July 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm EDT | by Peter Rosenstein
Judge’s leniency justifies her removal
Yvonne Williams, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams (Image courtesy YouTube)

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.

9 Comments
  • I found this judge’s video very creepy. She explains her mother grew up “marginalized” and so her mother empowered others who have been marginalized and didn’t have a voice. The judge says that she has went a different path than her mother.

    Apparently so.

    The judge has chosen a path of marginalizing those that are marginalized and don’t have a voice.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lh1QwxGjtmM

  • Thanks, Peter. It bears repeating…

    “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.”
    — Peter Rosenstein, 29 July 2015

    Mayor Bowser and Chief Lanier should take a page from Philadelphia Mayor Nutter’s and Commissioner Ramsey’s public stance against anti-LGBT hate crimes there.

    And our leaders know how to do this. Indeed, it was Chief Lanier who educated me on the subject of Court Watch-like Activism and Community Impact Statements, btw– quite some years ago now.

    LGBTs are waiting for DC’s mayor and our police chief to embrace and take the moral high ground against hate crimes violence– forthrightly, without hesitation.

    Why not RE-empower GLLU. why not truly welcome DC’s newcomers each year to its Dupont Station. Why not have a GLLU ‘party’ with a serious public safety conversation– every year on the Circle?

    DC’s LGBTQ residents, friends and loved ones are waiting. And LGBTQ tourists across America and all over the world are waiting as well– to hear and see credible assurance from our mayor and our police chief that THEY are welcome and safe in this nation’s capital city.

    The truth is there is not a thing about Judge Williams’ mistaken understanding of hate crimes’ terrorizing, rippling impacts that more interaction with DC’s LGBTQ people could not help but make better.

  • She’s an embarrassment to the bench. And although you didn’t note it, she indicated the Shepard case was distinguishable as a hate crime because Matthew Shepard didn’t know his attackers, which we all know simply is inaccurate.

    She needs to go. Now.

    • Yep. It’s pretty hard to wish away bias and bigotry as apparent as that.
      **
      …she indicated the Shepard case was distinguishable as a hate crime because Matthew Shepard didn’t know his attackers,

      **

  • I agree with Peter on this one. She is unfit to serve. Three strikes and she should be out.

    Her explanation is so absurd, in fact, that it sounds like a pretext. I suspect that what is really behind her leniency is the belief that a poor black kid should not be given a lengthy sentence for “merely” attacking a “privileged” homosexual. She would not be the first person of color in local legal circles whom I’ve heard complain about gay-inclusive hate crimes laws as part of the problem of excessive incarceration of young black men. The attitude, however, bizarrely supposes that legions of young black men are being given lengthy sentences for anti-gay hate crimes. As best I can tell, the local prosecutors do not believe anyone should ever be prosecuted for an anti-gay hate crime. I suspect what we have here is a case of “Oppression Olympics” run amok. Or it may simply be that she’s anti-gay and devalues gay lives.

    • Wow. That’s interesting. Thanks.
      I had to look this up, so as to maybe save others time…

      Oppression Olympics is a term used when two or more groups compete to prove themselves more oppressed than each other. In geek feminist circles, contestants may include:

      – Women
      – People of color
      – People with disabilities
      – LGBTQ people
      – Members of minority language groups
      – Residents of non-Western countries, or people from non-North American countries
      – People who were unpopular in high school

      Competing in the Oppression Olympics attaches something like a moral dimension to oppression, in which the most oppressed are worthier.

      People who participate in Oppression Olympics tend to ignore the fact that it’s possible for multiple groups to be oppressed, and necessary to address all those problems, without choosing a single group to get all the anti-oppression activism.

      —geekfeminism.wikia[dot]com

      ————
      Whatever the case, we’ve got to find a way to convey to judges the harm continued to whole groups of people when hate crimes are devalued and their perpetrators are given slaps on the wrist.
      The mayor’s office (as Gray proposed) should be assisting us in connecting with USAO and the courts to provide impact statements.

  • Yes she needs to go. So, which DC gay rights organization is going to lead the efforts and file a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure? DC Bar Association?

    • It’s a great question, IJ.

      Indeed, it’s probably one of the most important questions we ought to ask. That’s in addition to…

      Who and what organizations in DC really *control* local LGBTQ public safety activism in DC?

      In years past, GLOV was the relatively independent and premier advocacy group for LGBTQ public safety.

      But it looks like GLOV has lost its prior independent focus — and largely its effectiveness. If you go to GLOV’s ‘news’ page, it’s dominated by DC Center promotional fundraising ads, not news.

      There’s not a word of this judge’s apparent judicial bias. Nor the brutal attack on a gay man on July 19th off of V Street near Town and Nellie’s, nor the stabbing death on Metro July 4th — who was reportedly an LGBT-rights advocate while he was at AU.

      Inexplicably, GLOV took a “summer hiatus” from monthly meetings during DC’s busiest season for hate crimes.

      We ought to ask who suggested that?

      Someone at GLOV? The DC Center? Or was it really the mayor’s MPD pulling the control strings? Perhaps Chief Lanier’s friends at DC’s ADL?

      GLOV’s prior independence may have been lost to (1) an ill-advised dependence on a dishonest, foot-dragging MPD, and (2) dependence on The DC Center for GLOV’s website, GLOV’s information flow for advocacy/ education, GLOV’s basic overhead (meeting space, phone, email?, whatever).

      GLOV may owe its socks or otherwise be beholden to The DC Center for all we know.

      Moreover, The DC Center may be tied and/or beholden to DC’s ADL for financial backing and donors.

      Of course, folks may recall the DCTC’s Jason Terry uncovered ADL director’s close friendship with MPD Chief Cathy Lanier– which Chief Lanier readily acknowledged at the time.

      Of course, Chief Lanier is the same police chief who has been trying to destroy MPD’s GLLU (Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit) for the past 9 years– in the opinion of a number of DC LGBTQs.

      So counting on GLOV’s current iteration to lead such an effort is likely wishful thinking.

      DCTC and Rainbow Response are terrific advocacy groups. But each is obviously more narrowly focused– and represent subsets (very effective subsets, too) of DC LGBTQ public safety advocacy activists.

      That leaves DC’s oldest and best LGBTQ civil rights organization.

      GLAA has long had an honest and disciplined focus on policy and legislative activism. And for many decades that disciplined focus obviously served all of us well.

      But complaining to the courts — and even assisting in the preparation of Community Impact Statements might be a new but very ‘good fit’ mission for GLAA– esp. as so many of its members are lawyers or have legislative expertise.

      I hope the powers that be at GLLA will give it some careful consideration. Like no other group, GLAA has the expertise, ability and credibility to be an effective watchdog of the courts. And likewise for enforcement of DC’s hate crimes law– a law which GLLA wrote so many years ago (1989).

  • I strongly agree with the general thrust of this article, Peter, but I take issue with this:

    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.

    Yes, ‘all citizens’. I do not agree with having a separate class of ‘hate crime’. It should make no difference that the victim was male or female, gay or straight, black or white, young or old. I am certainly in favour of tracking crimes against members of minority groups, and of campaigns against such attacks, but in terms of sentencing, all victims should be treated as equal.

    The real disgrace in this case, as in so many cases of violence, is simply the derisory sentence and the judge’s sympathy for the attackers. It would be disgusting whoever the victim was.

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