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Ex-Marine guilty of manslaughter while armed

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

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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.”

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State Department

State Department hosts intersex activists from around the world

Group met with policy makers, health officials, NGOs

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The State Department last week hosted a group of intersex activists from around the world. (Courtesy photo)

The State Department last week hosted five intersex activists from around the world.

Kimberly Zieselman, a prominent intersex activist who advises Jessica Stern, the special U.S. envoy for the promotion of LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad, brought the activists to D.C.

• Morgan Carpenter, co-founder and executive director of Intersex Human Rights Australia

• Natasha Jiménez, an intersex activist from Costa Rica who is the general coordinator of Mulabi, the Latin American Space for Sexualities and Rights

• Julius Kaggwa, founder of the Support Initiative for People with Atypical Sex Development Uganda

• Magda Rakita, co-founder and executive director of Fujdacja Interakcja in Poland and co-founder of Interconnected UK

• Esan Regmi, co-founder and executive director of the Campaign for Change in Nepal.

Special U.S. Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer and Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine are among the officials with whom the activists met.

Zieselman told the Washington Blade on Sept. 21 the activists offered State Department officials an “intersex 101” overview during a virtual briefing.

More than 60 Save the Children staffers from around the world participated in another virtual briefing. Zieselman noted the activists also met with Stern, U.N. and Organization of American States officials, funders and NGO representatives while in D.C.

“The people we met were genuinely interested,” Rakita told the Blade.

Stern in an exclusive statement to the Blade said “the visiting intersex activists clearly had an impact here at State, sharing their expertise and lived experience highlighting the urgency to end human rights abuses, including those involving harmful medical practices against intersex persons globally.” Andrew Gleason, senior director for gender equality and social justice at Save the Children US, in a LinkedIn post he wrote after attending his organization’s meeting with the activists echoed Stern.

“There are many learnings to recount from today’s discussion, but one thing is clear, this is unequivocally a child rights issue, and one that demands attention and action at the intersection of LGBTQI+ rights, reproductive rights and justice, disability justice and more,” wrote Gleason. “Gratitude to the panelists for sharing such poignant testimonies and providing insights into what organizations like ours can do to contribute to the broader intersex movement; and thank you to Kimberly for your leadership and bringing this group together.”

The activists’ trip to D.C. coincided with efforts to end so-called sex “normalization” surgeries on intersex children.

Greek lawmakers in July passed a law that bans such procedures on children under 15 unless they offer their consent or a court allows them to happen. Doctors who violate the statute face fines and prison.

Germany Iceland, Malta, Portugal and Spain have also enacted laws that seek to protect intersex youth. 

A law that grants equal rights and legal recognition to intersex people in Kenya took effect in July 2022. Lawmakers in the Australian Capital Territory earlier this year passed the Variation in Sex Characteristics (Restricted Medical Treatment) Bill 2023.

Intersex Human Rights Australia notes the law implements “mechanisms to regulate non-urgent medical care to encourage child participation in medical decisions, establish groundbreaking oversight mechanisms and provide transparency on medical practices and decision making.” It further points out the statute “will criminalize some deferrable procedures that permanently alter the sex characteristics of children” and provides “funding for necessary psychosocial supports for families and children.”

“It’s amazing,” Carpenter told the Blade when discussing the law and resistance to it. “It’s not perfect. There was some big gaps, but physicians are resisting every step of the way.”

The State Department in April 2022 began to issue passports with an “X” gender marker.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex U.S. Navy veteran who identifies as non-binary, in 2015 filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department after it denied their application for a passport with an “X” gender marker. Zzyym in October 2021 received the first gender-neutral American passport.

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Federal Government

Federal government prepares for looming shutdown

White House warns of ‘damaging impacts across the country’

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U.S. Capitol Building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

However remote they were on Monday, odds of avoiding a government shutdown were narrowed by Thursday evening as House Republicans continued debate over their hyper-partisan appropriations bills that stand no chance of passage by the Upper Chamber.

As lawmakers in the Democratic controlled Senate forged ahead with a bipartisan stop-gap spending measure that House GOP leadership had vowed to reject, the federal government began bracing for operations to grind to a halt on October 1.

This would mean hundreds of thousands of workers are furloughed as more than 100 agencies from the State Department to the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation roll out contingency plans maintained by the White House Office of Management and Budget. On Thursday the Office of Personnel Management sent out memos to all agencies instructing them to ready for a shutdown on Sunday.

Before 1980, operations would continue per usual in cases where Congress failed to break an impasse over spending, as lapses in funding tended to last only a few days before lawmakers brokered a deal.

Since then, the government has shut down more than a dozen times and the duration has tended to become longer and longer.

“Across the United States, local news outlets are reporting on the harmful impacts a potential government shutdown would have on American families,” the White House wrote in a release on Thursday featuring a roundup of reporting on how the public might be affected.

“With just days left before the end of the fiscal year, extreme House Republicans are playing partisan games with peoples’ lives and marching our country toward a government shutdown that would have damaging impacts across the country,” the White House said.

The nature and extent of that damage will depend on factors including how long the impasse lasts, but the Biden-Harris administration has warned of some consequences the American public is likely to face.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for example, warned: “There is no good time for a government shutdown, but this is a particularly bad time for a government shutdown, especially when it comes to transportation.”

Amid the shortage of air traffic controllers and efforts to modernize aviation technology to mitigate flight delays and cancellations, a government shutdown threatens to “make air travel even worse,” as Business Insider wrote in a headline Thursday.

Democratic lawmakers including California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters, meanwhile, have sounded the alarm in recent weeks over the consequences for the global fight against AIDS amid the looming expiration, on Oct. 1, of funding for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

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Federal Government

QAnon follower pleads guilty to threatening member of Congress

Conspiracy movement claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world

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QAnon banner at a pro-gun rally in Richmond, Va., in 2020. (YouTube screenshot from Anthony Crider)

A New Mexico man has entered a plea deal after being charged with a federal criminal complaint of making threats through interstate communications directed at a member of Congress.

Federal prosecutors charged Michael David Fox, a resident of Doña Ana County, for calling the Houston district office of an unnamed member of Congress on or about May 18, 2023, and uttering threats that included knowingly threatening to kill an active member of Congress.

The plea agreement was brought before U.S. Magistrate Judge Damian L. Martinez of U.S. District Court in New Mexico in the Las Cruces by Fox’s attorney from the Federal Public Defender’s Office in August.

According to the criminal complaint as outlined by a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal investigator for the Albuquerque Field Office, Las Cruces Resident Agency, on May 18 at approximately 9:04 p.m. Fox called the office of a congresswoman for the District of Texas, U.S. House of Representatives (Victim One/”V1″), who is from Houston. The call was received by V1’s office.

In the phone call Fox stated “Hey [Vl], you’re a man. It’s official. You’re literally a tranny and a pedophile, and I’m going to put a bullet in your fucking face. You mother fucking satanic cock smoking son of a whore. You understand me you fucker?” 

Law enforcement was able to trace the call back to Las Cruces, N.M., and it was believed that Fox was the user of cell phone account used to make the call. According to the FBI agents who interviewed Fox, he admitted to making the call.

Fox acknowledged that the threat was direct but claimed that he did not own any guns. Fox
claimed to be a member of the Q2 Truth Movement, the Q Movement. Fox explained these
movements believe all over the world there were transgender individuals running
governments, kingdoms and corporations. 

Fox told the FBI that there is a plan called “Q the Plan to Save the World” which he learned about from an online video. Fox claimed that he believed Q was going to engage in the “eradication” of the people who were causing all the world’s misery. He believed that part of the eradication had already happened.

Fox explained that he had run Vl’s skull features through forensic analysis and determined
that Vl was born male and is now trans. Fox discussed his military service with the
U.S. Air Force, “Q the Plan to Save the World,” and how God communicates using
numbers. 

Fox continued to reiterate several different types of conspiracy theories indicating
extreme far right ideologies as his explanation for why he conducted the phone call to
threaten V1.

According to the FBI, Fox rescinded his threat against Vl and apologized. Fox claimed he was not intoxicated or under the influence of drugs when he made the call. Fox stated he understood how Vl would feel threatened by his phone call, and he acknowledged that anyone he knew or cared about would also be concerned with such a threat.

The charge of interstate threatening communications carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.

QAnon began in 2017, when a mysterious figure named “Q” started posting on the online message board 4chan, claiming to have inside access to government secrets. Since then, QAnon has grown into a conspiracy movement that claims Satan-worshipping pedophiles secretly rule the world. It is claimed by QAnon adherents that former President Donald Trump is the only person who can defeat them. 

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based journalist Ana Valens, a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship and sex workers’ rights noted that Fox appears to be a “transvestigator.” Valens noted that the transvestigation conspiracy theory is a fringe movement within QAnon that claims the world is primarily run by trans people. Phrenological analysis is common among transvestigators, with a prominent focus on analyzing celebrities for proof that they are trans.

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