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Marine murder case goes to jury

Prosecutor, defense argue over whether slaying was self-defense

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Marine Barracks, gay news, Washington Blade

A D.C. Superior Court jury is deliberating over a murder case that allegedly involved use of an anti-gay epithet. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court jury began deliberations on Friday over whether a 21-year-old former U.S. Marine should be found guilty of second degree murder while armed for stabbing a fellow Marine to death after allegedly shouting an anti-gay slur following an April 2012 altercation.

Pfc. Michael Poth, who has since been discharged from the Marines, has been held in jail since the time D.C. police arrested him on April 21, 2012, minutes after witnesses said he stabbed Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong, 23, in the upper chest with a pocket knife on 8th Street, S.E., across the street from the Marine Barracks.

Bushong was pronounced dead less than an hour later after being taken to a hospital. An autopsy showed he died of a single knife wound that punctured his heart.

Gay congressional staff member Nishith Pandya, a friend of Bushong’s who emerged as a lead prosecution witness, testified that Poth called him and Bushong a “faggot” while the two stood with others on the sidewalk outside Mollie Malone’s restaurant and bar as Poth walked by.

Pandya, who works for U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), told the jury he’s gay and that he and Bushong, who was straight, were platonic friends.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman, the lead prosecutor in the case, said Poth hurled the anti-gay slur with the intent of provoking Bushong into a confrontation to give Poth an excuse to stab Bushong. Liebman cited testimony by witnesses that Poth became angry over a remark that Bushong made to Poth about an hour earlier when the two Marines first crossed paths on 8th Street.

A police report says Poth told D.C. police homicide detectives after the stabbing that Bushong called him a “boot,” a slang term used for a Marine just out of boot camp.

“Call me boots and the fight started,” the police report quoted Poth as saying. “He was talking shit so I stabbed him…I stabbed him because he punched me in the head,” the report quoted him as saying.

In his closing argument, Liebman pointed to a civilian witness who testified that she saw someone fitting Poth’s description walking along 8th Street saying to himself he was going to stab somebody. Liebman cited testimony by a police detective that Poth told police at the time of his arrest, upon learning that Bushong was being taken to a hospital, “Good, I hope he dies.”

The prosecutor said other witnesses, including Marine guards who were watching Poth walk past them on 8th Street and nearby streets prior to the stabbing, made it clear that Poth wanted to confront Bushong again and was walking up and down the street looking for him.

“You don’t get to claim self-defense when you proclaim intent to stab someone before you come into contact with them,” Liebman told the jury. “The law doesn’t allow you to use deadly force before you have contact” in a self-defense claim, Leibman said.

Poth’s attorney, Bernard Grimm, told the jury Poth acted in self-defense and that the stabbing came after Bushong and Pandya walked toward Poth at the time of the verbal altercation outside Mollie Malone’s. Grimm said the jury should be skeptical about Pandya’s claim that Poth made an anti-gay slur.

Grimm pointed out repeatedly that Poth, who weighs 140 pounds and is five-feet-seven inches tall, was far smaller than Bushong, who was over 6 feet tall and Pandya, who weighs more than 200 pounds.

He said one of several videos obtained from security cameras deployed by businesses along 8th Street suggested that Poth had been on the ground and stood up just before the stabbing. This corroborated Poth’s claim that Bushong punched him in the head and knocked him down and that Poth stabbed Bushong in self-defense, Grimm said.

Leibman and Grimm played video footage from security cameras of several of the businesses along the street, but none of the video footage captured the stabbing.

Grimm called Pandya’s testimony unreliable, saying that Pandya told police the person who stabbed Bushong was wearing khaki colored short pants when it was clear to all other witnesses that he was wearing blue jeans. He said Pandya, knowing that the stabbing took place after Bushong followed Poth and acted as the aggressor, didn’t want police to talk to Poth out of fear that it would become clear that his friend was the instigator of the fight that broke out between Bushong and Poth.

“He was in it up to his ears,” Grimm said. “He egged Bushong on.”

Grimm also reminded the jury that witnesses said Bushong was asked to leave one of the bars on 8th Street on the night of the incident because he was intoxicated and acting in a boisterous and disruptive manor.

“Someone said don’t let him get near anyone on the street,” Grimm told the jury, saying someone in the bar feared Bushong would hurt someone.

Liebman told the jury that although Pandya got the clothing description of Poth wrong, his testimony on what unfolded between Poth and Bushong was correct.

“Mr. Grimm wants you to believe that you can’t believe anything that Mr. Pandya said,” Liebman told the jury, including Pandya’s testimony that Poth used the word “faggot” to insult Bushong.

“Mr. Pandya is gay. Do you think he heard that right?” said Liebman. “You better believe it. He had no reason to make that up.”

The jury began its deliberations about 2 p.m. on Friday. Judge Russell Canan, who’s presiding over the trial, sent the jurors home for the weekend just before 5 p.m. They were scheduled to resume deliberations about 10 a.m. Monday.

A conviction on second-degree murder while armed carries a possible maximum sentence of 70 years in jail. If it finds Poth not guilty on the second-degree murder charge it has the option of finding him guilty of a lesser offense of manslaughter.

 

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Rehoboth Beach

Vandals target 2 Rehoboth Beach LGBTQ-owned businesses

Staff discovers graffiti on walls, doors

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Vandals targeted the Purple Parrot in Rehoboth Beach on Monday. (Photo courtesy Purple Parrot)

Freddie’s Beach Bar and the Purple Parrot — two LGBTQ+ bars and restaurants in Rehoboth Beach — discovered that their establishments had been vandalized on Monday, according to a series of posts to the Purple Parrot’s Facebook page made by Hugh Fuller, the restaurant’s owner.

The vandal, whose identity remains unknown, painted on the walls and carved graffiti into the mirrors of the Purple Parrot’s bathroom, and painted graffiti on the front door of Freddie’s Beach Bar, the posts recounted. The establishments have since filed police reports with the Rehoboth Police Department.

Tony Rivenbark, a manager at Freddie’s, said that a staff member first noticed the vandalism around 10:30 a.m. on Monday, and that it was dry to the touch, leading restaurant management to believe it was painted early in the day. Upon discovering the graffiti, restaurant staff reported it to local police and were told that other nearby locations had similarly been vandalized, he said.

Between its Rehoboth and Arlington, Va. locations, Rivenbark has worked at the establishment for almost two decades, and added that this was the first instance of vandalism at the Rehoboth venue, which has been open for less than one year. He noted that Freddie’s management is currently reviewing security footage for further information, and is likely to soon install additional security cameras.

At the establishment’s Arlington, Va., location, “we’ve had some minor spray painting done, we’ve had some rocks thrown at windows,” he recounted. “Mostly I have attributed it to drunken antics, not so much hate. Hopefully that’s the case here as well.”

Rivenbark added that Freddie’s staff remains positive despite the circumstances. “It doesn’t seem like a huge issue. It’s something we’ll probably just paint over tomorrow,” Rivenbark said. “I’d much rather it be some kid that’s got a new little airbrush … than it being somebody that’s targeting LGBT businesses.”

The Rehoboth Beach Police Department declined to comment or to confirm details of the reports filed.

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District of Columbia

Pride Run returns after two-year hiatus

1,500 participants to join 10th annual event on June 10

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The Pride Run 5K is back after COVID hiatus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

After a two-year pandemic hiatus that saw the Pride Run go mostly virtual, the DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K is elated to once again welcome nearly 1,500 runners, walkers, volunteers, and spectators back to the Historic Congressional Cemetery for their Tenth Anniversary Race on Friday, June 10.

As an official Capital Pride Partner Event, the Pride Run 5K kicks off Capital Pride weekend with a bang. Well perhaps more of a “On your mark, get set, GO!” 

Join us as we run, walk, skip, shantay, and sashay on a course that starts near the cemetery’s “Gay Corner” where many LGBTQ rights activists, such as Leonard Matlovich, are interred. The race then winds along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to finish where you started.  

Gates open at 5 p.m. for packet pickup with the race beginning at 7 p.m. The post-race party includes beer and hard seltzer provided by DC Brau along with a DJ playing music until 9 p.m. Be sure to check out the return of the DCFR dance troupe performing to a hyped-up crowd. 

Race proceeds benefit the following local LGBTQ and youth-supporting organizations via the Pride Run Foundation: Ainsley’s Angels (National Capital Region), Casa Ruby, Team DC Student-Athlete Scholarship, SMYAL, The Wanda Alston Foundation, The Blade Foundation, and Teens Run DC. You can help support these amazing charities by registering for the race or donate directly at DCPrideRun.com.

A special thanks to the presenting sponsors, Capital One Café, Choice Hotels, KNEAD Hospitality + Design, Shake Shack, and Wegmans Food Market to the premier sponsors DC Brau, Pacers Running, and Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, and our elite sponsors, AHF Healthcare Centers, Avalon Bay Communities, Casey Trees, Endorphin Fitness, and Starbucks, and of course our special partner the Historic Congressional Cemetery. Last, but not least, a big thank you to all individual donors who contribute via the race website directly to our incredible charity partners. Together, we proudly celebrate who we are in a festive, safe, and inclusive event.

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District of Columbia

Mattachine Society of D.C. donates documents to William & Mary

New LGBTQ archive established at Swem Library

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Charles Francis, anti-gay purge, Mattachine Society, gay news, Washington Blade
‘Our motto ‘Archive Activism’ brings us to this decision to donate all of our collection to William and Mary,’ said Charles Francis. (Photo courtesy Francis)

The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the group that collects historic documents related to the federal government’s discrimination against and persecution of LGBTQ people in past years, announced this week that it is donating all its documents to a newly created Archive of American LGBTQ Political and Legal History at the College of William & Mary.

The Williamsburg, Va., based college announced last week that its new LGBTQ archive is being established at its Swem Library in memory of the renowned gay historian John Boswell, who was a 1969 Bachelor of Arts graduate in history at the College of William & Mary.

“There are many fabulous collections of LGBTQ historical materials in libraries across the country, but this archive will have a unique focus on the political and legal architecture of the movement,” said Carrie Cooper, dean of University Libraries at William and Mary.

“Our motto ‘Archive Activism’ brings us to this decision to donate all of our collection to William and Mary, for the benefit of historians, researchers, and students nationwide,” said Charles Francis, co-founder of the reestablished Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. The group was originally founded by D.C. LGBTQ rights pioneer Frank Kameny in the early 1960s as D.C.’s first politically active LGBTQ organization.

“This exciting new archive will collect materials that illuminate the history of LGBTQ Americans’ struggle to secure their rights through the political process and legal systems of the nation,” according to LGBTQ rights advocate and former William & Mary Rector Jeff Trammell. 

Trammell is donating to the new archive material collected from his tenure as the first openly gay board chair of a major public university, a statement released by William & Mary says. It says Trammell’s donation is the second donation after the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., which made the first of what is expected to be many more LGBTQ-related documents to be donated to the new archive.

The Mattachine donation includes “original, declassified documents obtained by meticulous research into sources such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, numerous presidential library archives, and public and university libraries, to name just a few, according to attorney Pate Felts, the other Mattachine co-founder.

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