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Former Baltimore Pride coordinator charged with theft

Liller faces 10 years in prison; trial set for January

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GLCCB, gay news, Washington Blade
Paul Liller, GLCCB, gay news, Washington Blade

Paul Liller faces theft charges in Baltimore. (Washington Blade photo by Steve Charing)

Paul Liller, the former Baltimore Pride coordinator and deputy director and acting executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland, has been charged with theft and theft-scheme. Court records indicate that Liller has been accused of stealing property or services valued from $1,000 to under $10,000 in violation of Md. Code Ann. [Crim.] §7-104. A summons was issued on Nov. 16.

These actions allegedly occurred between Aug. 15-Sept. 15 based on a complaint filed by Jabari Lyles, the president of the GLCCB board of directors and the center’s acting executive director.

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office would not release charging documents in advance of the trial, but information obtained by the Blade indicates that the amount allegedly stolen was valued at $8,156.76. This includes various art supplies, crafting supplies, office supplies, transactions related to the ill-fated Halloween fundraiser OutRageous and unauthorized payment of wages to Liller.

The complaint filed by Lyles was on behalf of the GLCCB. “We need to send a clear message that we will no longer as an organization tolerate these types of actions,” Lyles told the Blade. “We have a duty to protect community assets and report to the proper authorities any suspicions of impropriety. We have faith that the state will lead a fair and accurate investigation with our support and cooperation.”

Liller appeared before District Court Judge Diana A. E. Smith without representation on Dec. 17. He explained to the court that he had not received the official documentation prior to his appearance as there had been an error in both his name and address on the court document.  Liller told the Blade he found out about the summons because of information in the online Maryland Judiciary Case Search.   

At the Dec. 17 proceeding, the state was granted a trial postponement to allow for the receipt of bank records the prosecution had sought. Judge Smith explained to Liller the options for legal representation, which he is pursuing.

“I cannot speak on specifics regarding the case, but I do look forward to my name being cleared, and the truth coming out,” Liller told the Blade. “When you have nothing to hide, you have no need to fear the judicial system.”

If convicted of these crimes, which are felonies, Liller, 33, faces a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and a maximum $10,000 fine for each of the charges. Additionally, if convicted, Liller could be ordered to make restitution.

As coordinator of the 40th anniversary of Baltimore Pride held July 25-26, it was Liller’s second stint (2009) in that capacity on behalf of the GLCCB. With considerable support from community members and local businesses, Liller brought the block party back to its traditional location in the Mount Vernon neighborhood following the controversial shift in 2014 to the Mount Royal area several blocks to the north. He also returned the Sunday festival to Druid Hill Park.

Since becoming the GLCCB’s Pride coordinator in late 2014, Liller was appointed the GLCCB’s development coordinator and then deputy director and acting executive director following the resignation of Joel Tinsley-Hall effective July 6.

Soon after the Pride celebrations concluded, rumors began surfacing throughout Baltimore’s LGBT community of missing money from Pride’s coffers. There were also concerns about the perceived absence of accounting for outlays.

Those questions, coupled with Liller’s sudden resignation on Oct. 13, motivated GLCCB’s leadership to hold a public town hall on Nov. 10 to address those matters as well as to provide community members an opportunity to discuss broader GLCCB issues.

At that meeting, Lyles and others charged that Liller used bad judgment in procuring the amount of T-shirts for Pride as well as creating the OutRageous event without authorization. He said that other financial questions were being investigated and that tighter financial controls were being put in place.

“Regarding allegations of mismanagement for both OutRageous and Pride T-Shirts, I will say that during my time at the GLCCB, all my decisions were either run through the former executive director Joel Tinsley-Hall or the board of directors,” he told the Blade the next day, although he was not present at the meeting. “Accurate financials were provided monthly during board meetings. The GLCCB board was involved in decisions made as they chose to be at the time.” He noted it was strange that there are no minutes for those meetings.

The trial is set for Jan. 29, 2016, at Baltimore District Court, 700 E. Patapsco Ave. in Baltimore.

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District of Columbia

Nex Benedict honored at D.C. candlelight vigil

Upwards of 100 people paid tribute to nonbinary Okla. student at As You Are

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A candlelight vigil is held outside of the LGBTQ café and bar As You Are on Feb. 22, 2024, for 16-year-old nonbinary student Nex Benedict. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

Nearly 100 people turned out on Feb. 22 for a candlelight vigil hosted by the D.C. LGBTQ café and bar As You Are to pay tribute to 16-year-old nonbinary student Nex Benedict.

Benedict died Feb. 8 at a hospital in Owasso, Okla., one day after family members say Benedict was beaten up by three older female students in an Owasso High School bathroom after a fight broke out. Owasso police have said they are investigating the circumstances surrounding Benedict’s death but said preliminary autopsy findings do not show the death was caused by physical injuries.

Family members, including Benedict’s mother, told news media outlets that Benedict suffered severe bruises to their face and head and the family believes the injuries from an assault caused their child’s death. Family members have also said Benedict had been targeted for bullying at school because of their status as a nonbinary person.

People who spoke at the As You Are candlelight vigil said they considered the death an anti-LGBTQ hate crime.

“Today we are brought together to mourn the loss of Nex Benedict,” As You Are co-owner Rachel “Coach” Pike told the gathering, which was held on the As You Are outdoor patio and surrounding sidewalk. “Nex Benedict, your life matters. It will always matter, and more than that your life was precious,” Pike said.

“You had the right to live as you were and all parts of your identity were beautiful and should have been celebrated, supported, and safe,” Pike added.

Pike and other speakers, some of whom identified as nonbinary and transgender, pointed out that Benedict’s family are members of the Choctaw Nation, a Native American community. A speaker at the vigil who identified himself as Bo and said he identified as a two-spirit individual called on the gathering to pay tribute to Benedict’s role as one of the Choctaw people.

“When I first heard the news of Nex Benedict’s murder I was shocked,” Bo said. “I thought of how young. I thought about how much life was taken from this child.”

Another speaker, native American advocate Shiala King, whose family are members of the Sicangu Lakota Nation in South Dakota, arranged for her father, Frank John King, a faith leader and medicine man, to speak to the gathering by phone hookup from his residence in South Dakota. After greeting the gathering and expressing his condolences over the death of Benedict, Frank King further honored Benedict by singing a spiritual song in the Lakota language as part of a tradition of uplifting the spirit of beloved people who pass away.

Jo McDaniel, the other co-owner of As You Are whose also Pike’s spouse, said they were pleased with the response to their announcement of the vigil on social media. 

“To see this child taken from us this way, it’s chilling and it’s horrible and it’s not right and it’s not fair,” McDaniel told the Washington Blade after the vigil ended. “And so, we knew that the only thing we could do to help our community heal was to gather. And we wanted to do that in as honorable and wonderful a way as possible as that kid deserves,” she said.

Sue Benedict, Nex Benedict’s mother, told the British newspaper The Independent that Nex was a “courageous, smart teenager who had simply been living their true identity.” The Independent reports that Sue Benedict said Nex had been subjected to taunts, insults and bullying due to their gender fluid identity for over a year. 

Owasso police officials have said detectives were interviewing school officials and students to obtain more details on how the fight started and whether charges will be brought against those who allegedly assaulted Benedict. A police spokesperson told The Independent police were awaiting the findings of toxicology and autopsy reports from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office to determine whether anyone will be charged with a criminal offense.

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District of Columbia

New gay bar on 14th Street to open in April

Owners say Crush to offer ‘cozy, inclusive space’

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Exterior of Crush. (Photo courtesy of Crush)

A new D.C. bar catering to the LGBTQ community called Crush is expected to open for business in April in a two-story building with a roof garden at 2007 14th St., N.W., in the center of one of the city’s bustling nightlife neighborhoods. 

A statement released by co-owners Mark Rutstein and Stephen Rutgers says the new bar will provide an atmosphere that blends “nostalgia with contemporary nightlife” in a building that once was home to a popular music store and radio supply shop.

“This new venue, catering especially to the LGBTQ+ community, offers a cozy, inclusive space that reminisces about the times of record stores and basement hangouts with friends,” the statement says. “In its past life as a music store and radio supply shop, Crush transforms its legacy into a modern-day haven,” the statement continues. “It features top-notch DJ booths, a dance floor and a summer garden, alongside a premium sound system to ensure every night is memorable.” 

Rutstein told the Washington Blade the new bar will have a capacity of accommodating 300 people on its two floors. He notes that the name ‘Crush” stems from the romantic crush that people often have for one another and his and Rutgers’ new bar is aimed at providing a friendly space for people to meet and socialize. 

“We’re looking to be inclusive to everyone,” Rutstein said. “It’s certainly going to be heavy on the LGBT community” because he and Rutgers have been part of that community for many years. But he added, “We want to be inclusive to gays and lesbians being able to bring their friends and allies in along with them and not feel weird about it.” 

Crush will be located across the street from the Reeves Center D.C. municipal building where government agencies and community groups, including the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, has its office. 

“Crush isn’t just our name,” the statement issued by Rutstein and Rutgers says. “It’s the essence of our space. We aim to create an atmosphere where everyone can celebrate life and love.”

Editor’s note: Stephen Rutgers is the Blade’s Director of Sales and Marketing.

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Maryland

Are Md. prisons out of bounds with federal requirements for trans prisoners?

Department of Correctional Services says transgender prisoners ‘housed according to physical genitalia’

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BY BEN CONARCK | Nearly a year after formerly incarcerated transgender people testified to Maryland lawmakers about the troubling conditions they faced in state prisons and Baltimore jails, the agency in charge of their care continues to violate federal standards in how it houses trans prisoners, according to a coalition of trans rights advocates.

The Trans Rights Advocacy Coalition, bolstered by policy experts and attorneys, contends that while the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has made some strides towards improving conditions, its policy of housing trans prisoners “according to physical genitalia” violates the federal standard that those individuals should be housed on a case-by-case basis determined by health and safety and any security problems, among other factors. The group laid out its argument in a 15-page memo presented to the department and lawmakers this week.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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