November 30, 2014 at 9:49 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Assault of trans woman didn’t happen at Cobalt: official
Cobalt, gay news, Washington Blade

Operators of Cobalt/30 Degrees deny police claims that an assault took place there on Thanksgiving Day. (Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

Operators of the Dupont Circle gay bar and restaurant Cobalt/30 Degrees dispute a D.C. police report claiming a transgender woman was sexually assaulted by a male suspect in one of its bathrooms on Thanksgiving Day.

David Perruzza, vice president of the company that owns Cobalt/30 Degrees and the restaurant on its lower floor, Level One, said his establishment didn’t open its doors on Thanksgiving Day until 7:15 p.m., between 15 minutes and 45 minutes after police said the assault allegedly occurred.

“I can tell you we weren’t even open when the assault happened,” he said. “So it definitely didn’t happen at Cobalt.”

Perruzza said he and his employees are cooperating with police investigators, one of whom, he said, told him that the victim was in a wheelchair.

He said the first-floor restaurant, whose entrance requires customers to walk down three or four steps, did not open at all on Thanksgiving Day. According to Perruzza, the only bathrooms available on that day were on the second and third floors, requiring that someone climb one or two tall flights of stairs to gain access to the bathrooms.

“So our staff probably would have had to help them up the stairs, and that never happened,” Perruzza told the Blade.

Lt. Sean Conboy, a police spokesperson, said he could not comment on whether the victim uses a wheelchair.

“The case remains under investigation,” he said.

In a press release issued on Nov. 28, police said, “On Thursday, November 27, between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., a transgender female was in the 1600 block of R Street, N.W., where she was approached by the suspect who sexually assaulted her.” The release didn’t disclose an address in which the assault occurred.

It described the suspect as being a “white male in his 20’s, 6’ 1” to 6’ 3” in height, slim of build, blond shoulder length hair, last seen wearing a dark blue hoodie, blue jeans, with grey, black and red Nike cross training sneakers and a college graduate ring on the right index finger.”

The release urges anyone with information regarding the case to call police at 202-727-9099.

NBC4 TV News was the first to report on Friday that, according to a police report, the assault occurred at Level One.

A police report of the incident obtained by the Washington Blade on Saturday from the Third District police station identifies the location of the incident as a “bar/nightclub” at 1639 R Street, N.W., but does not identify the establishment by name. That’s the address for Cobalt/30 Degrees/Level One.

The police report identifies the victim only as a 29-year-old white female.

It says the victim reports that “while at the listed location she was anally sexual [sic] assaulted inside a bathroom,” and that she “responded to WHC [Washington Hospital Center] for medical treatment and a SANE examination.”

SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, which refers to a registered nurse specially trained in conducting a forensic examination of sexual assault victims.

“Det. [Douglas] Carlson of the Sexual Assault Unit responded to WHC and is lead detective,” the report says.

The report states that the victim suffered an “apparent minor injury” but it does not disclose the findings of the nurse’s exam.

The report doesn’t say how the victim got to the hospital and what time she arrived there.

Police spokesperson Conboy declined to comment on Perruzza’s assertion that the assault did not take place at Cobalt/30 Degrees or Level One.

“I’m working with the police department to get the address changed,” said Perruzza. “They think they had the wrong address or basically they don’t know. They said they have to investigate everything.”

A representative of the D.C. Trans Coalition, which monitors local cases involving anti-trans violence, also couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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