Ahmed Danny Ramadan, a journalist who has contributed to publications in the U.S. and other countries, returned to the Syrian capital two months before the country’s civil war began in 2011.
He said his colleagues at the non-governmental organization where he worked “hated” the fact he is openly gay, so they reported him to Syrian intelligence officials as a journalist. Ramadan said authorities detained him for three hours at Damascus International Airport in May 2012 as he tried to travel to a book signing in neighboring Jordan — they let him go after convincing them he was not the person for whom they were looking.
He fled to neighboring Lebanon a few weeks later.
“I can’t go back because the regime still wants me,” Ramadan told the Washington Blade during a recent Skype interview from his apartment in Beirut, the Lebanese capital. “I can’t go back because the extremists are going to kill me because I’m an openly gay person.”
The U.N. estimates the civil war that began in March 2011 after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime brutally cracked down on protesters in the city of Daraa has left more than an estimated 200,000 people dead. Ramadan is among the more than 1 million Syrians who have fled to Lebanon, a country slightly less than twice the size of Delaware with a population of roughly 4.8 million people.
’I managed to escape’
Ramadan, 30, was born into a Sunni Muslim family that lived in a middle-class neighborhood of Damascus.
He said his father, who backs the Assad regime even though he fled to Jordan after his restaurant was destroyed, beat him and threatened him with a gun after he came out as gay during a fight when he was 17.
Ramadan told the Blade his father locked him inside his bedroom for three days without access to a bathroom. His sisters eventually helped him escape and he lived on his own in Syria for another two years before moving to Egypt.
“I managed to escape and never looked back,” he said.
Ramadan said life for a gay person in Syria was “limited” before the war.
The Assad regime censored websites after the Internet became available in the country in 2002, although those who spoke English could access gay-specific information.
Ramadan told the Blade that gay people, whom he described as “creatures of the night,” would gather on a Damascus street after dark to talk and spend time with each other. He said police officers would periodically arrest “a couple of them” and force them to undergo so-called anal tests to determine whether they were gay.
“They hang out at night, go have casual encounters like sexual encounters and then return to their families,” said Ramadan. “Most of them — a big chunk of them — actually live double lives where they hide it and feel ashamed about it.”
Ramadan noted to the Blade that Syrians generally have an “extremely traditional” view of homosexuality because of conservative religious and cultural attitudes. He said sheikhs in mosques and the parents and family members of those who are LGBT reinforce these beliefs.
“Homosexuality is an act that is seen as womanly,” said Ramadan. “You’re not a man. You become in the eyes of society a woman and that society has a problem with women as well.”
He noted these attitudes remain, even though LGBT Syrians had gained limited visibility before the war.
“The Syrian people — the normal people like me — are still the same people,” said Ramadan. “They are faced with an extraordinary situation of being in a civil war, but they are still thinking the same thing. They still have the same mindset. They still see homosexuality the same way.”
LGBT Syrians tortured, decapitated
Reports continue to emerge that LGBT Syrians have been tortured and even killed during the war because of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Ramadan told the Blade he has heard “rumors” about “extremists” killing gay men as they did in neighboring Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled then-President Saddam Hussein. He said he knows “a lot of gays” from Aleppo, the country’s largest city, and Raqqah — which is under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that once had ties to al-Qaeda — who have fled to Lebanon.
“When you have 200 to 300 people dying on a day-to-day basis in Syria, the number of homosexual people who are dying is going to be lost among the number of people who are dying every day,” said Ramadan.
Bertho Makso, a gay Lebanese man who last September founded Proud Lebanon, a Beirut-based group that provides support and other services to more than 100 LGBT Syrian refugees, told the Blade he has heard reports of gay people being decapitated. He said a transgender woman in a Damascus suburb was hanged by her breasts.
“These are people who lost their friends who were kidnapped,” said Makso. “Their friends were killed because they’re LGBT.”
Lebanese groups offer services, programs to LGBT Syrians
Proud Lebanon offers LGBT refugees medical and psychological support, access to legal and advocacy services, job training, art classes and other social programs.
The group, which operates a center in Beirut, has six full-time staffers and four volunteers.
Proud Lebanon in January received a grant from the Canadian Embassy to pay for equipment for the job-training program and tutors’ salaries for a month.
The Dutch Embassy in Beirut and the European Endowment for Democracy have also funded the organization.
“They need stability and safety,” said Makso. “We are trying to create another family for them.
The Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health and Helem, an LGBT advocacy group, also work with Syrians who have fled to Lebanon. Marsa, a sexual health clinic in Beirut, offers them free HIV and STI testing and counseling.
Dr. Hasan Abdessamad, president of the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health, told the Blade during an interview from Vancouver where he currently lives that depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse are among the myriad of problems that LGBT Syrian refugees face. A lack of access to sexual and psychiatric health care remain concerns for the advocates who work with them.
“There’s a lot of hostility,” Abdessamad told the Blade, referring to long-standing tensions between the two countries that stem from the Lebanese Civil War that took place between 1975-1990. “Now that we have more than a million (Syrian refugees) coming into Lebanon, (the) Lebanese people are very frustrated with the Syrian refugees.”
Abdessamad and Makso both said the Lebanese government has done nothing to specifically address the plight of LGBT Syrian refugees, in part because the conflict has left it overwhelmed.
“They’re doing a horrible job providing services or shelter or just the basic needs for the refugees in general,” said Abdessamad. “So of course there’s no attempt or even thinking about what to do for the Syrian LGBT refugees.”
Ramadan sought to create ‘bubble’ in Beirut
Those convicted of homosexuality under Lebanese law had faced up to a year in jail until a judge in March struck down the statute in the case of a trans woman who had allegedly had a relationship with a man.
The Lebanese Psychiatric Society last July stated homosexuality is not a mental illness.
Beirut has a number of gay bars and nightclubs, but anti-LGBT discrimination and violence remain commonplace in spite of the country’s relative tolerance of homosexuality compared to Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.
“Lebanon has always kind of been a refuge for many people to be themselves and to just come and live freely,” Joseph Aoun, Proud Lebanon’s public advocacy officer who has managed a gay bar in the Lebanese capital for five years, told the Blade. “Beirut in a way gives you a certain freedom or a choice to live freely. I’m not pretending that it’s the best place, but in general Beirut has this sense.”
Ramadan said he decided to create a “very safe bubble” for himself when he moved to Lebanon.
His American roommate and boss are comfortable with his sexual orientation — his Syrian boyfriend of nearly two years who moved to Beirut a few months after he left Damascus remains in the closet.
Ramadan told the Blade the owner of the café across the street from his apartment building from where he works once kicked out a patron who was “talking shit” about him because of his homosexuality. He then hung a sign that said he would not tolerate homophobia, racism or sexism in his business.
“I’m lucky that I’ve found this little bubble,” Ramadan told the Blade, noting he wears a rainbow bracelet but cannot kiss his boyfriend when he leaves for work. “This is something really simple compared to the challenges of other people here. As an openly gay person, I managed to create a safe zone for myself that others who are still in the closet cannot.”
Other LGBT Syrian refugees in Lebanon are far less fortunate.
A report that Amnesty International published in February highlights the plight of many of those who have fled to Lebanon. These include a 26-year-old man who contracted Hepatitis B after his Lebanese boyfriend forced him to have sex with his friends.
The report also cites another 26-year-old man who tried to commit suicide after two men raped him and took his money and cell phone.
Amnesty International notes many gay Syrian refugees also do not disclose their sexual orientation when they register with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees out of “fear of the added stigma this would expose them to.”
“The biggest challenge is being Syrian in the first place,” Abdessamad told the Blade. “There’s a lot of social discrimination towards them. It’s not always friendly.”
Former Lebanese finance minister killed outside Ramadan’s apartment
The Syrian civil war has only further exacerbated sectarian tensions in Lebanon
Clashes between pro-Assad Shi’ites and Lebanese Sunni Muslims who largely back the Syrian rebels have left more than 300 people dead. Two suicide bombers linked to al-Qaeda killed 23 people outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut in November.
A massive car bomb that killed former Lebanese Finance Minister Mohamad Chatah, who opposed al-Assad, and seven others last December exploded outside Ramadan’s apartment building. The Daily Star newspaper reported the explosion left 70 others injured.
“While Lebanon is not the most stable country in the world, it got more unstable due to the crisis going on in Syria,” said Ramadan.
Ramadan hopes to move to Canada with his boyfriend and their dog.
The Canadian government has approved his asylum application, and he said he expects to receive final approval from the country’s Beirut embassy in about a year and a half. Ramadan scoffed at the Blade’s question about whether he would return to Syria if peace were to return to the country.
“That assumption is not valid because the situation is not going to get better anytime soon,” he said. “It’s a stalemate.”
Abdessamad and others in Vancouver plan to provide a support network to Ramadan and his boyfriend once they arrive in Canada that he says will allow them to integrate into Canadian society. Abdessamad was quick to point out many LGBT Syrians in Lebanon cannot leave the country.
“The majority of LGBT Syrians are stuck in Lebanon,” he said. “Their case is desperate and more hopeless.”
Meanwhile, Ramadan’s father only speaks to him when he needs money — and he sends it to him in Jordan.
Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead
No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise
Despite having President Biden in the White House and Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, efforts to update federal civil rights laws to strengthen the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people by passing the Equality Act are all but dead as opponents of the measure have contorted it beyond recognition.
Political willpower is lacking to find a compromise that would be acceptable to enough Republican senators to end a filibuster on the bill — a tall order in any event — nor is there the willpower to force a vote on the Equality Act as opponents stoke fears about transgender kids in sports and not even unanimity in the Democratic caucus in favor of the bill is present, stakeholders who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity said.
In fact, there are no imminent plans to hold a vote on the legislation even though Pride month is days away, which would be an opportune time for Congress to demonstrate solidarity with the LGBTQ community by holding a vote on the legislation.
If the Equality Act were to come up for a Senate vote in the next month, it would not have the support to pass. Continued assurances that bipartisan talks are continuing on the legislation have yielded no evidence of additional support, let alone the 10 Republicans needed to end a filibuster.
“I haven’t really heard an update either way, which is usually not good,” one Democratic insider said. “My understanding is that our side was entrenched in a no-compromise mindset and with [Sen. Joe] Manchin saying he didn’t like the bill, it doomed it this Congress. And the bullying of hundreds of trans athletes derailed our message and our arguments of why it was broadly needed.”
The only thing keeping the final nail from being hammered into the Equality Act’s coffin is the unwillingness of its supporters to admit defeat. Other stakeholders who spoke to the Blade continued to assert bipartisan talks are ongoing, strongly pushing back on any conclusion the legislation is dead.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Equality Act is “alive and well,” citing widespread public support he said includes “the majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents and a growing number of communities across the country engaging and mobilizing every day in support of the legislation.”
“They understand the urgent need to pass this bill and stand up for LGBTQ people across our country,” David added. “As we engage with elected officials, we have confidence that Congress will listen to the voices of their constituents and continue fighting for the Equality Act through the lengthy legislative process. We will also continue our unprecedented campaign to grow the already-high public support for a popular bill that will save lives and make our country fairer and more equal for all. We will not stop until the Equality Act is passed.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chief sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, also signaled through a spokesperson work continues on the legislation, refusing to give up on expectations the legislation would soon become law.
“Sen. Merkley and his staff are in active discussions with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to get this done,” McLennan said. “We definitely see it as a key priority that we expect to become law.”
A spokesperson Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had promised to force a vote on the Equality Act in the Senate on the day the U.S. House approved it earlier this year, pointed to a March 25 “Dear Colleague” letter in which he identified the Equality Act as one of several bills he’d bring up for a vote.
Despite any assurances, the hold up on the bill is apparent. Although the U.S. House approved the legislation earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn’t even reported out the bill yet to the floor in the aftermath of the first-ever Senate hearing on the bill in March. A Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic aide, however, disputed that inaction as evidence the Equality Act is dead in its tracks: “Bipartisan efforts on a path forward are ongoing.”
Democrats are quick to blame Republicans for inaction on the Equality Act, but with Manchin withholding his support for the legislation they can’t even count on the entirety of their caucus to vote “yes” if it came to the floor. Progressives continue to advocate an end to the filibuster to advance legislation Biden has promised as part of his agenda, but even if they were to overcome headwinds and dismantle the institution needing 60 votes to advance legislation, the Equality Act would likely not have majority support to win approval in the Senate with a 50-50 party split.
The office of Manchin, who has previously said he couldn’t support the Equality Act over concerns about public schools having to implement the transgender protections applying to sports and bathrooms, hasn’t responded to multiple requests this year from the Blade on the legislation and didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article.
Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who declined to co-sponsor the Equality Act this year after having signed onto the legislation in the previous Congress, insisted through a spokesperson talks are still happening across the aisle despite the appearances the legislation is dead.
“There continues to be bipartisan support for passing a law that protects the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Annie Clark, a Collins spokesperson. “The Equality Act was a starting point for negotiations, and in its current form, it cannot pass. That’s why there are ongoing discussions among senators and stakeholders about a path forward.”
Let’s face it: Anti-LGBTQ forces have railroaded the debate by making the Equality Act about an end to women’s sports by allowing transgender athletes and danger to women in sex-segregated places like bathrooms and prisons. That doesn’t even get into resolving the issue on drawing the line between civil rights for LGBTQ people and religious freedom, which continues to be litigated in the courts as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected any day now to issue a ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia to determine if foster care agencies can reject same-sex couples over religious objections.
For transgender Americans, who continue to report discrimination and violence at high rates, the absence of the Equality Act may be most keenly felt.
Mara Keisling, outgoing executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, disputed any notion the Equality Act is dead and insisted the legislation is “very much alive.”
“We remain optimistic despite misinformation from the opposition,” Keisling said. “NCTE and our movement partners are still working fruitfully on the Equality Act with senators. In fact, we are gaining momentum with all the field organizing we’re doing, like phone banking constituents to call their senators. Legislating takes time. Nothing ever gets through Congress quickly. We expect to see a vote during this Congress, and we are hopeful we can win.”
But one Democratic source said calls to members of Congress against the Equality Act, apparently coordinated by groups like the Heritage Foundation, have has outnumbered calls in favor of it by a substantial margin, with a particular emphasis on Manchin.
No stories are present in the media about same-sex couples being kicked out of a restaurant for holding hands or transgender people for using the restroom consistent with their gender identity, which would be perfectly legal in 25 states thanks to the patchwork of civil rights laws throughout the United States and inadequate protections under federal law.
Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the American Unity Fund, which has bolstered the Republican-led Fairness for All Act as an alternative to the Equality Act, said he continues to believe the votes are present for a compromise form of the bill.
“I know for a fact there is a supermajority level of support in the Senate for a version of the Equality Act that is fully protective of both LGBTQ civil rights and religious freedom,” Deaton said. “There is interest on both sides of the aisle in getting something done this Congress.”
Deaton, however, didn’t respond to a follow-up inquiry on what evidence exists of agreeing on this compromise.
Biden has already missed the goal he campaigned on in the 2020 election to sign the Equality Act into law within his first 100 days in office. Although Biden renewed his call to pass the legislation in his speech to Congress last month, as things stand now that appears to be a goal he won’t realize for the remainder of this Congress.
Nor has the Biden administration made the Equality Act an issue for top officials within the administration as it pushes for an infrastructure package as a top priority. One Democratic insider said Louisa Terrell, legislative affairs director for the White House, delegated work on the Equality Act to a deputy as opposed to handling it herself.
To be sure, Biden has demonstrated support for the LGBTQ community through executive action at an unprecedented rate, signing an executive order on day one ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the fullest extent possible and dismantling former President Trump’s transgender military ban. Biden also made historic LGBTQ appointments with the confirmation of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health.
A White House spokesperson insisted Biden’s team across the board remains committed to the Equality Act, pointing to his remarks to Congress.
“President Biden has urged Congress to get the Equality Act to his desk so he can sign it into law and provide long overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Americans, and he remains committed to seeing this legislation passed as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The White House and its entire legislative team remains in ongoing and close coordination with organizations, leaders, members of Congress, including the Equality Caucus, and staff to ensure we are working across the aisle to push the Equality Act forward.”
But at least in the near-term, that progress will fall short of fulfilling the promise of updating federal civil rights law with the Equality Act, which will mean LGBTQ people won’t be able to rely on those protections when faced with discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
D.C. bill to ban LGBTQ panic defense delayed by Capitol security
Delivery of bill to Congress was held up due to protocols related to Jan. 6 riots
A bill approved unanimously last December by the D.C. Council to ban the so-called LGBTQ panic defense has been delayed from taking effect as a city law because the fence installed around the U.S. Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection prevented the law from being delivered to Congress.
According to Eric Salmi, communications director for D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who guided the bill through the Council’s legislative process, all bills approved by the Council and signed by the D.C. mayor must be hand-delivered to Congress for a required congressional review.
“What happened was when the Capitol fence went up after the January insurrection, it created an issue where we physically could not deliver laws to Congress per the congressional review period,” Salmi told the Washington Blade.
Among the bills that could not immediately be delivered to Congress was the Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter Panic Defense Prohibition and Hate Crimes Response Amendment Act of 2020, which was approved by the Council on a second and final vote on Dec. 15.
Between the time the bill was signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser and published in the D.C. Register under procedural requirements for all bills, it was not ready to be transmitted to Congress until Feb. 16, the Council’s legislative record for the bill shows.
Salmi said the impasse in delivering the bill to Congress due to the security fence prevented the bill from reaching Congress on that date and prevented the mandatory 60-day congressional review period for this bill from beginning at that time. He noted that most bills require a 30 legislative day review by Congress.
But the Evangelista-Hunter bill, named after a transgender woman and a gay man who died in violent attacks by perpetrators who attempted to use the trans and gay panic defense, includes a law enforcement related provision that under the city’s Home Rule Charter passed by Congress in the early 1970s requires a 60-day congressional review.
“There is a chance it goes into effect any day now, just given the timeline is close to being up,” Salmi said on Tuesday. “I don’t know the exact date it was delivered, but I do know the countdown is on,” said Salmi, who added, “I would expect any day now it should go into effect and there’s nothing stopping it other than an insurrection in January.”
If the delivery to Congress had not been delayed, the D.C. Council’s legislative office estimated the congressional review would have been completed by May 12.
A congressional source who spoke on condition of being identified only as a senior Democratic aide, said the holdup of D.C. bills because of the Capitol fence has been corrected.
“The House found an immediate workaround, when this issue first arose after the Jan. 6 insurrection,” the aide said.
“This is yet another reason why D.C. Council bills should not be subject to a congressional review period and why we need to grant D.C. statehood,” the aide said.
The aide added that while no disapproval resolution had been introduced in Congress to overturn the D.C. Evangelista-Hunter bill, House Democrats would have defeated such a resolution.
“House Democrats support D.C. home rule, statehood, and LGBTQ rights,” said the aide.
LGBTQ rights advocates have argued that a ban on using a gay or transgender panic defense in criminal trials is needed to prevent defense attorneys from inappropriately asking juries to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression is to blame for a defendant’s criminal act, including murder.
Some attorneys have argued that their clients “panicked” after discovering the person against whom they committed a violent crime was gay or transgender, prompting them to act in a way they believed to be a form of self-defense.
In addition to its provision banning the LGBTQ panic defense, the Evangelista-Hunter bill includes a separate provision that strengthens the city’s existing hate crimes law by clarifying that hatred need not be the sole motivating factor for an underlying crime such as assault, murder, or threats to be prosecuted as a hate crime.
LGBTQ supportive prosecutors have said the clarification was needed because it is often difficult to prove to a jury that hatred is the only motive behind a violent crime. The prosecutors noted that juries have found defendants not guilty of committing a hate crime on grounds that they believed other motives were involved in a particular crime after defense lawyers argued that the law required “hate” to be the only motive in order to find someone guilty of a hate crime.
Salmi noted that while the hate crime clarification and panic defense prohibition provisions of the Evangelista-Hunter bill will become law as soon as the congressional review is completed, yet another provision in the bill will not become law after the congressional review because there are insufficient funds in the D.C. budget to cover the costs of implementing the provision.
The provision gives the D.C. Office of Human Rights and the Office of the D.C. Attorney General authority to investigate hate related discrimination at places of public accommodation. Salmi said the provision expands protections against discrimination to include web-based retailers or online delivery services that are not physically located in D.C.
“That is subject to appropriations,” Salmi said. “And until it is funded in the upcoming budget it cannot be legally enforced.”
He said that at Council member Allen’s request, the Council added language to the bill that ensures that all other provisions of the legislation that do not require additional funding – including the ban on use of the LGBTQ panic defense and the provision clarifying that hatred doesn’t have to be the sole motive for a hate crime – will take effect as soon as the congressional approval process is completed.
D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested
Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011
A D.C. man arrested in August 2020 for allegedly threatening to kill a gay man outside the victim’s apartment in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood and who was released while awaiting trial was arrested again two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill another man in an unrelated incident.
D.C. Superior Court records show that Jalal Malki, who was 37 at the time of his 2020 arrest on a charge of bias-related attempts to do bodily harm against the gay man, was charged on May 4, 2021 with unlawful entry, simple assault, threats to kidnap and injure a person, and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon against the owner of a vacant house at 4412 Georgia Ave., N.W.
Court charging documents state that Malki was allegedly staying at the house without permission as a squatter. An arrest affidavit filed in court by D.C. police says Malki allegedly threatened to kill the man who owns the house shortly after the man arrived at the house while Malki was inside.
According to the affidavit, Malki walked up to the owner of the house while the owner was sitting in his car after having called police and told him, “If you come back here, I’m going to kill you.” While making that threat Malki displayed what appeared to be a gun in his waistband, but which was later found to be a toy gun, the affidavit says.
Malki then walked back inside the house minutes before police arrived and arrested him. Court records show that similar to the court proceedings following his 2020 arrest for threatening the gay man, a judge in the latest case ordered Malki released while awaiting trial. In both cases, the judge ordered him to stay away from the two men he allegedly threatened to kill.
An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police in the 2020 case states that Malki allegedly made the threats inside an apartment building where the victim lived on the 2300 block of Champlain Street, N.W. It says Malki was living in a nearby building but often visited the building where the victim lived.
“Victim 1 continued to state during an interview that it was not the first time that Defendant 1 had made threats to him, but this time Defendant 1 stated that if he caught him outside, he would ‘fucking kill him.’” the affidavit says. It quotes the victim as saying during this time Malki repeatedly called the victim a “fucking faggot.”
The affidavit, prepared by the arresting officers, says that after the officers arrested Malki and were leading him to a police transport vehicle to be booked for the arrest, he expressed an “excited utterance” that he was “in disbelief that officers sided with the ‘fucking faggot.’”
Court records show that Malki is scheduled to appear in court on June 4 for a status hearing for both the 2020 arrest and the arrest two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill the owner of the house in which police say he was illegally squatting.
Superior Court records show that Malki had been arrested three times between 2011 and 2015 in cases unrelated to the 2021 and 2020 cases for allegedly also making threats of violence against people. Two of the cases appear to be LGBTQ related, but prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not list the cases as hate crimes.
In the first of the three cases, filed in July 2011, Malki allegedly shoved a man inside Dupont Circle and threatened to kill him after asking the man why he was wearing a purple shirt.
“Victim 1 believes the assault occurred because Suspect 1 believes Victim 1 is a homosexual,” the police arrest affidavit says.
Court records show prosecutors charged Malki with simple assault and threats to do bodily harm in the case. But the court records show that on Sept. 13, 2011, D.C. Superior Court Judge Stephen F. Eilperin found Malki not guilty on both charges following a non-jury trial.
The online court records do not state why the judge rendered a not guilty verdict. With the courthouse currently closed to the public and the press due to COVID-related restrictions, the Washington Blade couldn’t immediately obtain the records to determine the judge’s reason for the verdict.
In the second case, court records show Malki was arrested by D.C. police outside the Townhouse Tavern bar and restaurant at 1637 R St., N.W. on Nov. 7, 2012 for allegedly threatening one or more people with a knife after employees ordered Malki to leave the establishment for “disorderly behavior.”
At the time, the Townhouse Tavern was located next door to the gay nightclub Cobalt, which before going out of business two years ago, was located at the corner of 17th and R Streets, N.W.
The police arrest affidavit in the case says Malki allegedly pointed a knife in a threatening way at two of the tavern’s employees who blocked his path when he attempted to re-enter the tavern. The affidavit says he was initially charged by D.C. police with assault with a dangerous weapon – knife. Court records, however, show that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office lowered the charges to two counts of simple assault. The records show that on Jan. 15, 2013, Malki pleaded guilty to the two charges as part of a plea bargain arrangement.
The records show that Judge Marissa Demeo on that same day issued a sentence of 30 days for each of the two charges but suspended all 30 days for both counts. She then sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for both charges and ordered that he undergo alcohol and drug testing and undergo treatment if appropriate.
In the third case prior to the 2020 and 2021 cases, court records show Malki was arrested outside the Cobalt gay nightclub on March 14, 2015 on multiple counts of simple assault, attempted assault with a dangerous weapon – knife, possession of a prohibited weapon – knife, and unlawful entry.
The arrest affidavit says an altercation started on the sidewalk outside the bar when for unknown reasons, Malki grabbed a female customer who was outside smoking and attempted to pull her toward him. When her female friend came to her aid, Malki allegedly got “aggressive” by threatening the woman and “removed what appeared to be a knife from an unknown location” and pointed it at the woman’s friend in a threatening way, the affidavit says.
It says a Cobalt employee minutes later ordered Malki to leave the area and he appeared to do so. But others noticed that he walked toward another entrance door to Cobalt and attempted to enter the establishment knowing he had been ordered not to return because of previous problems with his behavior, the affidavit says. When he attempted to push away another employee to force his way into Cobalt, Malki fell to the ground during a scuffle and other employees held him on the ground while someone else called D.C. police.
Court records show that similar to all of Malki’s arrests, a judge released him while awaiting trial and ordered him to stay away from Cobalt and all of those he was charged with threatening and assaulting.
The records show that on Sept. 18, 2015, Malki agreed to a plea bargain offer by prosecutors in which all except two of the charges – attempted possession of a prohibited weapon and simple assault – were dropped. Judge Alfred S. Irving Jr. on Oct. 2, 2015 sentenced Malki to 60 days of incarnation for each of the two charges but suspended all but five days, which he allowed Malki to serve on weekends, the court records show.
The judge ordered that the two five-day jail terms could be served concurrently, meaning just five days total would be served, according to court records. The records also show that Judge Irving sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for each of the two counts and ordered that he enter an alcohol treatment program and stay away from Cobalt.
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