denaro said no one, including employees at the restaurant, intervened to stop the assault.

He said one or both of the women shouted that he was a man and a “tranny” as they hit him. According to his account of what happened, one of the women called him a “faggot” after the altercation ended when they saw him walk past them on the sidewalk outside.

Miller of the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the plea agreements offered to the two women are part of a widely used court “diversion/deferred sentencing” program that’s limited to misdemeanor cases involving defendants with no prior criminal record.

“Where a defendant is charged with an offense that is potentially diversion eligible, we look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the event and make a determination as to whether diversion is appropriate,” he said.

“A supervisor has to approve a simple assault case for diversion, adding another layer of scrutiny,” he added.

Hassan Naveed, co-chair of the D.C.-based Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), said the group is assessing the plea bargain agreement offered in the Denaro assault case and would issue a statement on the development shortly.

D.C. transgender activist Jeri Hughes said she was troubled over the outcome of the case, which she said appears to her as a hate crime.

“You’ve got people like trans women in jail because they are poor and turn to prostitution,” Hughes said. “And here are two people who commit a violent attack and they are going to walk. This is unacceptable.”

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  1. Tom

    September 28, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Shouldn’t the word in the headline be “incident” instead of “assault” since there has always been controversy about which side started it and shoved first, and because the grand jury refused to indict & the US attorney decided against filing a hate-crime charge?

  2. Cole Carter

    September 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Is it DeNiro, Dinero or Denaro, you have it spelled all three ways in this article. Might I suggest a proof reader.

  3. Barrie Daneker

    September 30, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    bullshit! This is what we get from the AG…fire them all for being pussy when it comes to crime. No wonder why we have people committing acts of violence because the freaking lawyers have no balls to put these folks in jail. the community service they get shoul d be in a Gay Tans group at the least!

  4. Michael D Barber

    September 30, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    Civil suit for damages should be the next move.

  5. Caleb Mychal Runnels

    October 1, 2013 at 1:51 am

    arrest the fucker that filmed it for inciting the fight

  6. Nayeli Valentin-Weelmaa

    October 1, 2013 at 2:03 am

    The bitch with the braids needs to give the horse back its hair. And the fucking asshole who filmed it should also be charged. I cant believe no one did anything. Its fucking disgusting.

  7. Angelica Nicole

    October 1, 2013 at 3:54 am

    sad sad sad what is this world coming to? i hate crimes against the gay community drag community what people don't understand is that they are people too they are just stuck in the wrong body. if they are not hurting you don't bother them they are just trying to find their place in the world it sucks that all people want to do is bully and that is bullshit

  8. Kyrah Pond Seibert

    October 5, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    I cant believe that someone would do this…Well yes I do people are cruel creatures that if you do something that is different you are shunned. She had every right to be there and that women had no right to touch. God I hate humans

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Gay attorney’s plans to run for Del. Senate foiled by redistricting

Activists say move will ‘dilute’ LGBTQ vote



Mitch Crane, gay news, Washington Blade
Gay Democratic activist Mitch Crane. (Photo courtesy Crane)

Plans by Delaware gay attorney and Democratic Party activist Mitch Crane to run for a seat in the Delaware State Senate in a district that included areas surrounding the town of Lewes, where Crane lives, and Rehoboth Beach ended abruptly this week when state officials approved a redistricting plan that removes Crane’s residence from the district.

The seat for which Crane planned to run is in Delaware’s 6th Senate District which, in addition to Lewes and Rehoboth, includes the towns of Dewey Beach, Harbeson, Milton, and surrounding areas, according to the state Senate’s website. 

The seat is currently held by Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez, a moderate Republican who became the first Hispanic American elected to the Delaware Senate in 2012. Lopez announced in July that he would not seek re-election in 2022. 

The redistricting plan, which was approved by leaders of the Democratic-controlled Delaware General Assembly, places the section of the Lewes postal district where Crane lives into the 19th Senate District. Crane said that district is in a heavily Republican and conservative part of the state dominated by supporters of President Donald Trump who remain Trump supporters.

Under Delaware law, changes in the district lines of state Senate and House districts, which takes place every 10 years following the U.S. Census count, are decided by the Delaware General Assembly, which is the state legislative body.

Crane told the Washington Blade that neither he nor any other Democrat would have a realistic chance of winning the State Senate seat next year in the 19th District.

“Jesus could not win in that district if he was a Democrat,” said Crane.

Crane said a Democratic candidate could win next year in the reconfigured 6th Senate District now that incumbent Lopez will not be seeking re-election.

The Cape Gazette, the Delaware newspaper, reported in an Oct. 22 story that Crane was one of at least two witnesses that testified at a two-day virtual hearing held Oct. 18-19 by a State Senate committee, that the proposed redistricting would dilute the LGBTQ vote in the 6th District and the draft proposal should be changed.

 “The proposed lines remove a significant percentage of the LGBTQ residents from the current 6th District where most of such residents of southern Delaware live and place them in the 19th District which has a smaller such population,” the Cape Gazette quoted Crane telling the committee. “By doing so, it dilutes the impact of the gay community which shares political beliefs,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

“The proposed lines dilute the voting power of the LGBTQ community in addition to others who respect diversity,” the Cape Gazette quoted 6th District resident Sandy Spence as telling the committee. 

In an Oct. 10 email sent to potential supporters before the redistricting plan was approved, Crane said he believes he has the experience and record that make him a strong candidate for the state Senate seat. He is a former chair of the Sussex County Democratic Party, where Rehoboth and Lewes are located; and he currently serves as an adjunct professor at Delaware State University’s graduate school, where he teaches American Governance and Administration.

He is a past president of the Delaware Stonewall PAC, a statewide LGBTQ advocacy group, and he’s the state’s former Deputy Insurance Commissioner.

 “I intend to focus on smart growth in Sussex County; work on the problems of homelessness and the need for affordable housing; and assuring that this district receives its fair portion of tax dollars,” he said in his Oct. 10 email message announcing his candidacy.

Crane said he posted a Facebook message on Oct. 26 informing supporters that the redrawn district lines removed him from the district, and he is no longer a candidate.

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MSNBC’s Capehart to host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch Nov. 6

Ashland Johnson to serve as keynote speaker



Gay journalist Jonathan Capehart will host SMYAL’s Fall Brunch. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Pulitzer Prizing-winning gay journalist Jonathan Capehart, the anchor of MSNBC’s “Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart,” will serve as host for the 24th Annual SMYAL Fall Brunch scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6, at D.C.’s Marriott Marquis Hotel.

The annual Fall Brunch serves as one of the largest fundraising events for SMYAL, which advocates and provides services for LGBTQ youth in the D.C. metropolitan area. 

“Each year, a community of advocates, changemakers, and supporters comes together at the Fall Brunch to raise much-needed funds to support and expand critical programs and services for queer and trans youth in the DMV area,” a statement released by the organization says.

The statement says attorney and former Division I women’s collegiate basketball athlete Ashland Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the SMYAL Fall Brunch. Johnson founded the sports project called The Inclusion Playbook, which advocates for racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion in sports.

Other speakers include Zahra Wardrick, a SMYAL program participant and youth poet; and Leandra Nichola, a parent of attendees of Little SMYALs, a program that SMYAL says provides support for “the youngest members of the LGBTQ community” at ages 6-12. The SMYAL statement says Nichola is the owner and general manager of the Takoma Park, Md., based café, bar, retail, and bubble tea shop called Main Street Pearl.

According to the statement, the SMYAL Fall Brunch, including a planned silent auction, will be live streamed through SMYAL’s Facebook page for participants who may not be able to attend in person. For those attending the event in person, proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required, and masks will also be required for all attendees when not actively eating or drinking, the statement says.

The statement says that for attendees and supporters, the Fall Brunch is “a community celebration of how your support has not only made it possible for SMYAL to continue to serve LGBTQ youth through these challenging times, it’s allowed our programs to grow and deepen.”

Adds the statement, “From affirming mental health support and housing to fostering community spaces and youth leadership training, we will continue to be there for queer and trans youth together.”

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McAuliffe: Youngkin ‘most homophobic’ candidate in Va. history

Former governor spoke with Blade on Oct. 21



Terry McAuliffe (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

Terry McAuliffe described Republican Glenn Youngkin as the “most homophobic” and most “anti-choice candidate” in Virginia history during an Oct. 21 telephone interview with the Washington Blade.

“I’m running against the most homophobic, anti-choice candidate in Virginia history,” said McAuliffe. “I ran against Ken Cuccinelli. That’s saying something.”

McAuliffe, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, in 2013 defeated Cuccinelli, Virginia’s then-attorney general who vehemently opposed LGBTQ rights, in that year’s gubernatorial race. Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, is running against McAuliffe in the race to succeed current Gov. Ralph Northam.

State Del. Hala Ayala (D-Prince William County) is running for lieutenant governor, while Attorney General Mark Herring is seeking re-election. They are running against Republicans Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares respectively.

The entire Virginia House of Delegates is also on the ballot on Nov. 2. The outcome of those races will determine whether Democrats maintain control of the chamber.

Youngkin remains opposed to marriage equality

The Associated Press a day after McAuliffe spoke with the Blade published an interview with Youngkin in which he reiterated his opposition to marriage equality, but stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and he would “support that” as governor.

The anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has categorized as an extremist group, earlier this month endorsed Youngkin. The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Virginia’s political action committee are among the groups that have backed McAuliffe.

Youngkin earlier this year said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Youngkin has also expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect trans and non-binary students.

HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index. McAuliffe scoffed at this recognition.

“They should have checked with their co-CEO who’s against marriage equality,” he told the Blade. “That would have been the first place I would have gone to ask.”

‘I’ve always been out front fighting to protect everybody’

McAuliffe’s first executive order as governor after he took office in 2014 banned discrimination against LGBTQ state employees. He also vetoed several anti-LGBTQ religious freedom bills, created Virginia’s LGBTQ tourism board and became the state’s first governor to declare June Pride month.

McAuliffe noted to the Blade that he is also the first governor of a southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding. The lesbian couple whom he married has recently appeared in one of his campaign ads.

“I spent four years vetoing every single legislation Republicans brought forth and came across my desk that would have discriminated against the LGBTQ community,” said McAuliffe. “I’ve always been out front fighting to protect everybody.”

McAuliffe noted that CoStar, a D.C.-based commercial real estate company, moved more than 1,000 jobs to Richmond from Charlotte after then-North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, which banned trans people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity and prohibited municipalities from enacting LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination measures. McAuliffe described HB 2 to the Blade as the “anti-gay bill.”

“There’s real consequences … to discriminatory actions and I will not tolerate any of it,” he said.

Former President Barack Obama campaigns with Terry McAuliffe in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 23, 2021. Obama is among the prominent Democrats who have traveled to Virginia in recent weeks to campaign on behalf of McAuliffe. (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

McAuliffe last month said during his first debate against Youngkin that local school boards “should be making their own decisions” with regards to the implementation of the Virginia Department of Education guidelines for trans and non-binary students. McAuliffe during his second debate against Youngkin stressed “locals” should provide input on the policy, but added “the state will always issue guidance.”

McAuliffe told the Blade he has “been so offended about how many folks have tried to really demonize our children here in this state.” McAuliffe referenced children with “self-identity issues” during the interview, but he did not specifically cite those who identify as trans or non-binary.

“We’ve got to help our children … we got to help our children who are desperately in need today,” he said. “And we got to show them that we’ll be there for them, as I say, no matter how they identify or who they love.”

Youngkin on Saturday during a campaign event in Henrico County said he would ban the teaching of critical race theory in Virginia schools. McAuliffe criticized his opponent on this issue when he spoke with the Blade.

“Critical race theory is not taught in Virginia, nor has it ever been taught,” said McAuliffe. “These are dog whistles that are used, and especially in the CRT, it’s a racist dog whistle and it just fits into this whole pattern of using our children as political pawns and I hate it.”

Youngkin ‘would drive businesses out of’ Va.

McAuliffe has continued to portray Youngkin as an extremist on other issues that range from abortion and vaccine mandates as polls suggest the race between the two has grown tight. McAuliffe also continues to highlight former President Trump’s support of Youngkin.

McAuliffe told the Blade that Youngkin is “100 percent against abortion” and said his opponent would “bring those Texas-style type abortion” laws to Virginia.

The law, which bans almost all abortions in Texas and allows private citizens to sue doctors and anyone else who helps a woman obtain one, took effect last month. The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 1 will hear oral arguments in a case that challenges the law.

“We always knew that the Supreme Court would be a backstop on women’s rights issues: Roe v. Wade. That is gone. It’s over,” said McAuliffe. “Donald Trump’s Supreme Court is going to overrule the basic tenants of Roe v. Wade.”

McAuliffe added the Supreme Court “is going to allow these states to roll back women’s reproductive rights, so that’s no longer a talking point.”

“This is reality,” said McAuliffe. “Every woman in Virginia needs to understand it.”

Terry McAuliffe has said Glenn Youngkin poses a threat to abortion rights in Virginia. (Photo courtesy of Terry McAuliffe for Governor)

Youngkin, for his part, has said he would not have signed the Texas law.

Trump on Oct. 13 described Youngkin as a “great gentleman” when he called into the “Take Back Virginia Rally” in Henrico County that John Fredericks, host of “Outside the Beltway with John Fredericks” who co-chaired the former president’s 2016 campaign in Virginia, organized.

Participants recited the Pledge of Allegiance to an American flag that was present at the U.S. Capitol insurrection. Youngkin in a statement his campaign released said he “had no role” in the event and said it was “weird and wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January 6.”

“As I have said many times before, the violence that occurred on January 6 was sickening and wrong,” he said.

McAuliffe told the Blade that Youngkin would make Virginia “a dangerous place to live and work.”

“His governorship, if he were to be elected, would roll back individual liberties,” said McAuliffe. “He doesn’t support gay marriage, he is for eliminating abortion here in the commonwealth of Virginia and he will drive businesses out of our state and finally it is dangerous for people.”

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