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D.C. woman guilty in shooting of gay man at IHOP

Defendant claims she’s bisexual, denied she was shooter

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IHOP, International House of Pancakes, gay news, Washington Blade
IHOP, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. woman was found guilty in the March 2012 shooting of a gay man inside an International House of Pancakes restaurant. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court jury on Friday found a woman charged in the March 2012 shooting of a gay man inside an International House of Pancakes restaurant guilty of aggravated assault while armed and six additional firearms related charges.

The verdict followed a four-day trial in which prosecutors played for the jury a video obtained from the restaurant’s security cameras that they said showed Lashawn Yvonne Carson, 28, pull out a handgun and shoot Dante Thomas in the chest.

Thomas has since recovered from what Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Cannon, the lead prosecutor in the case, said was a gunshot wound to his liver that could have been fatal if he had not received immediate medical attention at a nearby hospital.

Police and prosecutors have said the shooting took place after two groups of friends were eating at separate tables at the restaurant in the city’s Columbia Heights section about 5:30 a.m. on March 11, 2012. An altercation leading to the shooting started after someone sitting at Carson’s table called Thomas and one or more of his friends a “faggot,” according to testimony at the trial.

The U.S. Attorney’s office last year dropped a D.C. police classification of the shooting as a hate crime, which calls for a more stringent penalty.

But prosecutors instead obtained a grand jury indictment against Carson on the aggravated assault while armed charge and six other charges, including assault with a dangerous weapon and carrying a pistol without a license. When combined the charges carry a possible maximum sentence of 77 years in prison.

Superior Court Judge Michael Ryan, who presided over the trial, scheduled sentencing for Dec. 9.

Prosecutor Cannon presented to the jury a separate video showing a police interview with Carson at the Third District police station in which she confessed to having shot Thomas. The interview took place about two weeks after the shooting and shortly before her arrest.

That video, which Cannon also played during closing arguments, shows Carson sitting behind a table saying she shot Thomas “because he hit me.”

Cannon told the jury that Carson’s statement during the police interview and a similar statement she made to someone she knew, Norman Lee, that she shot Thomas because he hit her during the altercation at the IHOP restaurant indicated she had a motive for the shooting.

“It couldn’t be anybody else” that did the shooting, he said. “She is the only one who can take a shot at Dante Thomas.

Defense attorney Patrick Christmas disputed the contention by Cannon that the taped confession by Carson and the video footage proved Carson shot Thomas.

Christmas pointed to Carson’s dramatic testimony as the lead defense witness that she was pressured into making the confession by a police detective at a time when she was drunk. He argued that Norman Lee was an “unreliable” witness and should not be believed. In addition, he called Thomas a “violent person” based on a prior criminal record of acts of violence.

Christmas noted that Carson testified she, in fact, didn’t shoot Thomas. He noted that she also testified that she is bisexual and expressed disapproval at the table where she and her friends were sitting when one of the friends used the word “faggot” to describe one or more of the men sitting at Thomas’s table.

He told the jury that based on claims by several people who thought they saw a male shoot Thomas during the altercation at the restaurant they could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that LaShawn Carson shot Dante Thomas.

Christmas also argued that none of the eyewitnesses, including victim Thomas, could state definitively on the witness stand that they were certain who actually shot Thomas. Christmas noted Thomas was among the witnesses that initially told police they thought it was a male who shot him.

“The best witness for my client is strangely the man who was shot,” Christmas told the jury.

According to a police charging document, the initial exchange between the two groups triggered by the anti-gay slur led to a physical altercation.

“As the victim was attempting to walk to the cash register to pay his bill, Carson and a male friend inadvertently stood directly in his way,” a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office says. “The victim attempted to squeeze by and accidently bumped into Carson. Words were exchanged and the defendant’s male friend used a homophobic slur,” the statement says.

Government witnesses at the trial testified that a fight then broke out between the opposing groups of friends and an off-duty D.C. police detective who was seated nearby stepped in to break it up.

“At that point, according to the government’s evidence, Carson walked over, adjusted her hair, pulled out a firearm and shot the victim once in the chest,” the U.S. Attorney’s statement says.

The jury reached its verdict after deliberating for about three hours and returned a separate guilty verdict for each of the seven counts of the indictment: Aggravated assault while armed; possession of a firearm during a crime of violence or dangerous offense; assault with a dangerous weapon; possession of a firearm during a crime of violence or dangerous offense; carrying a pistol without a license (outside home or place of business); possession of unregistered firearm; and unlawful possession of ammunition.

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Comings & Goings

Lane named senior counsel at Brady United

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Thomas Patrick Lane

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 Thomas Patrick Lane the new Senior Litigation Counsel and Director of Affirmative Litigation with Brady United. According to its website, Brady’s mission is, “To unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.”

Jonathan Lowy, chief counsel and vice president of legal at Brady said, “The whole Brady team is thrilled to welcome Tom’s skills as a trial lawyer and his leadership as a champion for justice and a voice for inclusivity and equal rights. Tom is one of the top litigators in the country, and has been a fighter his whole life who has proven himself undaunted by any challenge, including taking on the gun industry for its role in causing gun violence in America. Tom’s expertise and insights into complex litigation involving emerging technologies, such as 3-D printed guns, “smart” technology, and online commerce, will bolster our fight for industry-wide change by holding companies accountable and forcing reforms that will make all Americans safer.”

Upon accepting the position Lane said, “From my time as a prosecutor to private practice, I have seen the effects of gun violence and the importance of defending victims and survivors and upholding common-sense laws that keep our families and communities safe. I am excited to bring that background to Brady and to continue this important work nationwide.”

Prior to joining Brady, Lane was a partner in the New York office of Winston & Strawn, LLP. Before that he was a partner in Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner LLP. He is recognized as one of the country’s top intellectual property and new media lawyers. He tried the first Internet music case and the first Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor case before juries. He has also served as a senior trial attorney in the office of the New York Kings County District Attorney.

Lane represented the City of New York in litigation against major gun manufacturers in the early 2000s. LawDragon named him as one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America.

Lane earned his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, Clinton, N.Y.; and his J.D. from Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans. He has created an endowed scholarship there for LGBTQ students to help law firms realize the importance of hiring diverse rosters of attorneys, and to honor the courage of his uncles Bernard Lane (an Army Ranger decorated with two Bronze Stars) and Richard Morrison (a recovered alcoholic who devoted his life to counseling others).

Both men were known for their toughness tendered by humor and both lived openly in loving relationships with same-sex partners in the 1970s. Lane is a former board member of the National LGBT Bar Association. He directs all external legal matters for the Tyler Clementi Foundation, whose mission is to end bullying in schools, workplaces, and faith communities.

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100th anniversary celebration of Dupont Circle fountain set for May 17

GWU student creates tribute video

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The iconic Dupont Circle fountain turns 100 this month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ residents and longtime visitors to D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood are expected to be among the participants in the 100th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Dupont Circle fountain scheduled to be held at the circle on Monday, May 17.

Aaron DeNu, president of Dupont Festival, a nonprofit arts and cultural programming group that’s organizing the celebration, says it will take place from noon to at least sunset inside Dupont Circle.

The celebration will take place one week after the May 10 release of a YouTube video, “How Dupont Circle Evolved as a Hub for LGBTQ+ Life in the District,” produced by George Washington University student Dante Schulz. Schulz is the video editor for the G.W. student newspaper The Hatchet.

Among those appearing in the documentary video are veteran LGBTQ rights activists Deacon Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who owned and operated the Dupont Circle LGBTQ bookstore Lambda Rising beginning in the 1970s, which is credited with contributing to Dupont Circle’s reputation as the epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQ community for many years.

Also appearing in the video is longtime D.C. gay activist and Dupont Circle area resident Craig Howell, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“At this point in time due to COVID restrictions we’re not going to be doing any particular formal gathering of folks,” DeNu told the Washington Blade in describing the May 17 celebration. “But we’ll have a soundtrack that’s playing throughout the day from that original ceremony – the same songs they used in the original dedication a hundred years ago,” he said.

DeNu said the event will also feature “historic imagery” related to Dupont Circle and the people who have gathered there over the years.

“So, we’re really just inviting people to come and have lunch, stop by the park after work, and just stop and reflect on 100 years of Dupont Circle fountain, take a look at the imagery and see some old friends and hopefully stop by and see the Dupont businesses that are around the area,” DeNu said.

The LGBTQ video produced by Dante Schultz can be accessed here.

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Va. GOP governor nominee opposes transgender-inclusive youth sports

Glenn Youngkin made comment to Arlington voters in March

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Glenn Youngkin (Photo via Twitter)

 

The Republican gubernatorial candidate to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has said he does not support allowing transgender children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

“Biological males should not be allowed to play sports in girls sports,” Glenn Youngkin said during a meeting with a group of voters in Arlington on March 25, according to the Washington Examiner. “It’s just not fair.”

The Washington Blade has reached out to Youngkin’s campaign for comment.

Youngkin, the former co-CEO of the Carlyle Group, on Saturday defeated Pete Snyder, former House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield County), Peter Doran, Sergio de la Peña and Octavia Johnson in the Republican Party of Virginia’s nominating convention. Virginia Republicans nominated Winsome Sears and Jason Miyares as their candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general respectively.

The Democratic Party of Virginia will hold its primary on June 8. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe is widely expected to win the vote, and run against Youngkin in the general election.

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