D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams was quoted in the Blade as saying, “She likes to be known for ‘telling it like it is.’” Williams recently reduced the sentence of one perpetrator of a hate crime and gave the other a short prison sentence. Police and prosecutors believe the sentence is much too lenient and I agree with them.
As covered in the Blade, according to prosecutors, Christina Lucas and her brother Christopher showed no remorse after a D.C. Superior Court jury convicted them on May 8 of aggravated assault while armed and designated the incident as an anti-gay hate crime. Witnesses testified that the siblings led a group of others in an attack on the victim in Northwest, punching and stomping him multiple times after knocking him to the ground. According to testimony, Christina Lucas slashed the victim’s face with a sharp object, causing a permanent facial scar after she called him a “faggot motherfucker.”
Williams reduced her sentence of Christina, a lesbian, to six months from one year. She sentenced Christopher to one year in prison.
Upon hearing of the sentence Mayor Bowser said, “When someone is attacked because of who they are, it is a hate crime. The District will seek out those who perpetrate hate crimes and we call upon the justice system to hold them accountable to the full extent of the law.” I think more is needed and it is incumbent on the mayor to speak out on this particular case and to hold this judge up to public scrutiny for apparently saying to the community there is such a thing as a “hate crime lite.”
The reasoning behind this judge’s decision to lessen the sentence is so egregious that she should be removed from the bench. Not only were her comments on this case and hate crimes in general outrageous but she went on to say how she arrived at the original sentence.
“I was rushed because I had a jury waiting.” Would this not lead us to question all of her sentences and her judgment? How many other sentences has she gotten wrong? The D.C. Superior Court is a busy place but we must expect judges to take the time they need when sentencing convicted criminals.
This was an interesting case. A juror on the initial grand jury that indicted this brother and sister said they had to force the U.S. Attorney to ask for a hate crime indictment because she thought it would make the case harder to win. The grand jury handed down the hate crime indictment and a jury convicted.
Reducing the original sentence was so unusual the judge decided to explain why she did it. In doing so she said she decides on the severity of a hate crime based on the seriousness of the injuries suffered by the victim. The judge said since the victim wasn’t left in a wheelchair or killed she thought it wasn’t that bad a crime. She said, “there are different levels of hate crimes” and actually went on to talk about the fact that one of the siblings who committed the crime said she was gay. She said, “So do I have concerns with Ms. Lucas going forward, that she’s going to be terrorizing the community and going after gay people? No I don’t have that concern.” Would she have thought this before these two were convicted of terrorizing and slashing the face of their victim?
What Judge Williams is saying to the community is that hate crimes are OK if you don’t put the victim in a wheelchair or kill them. Just cut them with a knife, or knock them to the ground, and we won’t give you much punishment. In essence, a hate crime “lite” is OK.
In her rambling explanation, she talked about Matthew Shepard but couldn’t remember his name; she asked if a black-on-black hate crime could exist if one African American used the ‘N’ word against the other.
Judge Williams recently sentenced a 20-year-old D.C. man accused of assaulting and robbing another man before pushing him onto the Metro tracks at the Navy Yard station because he believed the victim was gay to only one year in jail. In that case, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office told the Washington Blade, “We did consider a hate crime enhancement and intended to pursue it until the defendant quickly took responsibility for his actions and pled guilty.”
Each person and politician, especially the mayor and Council members, must take a hard stand against hate crimes. Convicted perpetrators must be punished to the full extent of the law. There is no such thing as a ‘hate crime lite.’ While we don’t control the courts or the U.S. Attorney’s Office we can use public opinion to demand they act in these cases and take each and every one seriously. The reason for enhanced punishment for those committing a hate crime is not only to punish them but it sends a message to the community that we will not tolerate hate.
All citizens deserve to feel safe in their homes and on the streets as they go about their daily lives.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.