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Slashing of gay Hill staffer likely not a hate crime

Victim attacked while walking home from Town nightclub

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Ben Fishel, gay news, Washington Blade
Ben Fishel, gay news, Washington Blade

Ben Fishel was slashed by an unknown assailant on July 19. (Photo courtesy of Fishel)

Gay congressional staffer Ben Fishel says he has no reason to believe the unidentified man who grabbed him by the neck from behind in a choke hold and then slashed his face about 2 a.m. on Sunday, July 19, targeted him because he’s gay.

But the attack that unfolded on the front steps of Fishel’s condo building in the 2100 block of 11th Street, N.W., after he had just walked home from the nearby Town gay nightclub, has become a mystery to D.C. police and people who learned about the incident from reports this week by Fox 5 News and WTOP Radio.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think I could recognize him if I saw him again,” Fishel told the Washington Blade, when asked about the person who attacked him.

Fishel said that while the male attacker did not make any reference to his sexual orientation and muttered something along the lines of “You ain’t shit,” he also did not attempt to take Fishel’s wallet or cell phone.

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said the incident remains under investigation and that anyone who has information that could be helpful in identifying a suspect should call police at 202-727-9099.

Fishel told the Blade that one of the police officers investigating the case said police have obtained video from security cameras at a Crown gas station at Vermont and Florida avenues, N.W., where Fishel thinks he first crossed paths with the attacker, and from another condo building on the block where the attack took place.

He said the officer told him that due to possible malfunctioning of the camera, there was little that could be seen from the video taken at the Crown station. According to Fishel, the officer showed him the video from the condo building. Fishel said he could recognize himself and someone appearing to be following him, but the images of their faces were too blurred to be recognizable.

Police so far have not released the video for public viewing as they often do in other assault cases.

“We are unable to comment on evidence, as a matter of policy,” Crump told the Blade. “We only release video for the purposes of aiding in the investigation and the video must be of sufficient quality to aid in the investigation,” she said.

Fishel said the incident happened shortly after he and his husband left Town nightclub, which is located at 8th and U streets, N.W., shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday morning, July 19. He said the two walked together but separated after Fishel decided to stop in a convenience store at the Crown gas station and his husband chose to walk directly home.

He said he believes the man that eventually attacked him approached him outside the convenience store to ask if he would buy him a pack of cigarettes. Fishel said he declined the request and walked away without paying much attention to the man’s appearance other than that he was “huge.”

When he reached the steps of the building where he lives the attacker grabbed him tightly around the neck from behind.

“I may have pushed back,” said Fishel. “I was trying to break away because I could hardly breathe.”

He remembers being cut at least two times on the lower face by what he thinks was a box cutter, Fishel said. He said he didn’t realize the seriousness of the slashing until the attacker released him and ran away and Fishel entered his apartment and discovered his face was bleeding. His husband, who was home, called 911 and Fishel was taken to nearby Howard University Hospital, where he received at least 20 stitches for two deep wounds.

Fishel works as deputy chief of staff and communications director for U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). Fishel and his husband, Andrew Brady, were in the news last September when the New York Times published a “celebrations” story about their Sept. 27 wedding alongside scenic Lake George in upstate New York.

The Times and other media reported that Fishel is the grandson of the late Andy Rooney, the longtime political commentator on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.”

Fishel said he talked to Fox News about the incident a little over a week after it happened because he thinks the public should know about this type of violent crime in an area where he didn’t expect such a thing to happen.

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21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Brian's Ions

    July 31, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    **
    “We are unable to comment on evidence, as a matter of policy,” Crump told the Blade. “
    **
    —–
    What another CROCK of crap from Bowser’s MPD PR-spinners! MPD ‘comments’ about and selectively leaks news about crime case evidence all the time. Just read or watch the news.

    So… why another big lie from Bowser’s secret police again– involving a brutal crime against a gay man? Fishel and his husband could have been easily stalked/followed from Town– just two blocks f/ the Crown– where they then parted company (providing the suspected perpetrator with opportunity).

    The perp’s words demonstrated bias/hate. And the fact that nothing was taken should’ve been cause enough to call GLLU in on the case immediately.

    Was MPD’s Form 251 incident report even checked-off for a possible hate/bias crime– as it should have been?

    And did we hear of this possible hate crime case from Mayor Bowser? Or from Chief Lanier? Or from A/C Groomes? Or even from GLLU???

    The Bowser Administration’s apparent contempt for LGBTQ public safety is inexplicable.

    The appearance of hate crime coverups by MPD can only cause us to question whether there is intentional corruption, coverups and anti-LGBT bias at the highest levels of DC’s government.

    Mayor Bowser ought to act. So should Council.
    ——-
    ** CORRUPTION **
    noun cor·rup·tion kə-ˈrəp-shən

    : dishonest or illegal behavior especially by powerful people (such as government officials or police officers)

    • Brian's Ions

      July 31, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      I’ll just add that the Blade’s headline here is NOT accurate and should be corrected– given the totality of facts and circumstances it has reported.

      A hate crime perpetrator does not have to be heard calling any protected class under DC’s hate crimes law an obvious epithet or derogatory name to demonstrate a possible hate/bias crime motive.

      The perp’s words were a clear indicator of animus.

      Then, the fact that the victim and his husband walked out of (1) Town together, (2) then they walked together and then parted company at Crown, a couple of blocks away– where the suspected perp then approached the victim strongly suggests that the perp thought Fishel was gay.

      All of that doesn’t necessarily PROVE a hate crime. But it should have easily been deemed enough evidence of a *possible* hate crime, targeting a gay man. That was worthy of further investigation by MPD for hate/bias, as well as a warning to the LGBTQ community.

      • Typical DC BS

        August 4, 2015 at 7:52 am

        Try using your noggin ( I know that’s hard for you) and REREAD the article. If common sense and low reading comprehension aren’t working for you, you are useless to respond to.

        • THEBEARCUB

          August 7, 2015 at 3:33 am

          Why don’t you act like an adult and stop attacking people

          • Typical DC BS

            August 7, 2015 at 4:58 am

            Why don’t you mind your own business, Dudley Doright? Or do you only whine when a gay person has no clue what they’re talking about?

          • THEBEARCUB

            August 7, 2015 at 8:43 am

            You idiot I MADE IT MY BUSINESS DUMB AS_S!

          • Brian's Ions

            August 7, 2015 at 10:05 am

            No need to waste one’s time on an insecure, lurking closet case, Cub.

            Have you noticed the intellect never extends far past name-calling put downs? Kinda sad, really.

          • Typical DC BS

            August 7, 2015 at 12:29 pm

            Kind of like your child-like mentality.

          • Typical DC BS

            August 7, 2015 at 12:29 pm

            Temper, temper. Don’t get your panties in a bunch.

    • Typical DC BS

      August 3, 2015 at 11:01 am

      If you two mental midgets bothered to read the article, even the victim states he doubts it was because he’s gay, but because he refused to buy the guy a pack of cigarettes.

  2. THEBEARCUB

    August 1, 2015 at 1:28 am

    Whoever did this I hope they’re caught and soon!

  3. Brian's Ions

    August 3, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    You’re the one that obviously didn’t read the article, BS. You’re misquoting Mr. Fishel, aren’t you? I’m wondering why that is.

    I’m guessing that you’ve never read DC’s hate crimes law, as well. Because you miss the point entirely. Or maybe you get the point all too well, huh?

    If a police department refuses to adequately investigate for a probable hate crime, then of course, they are NOT going to FIND evidence of a hate crime.

    And if MPD wants to cover up a violent crime incident, it simply doesn’t have to report all the details of the crime completely.

    One Fox5 news report indicated- INCREDIBLY- that two MPD cops at HUH actually had a difference of opinion, that Mr. Fishel overheard, as to whether the assault was a misdemeanor or a felony. That is outrageous.

    So MPD’s attempt to diminish and coverup this crime appears to have been perpetrated right from the start.

    I suspect MPD has failed to do a number of things in this case so as to further their crime coverup against this victim and our community.

    MPD’s refusal to quickly publicize the video they showed to to Mr. Fishel is just ONE of a number of examples of MPD’s corruption of this case.

    I encourage everyone to go to Fox 5 News and see the two news reports there, as well. The second one, in particular, suggests a widespread MPD COVERUP of this crime.

    BTW, Mr. Fishel’s instincts regarding MPD are spot on. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for going public with his story, too.

    Having been on the receiving end of more than a few MPD lies– some from the highest levels of MPD, I can tell you they don’t lie very well — nor very convincingly.

    LGBT folks in Shaw– and probably elsewhere in DC– should be vigilant and careful. Buddy up when walking at night. Try to know who’s behind you at all times– and walk assertively, like you’re paying attention to your surroundings.

    No need to be paranoid. Just watch out for one another. Because it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Bowser’s MPD bosses could care less about LGBTQ public safety in DC.

    I gotta run. More later, maybe.

    But if folks want to see how corruption among a few at MPD can easily coverup crimes, just google…

    “dc police fail rape victims video”

    Then watch the Human Rights Watch YouTube video from two years ago. The victims there will give you a pretty good idea of how MPD’s brand of selective crime coverup works.

    ———-
    @Typical DC BS -> Brian’s Ions • 3 hours ago

    If you two mental midgets bothered to read the article, even the victim states he doubts it was because he’s gay, but because he refused to buy the guy a pack of cigarettes.

    • Brian's Ions

      August 4, 2015 at 6:45 am

      Despite MPD’s attempted coverup, what’s been reported
      in the media about this case?

      1) a gay victim who had just

      2) exited a well-known gay dance club (Town), with

      3) his gay husband (4 blocks from their home), and some

      4) gay friends (per Fox5 news)

      5) who was then stalked/followed after he broke off from his husband to go briefly to a convenience store, and

      6) at his doorstep, was violently slashed on his face with hate/ biased words (‘You ain’t sh*t.’)

      7) with inexplicable violence that apparently lacked any other credible motive

      — But that wasn’t cause enough for MPD to investigate this crime further as a hate/bias crime?

      — That wasn’t cause enough for MPD to issue and immediate MPD email crime alert?

      — That wasn’t cause enough for MPD to call in GLLU officers to assist, followup and communicate with area LGBT businesses?

      — That wasn’t cause enough for MPD to alert the Blade and Metro Weekly so other patrons of Town, Nellies and the 9:30 Club might know and take precautions?

      — That wasn’t cause enough for MPD to canvas all 4 blocks from Town to 11th street for eyewitnesses and more videos?

      — That wasn’t cause enough for MPD to release a video they intentionally withheld from the public showing the perpetrator?

      The totality of the above reported facts in this case should have triggered at MPD– and by MPD officers– a robust and much wider investigation for a possible hate/bias crime motive..

      — First, Mr. Fishel should have been advised that MPD GLLU-trained officers could be present for his report.

      — MPD responding officers should have noted the LGBT-related bias *POSSIBILITY* on MPD’s *PD-251 Incident Report*– both in its narrative section –AND– on its Hate/Bias Checkoff Box.

      — Mr. Fishel should have been advised that he could pick up a copy of his 251 Incident Report for Fishel’s (or his counsel’s) review at a local MPD District Station.

      –MPD GLLU officers should have alerted Town and the 9:30 Club of the crime– and they should have sought witnesses and any additional video that their security cameras may have caught.

      — Likewise, GLLU should have made routine LIAISON contact to alert Nellie’s management of the crime.

      • Typical DC BS

        August 4, 2015 at 7:54 am

        You have an overactive imagination. Try taking your medication. Being gay DOES NOT give you special rights. Get over it.

        • Brian's Ions

          August 4, 2015 at 9:21 am

          ‘Special Rights’ — eh? Do tell us all about it, BS

          • Typical DC BS

            August 4, 2015 at 9:47 am

            The whole “hate crime” nonsense is a joke. A crime is a crime. Special designations are unnecessary. Sorry you think anytime a gay person is a victim, we need to bring in “special” services and punishments.
            Maybe you should be worried about the “Gentle giant” who attacked this man who didn’t buy him a pack odd smokes when he begged nicely, especially since that is what the victim said was a more likely cause than being gay.

          • Brian's Ions

            August 4, 2015 at 3:58 pm

            Well hate crimes law is not a ‘joke’ in 40-some states and DC, Mr. BS. It’s law. There’s a federal law, too.

            What don’t you get about that? Do you think police should just ignore enforcement of whatever laws they please?
            ______________________
            The whole “hate crime” nonsense is a joke.

          • Typical DC BS

            August 4, 2015 at 4:47 pm

            Kind of like Obama does – ignores laws he doesn’t like?
            Please – the whole “hate crimes” penalties are a joke. Special circumstances? Please. Gay people should be treated EXACTLY the same as everybody else – no better and no worse.

          • Brian's Ions

            August 4, 2015 at 7:31 pm

            Thanks. It’s always good to have a clear line of sight to bigotry.

          • Typical DC BS

            August 4, 2015 at 9:20 pm

            Yes, demanding to be treated like a special snowflake is the very definition of bigotry, fool.

  4. Hoekom Jy My Haat

    August 7, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    Why is everyone ignoring the 800 pound Gorilla in the room? I believe it was a hate crime. Not because he is gay, but because he is White. White people in this town are being set upon by all sorts of trouble just because they are White and living in formerly Black or Hispanic neighborhoods. Yet, the liberal White community, and the DC Police Force refuse to even admit that Whites are being preyed upon in this city. The Equal Housing Opportunity laws apply to EVERYONE. We have as much a right to live in the city as does everyone else.

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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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