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‘Runaway’ grand jury rebukes U.S. Attorney, indicts on hate crime

Juror says prosecutors didn’t call for enhanced charge in anti-gay attack

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hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade
hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade

On June 29, D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams sentenced the Lucas siblings to one year in jail and five years of supervised probation upon their release.

A D.C. Superior Court grand jury in August 2014 took the unusual step of handing down a hate crime indictment in an anti-gay assault case after a prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not recommend the case be listed as a hate crime, according to one of the grand jurors who heard the case.

The former grand juror, who spoke to the Washington Blade on condition of not being identified, said witnesses, including a police detective and the gay male victim, told the grand jury that then 20-year-old Christina Lucas and her twin brother Christopher Lucas knocked the gay male victim to the ground and punched and kicked him while shouting anti-gay names.

A police report says witnesses told police that Christina Lucas slashed the victim’s face with a sharp object while he was lying on the ground shortly after calling him a “faggot motherfucker.”

Court records show that at the time of her arrest, Christina Lucas told police she is a lesbian and shouldn’t rightfully be accused of committing an anti-gay hate crime.

Police and prosecutors said the incident occurred on Oct. 19, 2013 at the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Harvard Street, N.W. The police report says the assault began shortly after the victim and his mother and female cousin left a party at a nearby house and were attempting to hail a taxicab.

“The only reason that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has brought this case against the Lucas’s as an assault with a hate crime attachment was because the grand jury insisted upon it,” said the former grand juror. “If it had been left up to the U.S. Attorney’s Office a hate crime would not have been attached,” the former grand juror said.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said strict confidentiality requirements pertaining to grand juries prevent his office from commenting on any aspect of the grand jury’s deliberations over the prosecution of the Lucas siblings.

“We are barred by law from violating the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, and so we are unable to comment regarding that process,” he said.

Court records show that the grand jury indicted Christina and Christopher Lucas on a charge of aggravated assault while armed with a hate crime designation.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Veronica Renzi Jennings, the lead prosecutor in the case, made a strong presentation for a hate crime conviction during a two-week-long trial in May before a regular Superior Court jury. After less than a day of deliberations, the jury found the two guilty as charged of committing a hate-related aggravated assault while armed.

The trial jury also found Christopher Lucas guilty of a separate charge of simple assault stemming from the allegation by police that he punched the victim’s cousin in the face during the October 2013 altercation when she attempted to stop the attack against the victim.

On June 29, D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams sentenced the Lucas siblings to one year in jail and five years of supervised probation upon their release, a sentence that police and prosecutors believe is far too lenient, according to a police source.

Attorneys representing Christopher and Christina Lucas did not respond to a request by the Blade for comment.

The former grand juror said Jennings may have been one of two female prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office that presented the Lucas case before the grand jury. But now, nearly a year later, the grand juror wasn’t certain that Jennings was one of the two prosecutors that didn’t ask for a hate crime indictment.

“They sort of hemmed and hawed,” the former grand juror said when recounting the two prosecutors’ response to questions by grand jurors over why they didn’t include a hate crime designation in their proposed indictment.

“They never really said we didn’t do it because we didn’t think it was this,” said the grand juror. “They just sort of said, well, we brought it in this way. And if you guys want to add a hate crime I guess you could do so.”

The grand juror added: “I came home really upset that first day because it was clear to me. We heard the witnesses. We heard the mother. We heard the cousin. We heard the police …We heard from the victim himself. It was clear to me it was a hate crime, and they weren’t presenting it that way at all.”

According to the former grand juror, several of the 21 grand jurors hearing the case were troubled further after they told the two prosecutors they wanted to indict the case as a hate crime but the indictment form given to them a short time later made no mention of a hate crime or bias-related charge.

When one of the grand jurors insisted that the indictment include a hate crime attachment the 21 members of the grand jury voted unanimously to add the hate crime designation to the main charge of aggravated assault while armed, said the former grand juror who spoke to the Blade.

“And when they brought it back the second time the hate crime had been added to it because we had insisted on it in the initial vote,” the grand juror said.

Experts familiar with the U.S. grand jury system have sometimes referred to grand juries acting in this way as a “runaway” grand jury.

A paper on the website of the University of Dayton School of Law says historically, many U.S. grand juries in the 19th century were independent-minded and assertive but by the 20th century grand juries had “pretty much” come under the control of prosecutors.

“A runaway grand jury is an exception to this rule – the grand jurors ignore the prosecutor(s) and start making their own decisions,” the paper says.

LGBT activists familiar with the case of the Lucas siblings said that while they were pleased that the U.S. Attorney’s Office diligently prosecuted the case as a hate crime at the trial, they were troubled over the former grand juror’s account that the office initially chose not to ask the grand jury to hand down a hate crime indictment.

“If that’s not a hate crime, I don’t know what is,” said Earl Fowlkes, executive director of the D.C.-based national LGBT advocacy group Center for Black Equity and president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.

“The fact is the grand jury took the opportunity to do the right thing, not the U.S. Attorney,” Fowlkes said.  “But this is not the first time this has happened. There must be some reason why the U.S. Attorney’s Office is so reluctant to do this. There’s been case after case after case.”

Fowlkes was referring to concerns raised by LGBT activists going back more than 10 years about cases in which LGBT people in D.C. have been attacked and murdered and the activists believed the case should be listed as a hate crime but the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not designate it with such a listing.

He noted, among others, the case of 23-year-old transgender woman Deoni JaParker Jones, who was stabbed to death at a bus stop in Northeast D.C. in February 2012. Jones’ parents and friends are convinced she was targeted by the man charged with her murder because of her status as a trans woman. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office said it had insufficient evidence to file a hate crime charge in the case.

In a separate case in September 2008, Tony Randolph Hunter, a gay man leaving his car to go to a gay bar on 9th Street, N.W., was punched in the face by one of several young men walking past him on the street. Hunter fell to the ground, hitting his head on the pavement. He died a short time later at a hospital of a severe brain injury.

The assailant said Hunter groped him in a sexually provocative way, something Hunter’s friends said he would never have done. His friends and community activists became outraged when the U.S. Attorney’s Office ruled out a hate crime and charged the attacker with a misdemeanor simple assault. Again, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said it lacked sufficient evidence to list the case as a hate crime or to elevate the charge to murder, as requested by some local activists.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office has to be answerable to the community,” said Fowlkes.

“This is a longstanding sore point,” said Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office seems bent on ignoring laws it doesn’t like. They are not answerable to District voters or our elected officials, and it shows.”

Dale Edwin Sanders, a local attorney who practices criminal law, said prosecutors are sometimes reluctant to charge a defendant with a hate crime out of concern that it could confuse jurors in a trial and make it more difficult to get a conviction on the underlying charge.

“I think a lot of prosecutors think it is a cumbersome, unnecessary encumbrance upon their ability to get a conviction on the main crime, whether it’s robbery or murder or whatever,” Sanders said. “It complicates the case for them.”

D.C. attorney Chris Farris, former president of the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) has said prosecutors have the ability to work around any complications created by a hate crime designation. He has criticized the U.S. Attorney’s Office for failing to prosecute cases of anti-LGBT violence as hate crimes.

Miller, the U.S. Attorney’s spokesperson, points out that his office “vigorously prosecuted” as a hate crime the case against the Lucas twins at their trial.

He also pointed to the case of David Morris, 33, a D.C. man sentenced July 8 to eight years in jail for the brutal beating of a 52-year-old male co-worker whom Morris claims made a “sexual overture toward him.” Miller notes that the U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained a guilty plea from Morris of assault with intent to kill that is designated as a hate crime based on the victim’s perceived sexual orientation.

“[T]he U.S. Attorney’s Office weighs the facts and evidence in each case and aggressively seeks bias enhancements when it is appropriate to do so,” Miller told the Blade in a written statement. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office has zero tolerance for violent crimes driven by ignorant prejudice and will continue to seek sentencing enhancements on behalf of victims of such offenses,” he said.

Fowlkes said he plans to arrange for the Stein Club to call a community meeting to which representatives of the U.S. Attorney’s Office would be invited to discuss concerns over its handling of what activists believe to be anti-LGBT hate crimes.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Brian's Ions

    July 13, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    We all understand that DC is a high-profile news city and that its anti-LGBT hate crimes are a political embarrassment to many. So this is not just a criminal justice issue. It’s a political issue too.

    USDOJ and our AUSAs are part of the Executive Branch. President Obama should ask Attorney General Lynch to look into why incredibly violent anti-LGBT hate crimes in DC are being covered up by DC’s Metropolitan Police Department and not prosecuted by his Justice Department.

    Terrific, in-depth Blade reporting. Fowlkes and Rosendall are spot on too.
    ===
    **
    “The fact is the grand jury took the opportunity to do the right thing, not the U.S. Attorney,” Fowlkes said. “But this is not the first time this has happened. There must be some reason why the U.S. Attorney’s Office is so reluctant to do this. There’s been case after case after case.”
    Fowlkes was referring to concerns raised by LGBT activists going back more than 10 years about cases in which LGBT people in D.C. have been attacked and murdered and the activists believed the case should be listed as a hate crime but the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not designate it with such a listing.

    **

  2. Peter Rosenstein

    July 13, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Great column by Lou. This has been an ongoing issue with the US Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia. I am all for the Stein Club holding a meeting but remember we called the US Attorney’s office and arranged a meeting with them and the MPD which was held at the Foundry Methodist Church with regard to the Tony Hunter case and got nowhere with the US Attorney’s office. I would say this is a runaway US Attorney’s office accountable to no one and it is time that the US Attorney General looking into the workings of the Office. Whether it is not being willing to charge hate crimes or interfering in the last DC Mayoral election- there are many questions they should be answering for.

    • Brian's Ions

      July 13, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Mayor Bowser is unquestionably the boss of MPD. And Peter, the truth is we haven’t heard much at all from Mayor Bowser to combat anti-LGBT hate crimes.

      IMHO, I think our mayor and our chief of police are engaged in a quiet kind of *conspiracy of silence* to abolish MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU).

      But it’s more than a quiet conspiracy. The mayor’s police department is actually spreading unfounded lies about suspected anti-LGBT hate crimes cases too. The July 4th murder on Metro is just another example of that, IMO.

      That all may fit nicely with US Attorney’s desire to not be bothered with hate crimes too. But there are questions of hate crimes coverups Mayor Bowser and Chief Lanier ‘should be answering for’ as well.

      • Peter Rosenstein

        July 13, 2015 at 3:31 pm

        If you have any proof of that- let me know- I have spent year’s fighting to keep the GLLU strong.

        • Brian's Ions

          July 13, 2015 at 6:56 pm

          Peter, utter silence by both Bowser and Lanier regarding GLLU and anti-LGBT hate crimes is pretty damning evidence — in the common-sense estimation of many.

          Come to think of it, I don’t recall you saying anything about Lanier’s banishing GLLU from ABC/ABRA-licensed events. How can GLLU fulfill its public safety mission when it’s not allowed its needed community liaison function in and around the very places LGBT hate crime victims actually hang out?

          Then again, if Bowser’s police chief makes GLLU irrelevant for LGBT Community Policing, it’s much easier for her to ignore anti-LGBT hate crimes and eventually get rid of GLLU altogether, eh?

          http://www.washingtonblade.com/2015/04/15/gay-police-unit-may-be-barred-from-most-lgbt-events/

          • Peter Rosenstein

            July 13, 2015 at 8:59 pm

            You seem to just want to argue and attack me. Not sure how that helps the cause you are trying to espouse- fighting hate-crimes and making sure the GLLU remains a strong entity in the District within the MPD.. I have worked for years with many members of the LGBT activist community including GLOV and support both issues you are talking about.- So if you would like to meet and suggest new strategies that the activist community hasn’t tried on how to accomplish what you want I am sure many people would be happy to meet and work with you on them, myself included. We are lucky in DC to have an amazingly strong LGBT community with strong advocates to speak out and fight to keep the LGBT community strong, give us a strong voice, and try to keep us safe. It is an ongoing never ending battle. As we all know hate is not a trait people are born with it is taught. Just having legal rights doesn’t mean that the culture of hate is ended whether it is towards the African American community, LGBT community or other minorities. Keeping vigilant is always important and making sure that government represents us in the way we want to be represented is always important. Again the LGBT community is lucky to have so many who continue to be vigilant and always welcomes new activists to the fold..

          • Brian's Ions

            July 13, 2015 at 11:44 pm

            OMG, Peter! This isn’t about you, me or any other LGBT activist. Do you think folks can’t see you are trying to change the subject?

            Address the real issues that matter right now. Why don’t you just admit that the mayor and chief of police are out to destroy GLLU and are covering up news and information of anti-LGBT hate crimes?

          • THEBEARCUB

            July 14, 2015 at 2:22 am

            And Brian no shade it isn’t about you neither. We all knowing you didn’t support Bowser in the first place!

          • Brian's Ions

            July 14, 2015 at 3:21 am

            The campaign is long over, BearCub. But you and Peter are still trying to change the subject when it comes to Mayor Bowser’s ignoring anti-LGBT hate crimes and GLLU. Why is that?

            I think most folks understand that going on 7 months after Bowser was sworn in, this is now about how a DC mayor and her police chief actually *GOVERN* our police department so as to keep LGBT people safe from hate crimes and other LGBTQ-related violence.

            So, tell us, please, when was the last time Mayor Bowser or Chief Lanier even publicly condemned anti-LGBT hate crimes?

            When was the last time our mayor or our chief publicly supported a robust GLLU within our police department?

            Do tell. Was that anytime in the last 7 months? Just how long has it been?

            Can you reprint a news clip of those comments by the mayor and/or police chief? Or a video link? I’ll bet 700 members of DC’s east side LGBT listservs would love to see them.

            And how come Mayor Nutter and Police Commish Ramsey in Philadelphia can forthrightly shine a bright light on their city’s anti-LGBT hate crimes– openly and transparently? Yet DC’s mayor and police chief hide and coverup DC’s hate crimes and its award-winning GLLU?

          • THEBEARCUB

            July 14, 2015 at 4:42 am

            Why do you think they’re hiding it? Do you really think they’re homophobes SERIOUSLY?

          • Brian's Ions

            July 14, 2015 at 9:55 am

            BearCub, you guys can’t answer my questions, nor address the basic issues for the embarrassing truth of the matter…

            Bowser and Lanier want to pretend– for political reasons– that anti-LGBT hate crimes don’t exist in DC. So they’re covering up news of these crimes– and public information about GLLU has been largely gagged by Bowser’s police chief.

            Who are GLLU’s core officers? Does anyone know them anymore? Have they been replaced by Cathy Lanier’s hand-picked secret police?

            Yes. Bowser’s police department has become institutionally biased against DC’s LGBT residents, DC’s LGBT visitors and other LGBT stakeholders.

            Also, [BearCub], you’re confusing *INSTITUTIONAL* bias with *PERSONAL* bias (homophobia/ transphobia, per your question).

            Just as police departments can be institutionally biased against African American victims of crime, PDs can be institutionally biased against LGBTQ victims of crimes, too– or any other minority group historically discriminated against, for that matter.

            That’s why MPD’s Special Liaison Division and GLLU was formed under Chief Ramsey.

            By contrast, just read news stories from the Blade– over 8 years plus, now. Chief Lanier has repeatedly demonstrated her barely disguised contempt for GLLU. She has made GLLU’s current iteration an empty shell, not allowed to provide basic public liaison policing services.

            Given THIS investigative reporting by the Blade, USDOJ should investigate MPD –AND– DC’s U.S. Attorney’s Office to find out why anti-LGBT hate crimes are not being fairly investigated, fairly reported to the public and fairly prosecuted in DC.

          • Brian's Ions

            July 14, 2015 at 10:06 am

            Another question USDOJ might want to look at… could this be an institutional bias case of the tail wagging the dog?

            DC’s U.S. Attorney’s Office has undergone changes at the top in the past year. Could it be that MPD has taken advantage and quietly/tacitly encouraged USAO-DC *NOT* to prosecute anti-LGBT hate crimes?

  3. pyrodice

    July 14, 2015 at 9:11 am

    I wonder if they don’t seek an enhancement simply because they think it decreases the chances of a conviction? What I mean is, it’s VERY difficult to prove state of mind, compared to proving the actual actions which were carried out.

    • Brian's Ions

      July 14, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Yeah. That’s definitely true to some extent. Each case stands (or falls) on its own facts and circumstances. But obviously a case as clear and egregious as this one reported by the Blade, suggests USAO has drifted into what appears to be some level of institutional bias against all LGBT hate crimes– if only for convenience sake.

      The lack of reporting transparency, and even truthfulness to the public– which is really a MPD function– strongly suggests a robust political motive for the anti-LGBT bias at MPD, however. And that’s a rung or two higher on the criminal justice corruption scale. IMO, of course.

      It’s arguable to be sure. But we ought to be having that conversation.

  4. pyrodice

    August 2, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    I think they might be able to make an EXISTING appellation work just fine: “premeditated”. If there’s a REASON for the crime, that’s all you need to show that there was rationalization in play, rather then knee-jerk rage.

    • Lamia

      August 2, 2015 at 3:53 pm

      Well, I still don’t believe it matters either way. Whether it’s premeditated or random rage, it is still experienced as a horrible attack by the victim, and the court should be concerned with the welfare and dignity of the victim, not that of the perpetrator.

      Judge Williams clearly has more sympathy for violent criminals than the victim of violence – especially when the latter are gay men. She is one nasty piece of work and I hope she is herself the victim of a very violent attack one day.

      • pyrodice

        August 4, 2015 at 11:18 pm

        The things I’ve said weren’t about dignity, they were about the considerations that actions are rights-violating, but thoughts never are. Thoughtcrime is an abomination, and I’d rather like to prevent a repeat of the original ‘hate-crime’ debacle, in which declaring an inter-racial slaying as a hate crime redirected most african-american killings onto other african americans, making them even more victimized, as per the FBI statistical tracking for the years in question.

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Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead

No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise

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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.

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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

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New fencing around the Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection prevented some D.C. bills from being delivered to the Hill for a required congressional review. (Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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.

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D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested

Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011

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shooting, DC Eagle, assault, hate crime, anti-gay attack, police discrimination, sex police, Sisson, gay news, Washington Blade

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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