Connect with us


Ex-Marine guilty of manslaughter while armed

D.C. jury acquits on second-degree murder in case involving anti-gay slur



Marine Barracks, gay news, Washington Blade

Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong was stabbed to death across the street from the Marine Barracks. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court jury on Monday found a 22-year-old former U.S. Marine guilty of manslaughter while armed for the April 2012 stabbing death of a fellow Marine following an altercation in which he allegedly shouted an anti-gay slur.

After four days of deliberations that began prior to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend the jury found then Pfc. Michael Poth not guilty of a more serious charge of second-degree murder while armed.

Judge Russell Canan, who presided over the trial that lasted nearly 10 days, scheduled a sentencing hearing for Poth on Feb. 7. A conviction on manslaughter while armed carries a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison, although voluntary sentencing guidelines allow judges to hand down a significantly lower sentence.

A second-degree murder while armed conviction could have resulted in a 70-year prison sentence.

Poth 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 pocketknife on 8th Street, S.E., across the street from the Marine Barracks.

“Today a District of Columbia jury held Michael Poth accountable for stabbing a fellow Marine to death on a public street near their barracks,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen under whose office the case was prosecuted.

“Their guilty verdict makes clear that our community will not tolerate the deadly violence that so often arises from petty disputes.”

The lead prosecutor in the case stated at a pre-trial hearing last year that the stabbing appeared to be a hate crime. But the government never formally classified the case as a hate crime, a designation that could have resulted in a more severe sentence.

Marine Corps officials discharged Poth from active-duty service on less than honorable circumstance shortly after his arrest. Poth had been stationed at the 8th and I Streets, S.E. barracks at the time of the incident. Bushong, who was stationed in North Carolina, was visiting friends in D.C. at the time of the altercation that led to his death just days before he was scheduled to be honorably discharged from the Marines.

Poth’s defense attorney argued that Poth, who admitted he stabbed Bushong, did so in self-defense following a verbal altercation that turned violent. The attorney, Bernard Grimm, told the jury that Bushong was the aggressor and that he followed Poth after the two got into a verbal exchange.

One witness, a friend of Bushong’s who testified that he’s gay, told the jury Poth called him and Bushong a faggot. The witness, congressional staffer Nishith Pandya, said Bushong was straight and the two were platonic friends. Pandya testified that he did not know how Poth could have known he’s gay, although at least one witness said Poth may have seen Bushong and Pandya hugging each other on the sidewalk as they left a bar.

Grim argued that Poth was smaller than Bushong. He cited testimony by a Marine guard who witnessed part of the altercation and who said he saw Bushong put one hand on Poth’s shoulder and pulled back his other hand as if he were about to throw a punch. It was at that point that Poth stabbed Bushong, according to witnesses.

Grimm also argued that at least one witness testified that Bushong was ordered to leave one of the bars along the street where the incident took place because he was intoxicated and was acting in a boisterous manor. Poth was also believed to have been intoxicated, witnesses said.

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 when the two Marines first crossed paths on 8th Street sometime earlier in the evening.

He noted that a witness testified that she heard Poth say to himself that he planned to stab someone as he walked along 8th Street after the earlier exchange of words between Poth and Bushong. A D.C. police detective testified that Poth said shortly after his arrest that he hoped Bushong would die when he overheard someone say over a police radio that Bushong was being taken by ambulance to a hospital.

Prosecutors said Bushong was pronounced dead at the hospital about two hours after the stabbing. An autopsy showed he died of a single knife wound that punctured his heart.

“He announced his intention,” Liebman told the jury in disputing Poth’s claim of self-defense. “He is looking for Lance Corp. Bushong. He wants to do what he said he would do. He wants to stab him.”

In concluding his closing arguments, Liebman said, “You don’t get to proclaim self-defense when you proclaim intent to stab someone before you come into contact with them. The law doesn’t allow you to use deadly force before you have contact.”

Local attorney Dale Edwin Sanders, who practices criminal law in D.C. and Virginia, said the verdict appears fair in a case where the victim was shown through witness testimony to have decided to engage in an altercation rather than walk away from it, even though the stabbing was unjustified.

“I’m sure the prosecutors think this is a major victory,” Sanders said. “They didn’t get their second-degree murder conviction but in D.C. the penalty for manslaughter is nearly as great as it is for Murder II,” he said.

“This sounds like a well-reasoned verdict, a compromise verdict,” said Sanders. “The jury didn’t buy the self-defense claim because they would have acquitted him on both charges if they accepted self-defense.”

Sanders added, “This is not like the jury gave him a pass…He’s convicted of a deliberate homicide. They’re just saying it wasn’t pre-meditated. Manslaughter is a form of murder without pre-meditation.”


The White House

EXCLUSIVE: Jill Biden to host White House Pride celebration

Event to take place on June 26



First lady Jill Biden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

First lady Jill Biden will host the White House Pride Month celebration on June 26, according to a press release previewed by the Washington Blade.

The party on the South Lawn will also feature a performance by singer, songwriter, actress, and record producer Deborah Cox and musical selections by DJ Trifle.

This year’s event comes on Equality Day this year, which honors the anniversaries of three landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions that expanded rights and protections for LGBTQ Americans: Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which struck down sodomy laws, United States v. Windsor (2013), which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which made marriage equality the law of the land.

The White House highlighted some of the “historic action” taken by President Joe Biden to “advance LGBTQ+ equality for the community,” including:

  • Signing into law the landmark Respect for Marriage Act which protects the rights of same-sex and interracial couples;
  • Appointing a historic number of LGBTQI+ and transgender appointees, including the first transgender American to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate;
  • Directing all federal agencies to strengthen civil rights protections on the basis of gender identity, resulting in agencies working to strengthen protections in housing, health care, education, employment, the criminal justice system, nutrition programs, and more;
  • Reversing the ban on open service by transgender members of the military;
  • Signing an executive order focused on LGBTQI+ children and families that directs agencies to address the dangerous and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy” and finalized rule-making that ends disparities that LGBTQI+ children and parents face in the child welfare and foster care system and protects against disparities in health care; and
  • President Biden continues to call on Congress to pass the Equality Act to enshrine civil rights protections for LGBTQI+ Americans in federal law.

Last year, the president and the first lady hosted the celebration, which was the largest Pride event ever held at the White House.

Continue Reading


65% of Black Americans support Black LGBTQ rights: survey

Results show 40% have LGBTQ family member



(Logo courtesy of the NBJC)

The National Black Justice Coalition, a D.C.-based LGBTQ advocacy organization, announced on June 19 that it commissioned what it believes to be a first-of-its-kind national survey of Black people in the United States in which 65 percent said they consider themselves “supporters of Black LGBTQ+ people and rights,” with 57 percent of the supporters saying they were “churchgoers.”

In a press release describing the findings of the survey, NBJC said it commissioned the research firm HIT Strategies to conduct the survey with support from five other national LGBTQ organizations – the Human Rights Campaign, the National LGBTQ Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Family Equality, and GLSEN.

“One of the first surveys of its kind, explicitly sampling Black people (1,300 participants) on Black LGBTQ+ people and issues – including an oversampling of Black LGBTQ+ participants to provide a more representative view of this subgroup – it investigates the sentiments, stories, perceptions, and priorities around Black values and progressive policies, to better understand how they impact Black views on Black LGBTQ+ people,” the press release says.

It says the survey found, among other things, that 73 percent of Gen Z respondents, who in 2024 are between the ages of 12 and 27, “agree that the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people.”

According to the press release, it also found that 40 percent of Black people in the survey reported having a family member who identifies as LGBTQ+ and 80 percent reported having “some proximity to gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer people, but only 42 percent have some proximity to transgender or gender-expansive people.”

The survey includes these additional findings:

• 86% of Black people nationally report having a feeling of shared fate and connectivity with other Black people in the U.S., but this view doesn’t fully extend to the Black LGBTQ+ community. Around half — 51% — of Black people surveyed feel a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.

• 34% reported the belief that Black LGBTQ+ people “lead with their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Those participants were “significantly less likely to support the Black LGBTQ+ community and most likely to report not feeling a shared fate with Black LGBTQ+ people.”

• 92% of Black people in the survey reported “concern about youth suicide after being shown statistics about the heightened rate among Black LGBTQ+ youth.” Those expressing this concern included 83% of self-reported opponents of LGBTQ+ rights.

• “Black people’s support for LGBTQ+ rights can be sorted into three major groups: 29% Active Accomplices, 25% Passive Allies (high potential to be moved), 35% Opponents. Among Opponents, ‘competing priorities’ and ‘religious beliefs’ are the two most significant barriers to supporting Black LGBTQ+ people and issues.”

• 10% of the survey participants identified as LGBTQ. Among those who identified as LGBTQ, 38% identified as bisexual, 33% identified as lesbian or gay, 28% identified as non-binary or gender non-conforming, and 6% identified as transgender.

• Also, among those who identified as LGBTQ, 89% think the Black community should do more to support Black LGBTQ+ people, 69% think Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedoms than other Black people, 35% think non-Black LGBTQ+ people have fewer rights and freedom than other Black people, 54% “feel their vote has a lot of power,” 51% live in urban areas, and 75% rarely or never attend church.

Additional information about the survey from NBJC can be accessed here.

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Club Q shooter sentenced to life in prison for federal hate crimes

Five people killed in 2022 mass shooting in Colo.



Assistant U.S. Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. (Justice Department YouTube screenshot)

Anderson Lee Aldrich, 24, formerly of Colorado Springs, Colo., was sentenced to 55 concurrent life sentences to run consecutive to 190 years in prison after pleading guilty to 74 hate crimes and firearms charges related to the Nov. 19, 2022, mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ establishment in Colorado Springs.  

According to the plea agreement, Aldrich admitted to murdering five people, injuring 19, and attempting to murder 26 more in a willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated attack at Club Q. According to the plea, Aldrich entered Club Q armed with a loaded, privately manufactured assault weapon, and began firing. Aldrich continued firing until subdued by patrons of the club. As part of the plea, Aldrich admitted that this attack was in part motivated because of the actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity of any person.

“Fueled by hate, the defendant targeted members of the LGBTQIA+ community at a place that represented belonging, safety, and acceptance — stealing five people from their loved ones, injuring 19 others, and striking fear across the country,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “Today’s sentencing makes clear that the Justice Department is committed to protecting the right of every person in this country to live free from the fear that they will be targeted by hate-fueled violence or discrimination based on who they are or who they love. I am grateful to every agent, prosecutor, and staff member across the Department — from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, to the Civil Rights Division, the ATF, and FBI — for their work on this case. The Justice Department will never stop working to defend the safety and civil rights of all people in our country.”

“The 2022 mass shooting at Club Q is one of the most violent crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in history,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “The FBI and our partners have worked tirelessly towards this sentencing, but the true heroes are the patrons of the club who selflessly acted to subdue the defendant. This Pride Month and every month, the FBI stands with the survivors, victims, and families of homophobic violence and hate.”

“ATF will not rest until perpetrators like this defendant are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Steven Dettelbach, director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “I hope today’s life sentence brings at least some peace to the victims and survivors of this senseless, horrific tragedy. That this sentence should come during Pride month reinforces how far we have left to go before all communities, including all LGBTQIA+ communities, are safe here. It also shows how far ATF and all our partners will go to ensure hatred does not win.”

“The defendant’s mass shooting and heinous targeting of Club Q is one of the most devastating assaults on the LGBTQIA+ community in our nation’s history. This sentence cannot reclaim the lives lost or undo the harms inflicted. But we hope that it provides the survivors, the victims’ families, and their communities a small measure of justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our message today should be loud and clear. No one should have to fear for their life or their safety because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. The Justice Department will vigorously investigate and prosecute those who perpetrate hate-fueled, bias-driven attacks.”

“Hate has no place in our country and no place in Colorado” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch for the District of Colorado. “I hope that today’s sentence demonstrates to the victims and those connected to this horrific event that we do not tolerate these heinous acts of violence.”

The FBI Denver Field Office, Colorado Springs Police Department, and ATF investigated the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Connaughty and Bryan Fields for the District of Colorado and, Maura White of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division prosecuted the case.

Continue Reading

Sign Up for Weekly E-Blast

Follow Us @washblade