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Gay D.C. teacher acquitted of sexual assault

10-year-old witness says alleged victim fabricated allegation



hate crime, gay news, Washington Blade, Ware

Following a two-week trial, Judge Robert Morin found Leroy Damien Ware not guilty on all counts.

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Thursday found a former D.C. special education teacher who’s gay not guilty of charges that he sexually assaulted on two occasions a 9-year-old male student at Minor Elementary School on Capitol Hill.

Following a two-week non-jury trial, Judge Robert Morin found Leroy Damien Ware, 34, not guilty on two counts each of misdemeanor sexual assault of a child or minor and misdemeanor sex abuse.

In delivering the verdict from the bench in oral remarks, Morin said police and prosecutors failed to show that Ware had intentionally interacted with the boy in a way that constituted sexual assault, according to gay activist Martin Moulton, who attended the trial.

Moulton, who did not know Ware prior to the trial, said the not-guilty verdict came about a week after a 10-year-old boy and classmate of the alleged victim took the witness stand and gave dramatic testimony saying the alleged victim had made anti-gay remarks about Ware and said he planned to do something against Ware.

“Most notably, during the trial, a 10-year-old male peer of the supposed ‘victim’ gave extensive testimony on behalf of his teacher, Mr. Ware, about what was in fact a blatantly homophobic attack from a notoriously unruly and troubled child who had impudently pulled his pants down during class,” Moulton told the Blade.

“On the witness stand, this child’s testimony demonstrated convincing and remarkable wisdom, compassion, and sensitivity to all of the adult issues involved,” said Moulton, who noted that the 10-year-old told others that he has a gay uncle and doesn’t think it’s right to treat gay people in an unfair way.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the Office of the U.S. Attorney, which prosecuted the case against Ware, said the office would have no comment on the case or the acquittal.

A D.C. police arrest affidavit filed in court Feb. 5, 2015 says police learned of the sexual assault allegation from the alleged victim’s mother, who helped arrange for the boy to talk to police investigators. The affidavit says the alleged victim, who is referred to as the complainant in the case, told police Ware “touched my private parts” once in a classroom and another time in a computer lab.

Charging documents say the alleged touching took place sometime between October and December of 2014.

According to the affidavit, Ware told investigators in a “non-custodial interview” on Feb. 2, 2015, that he inadvertently touched the complainant’s penis while “attempting to remove the complainant’s hands from inside his pants” during a session at the computer lab. It says the second incident occurred in a classroom when Ware allegedly touched the boy on his buttocks.

Moulton said that Ware testified at the trial that the touching incidents occurred when the student was acting inappropriately in class and in the computer lab. In the interaction at the computer lab, Ware testified it appeared that the boy was masturbating with his hand inside his own pants, and Ware approached him and removed the boy’s hand from his pants, Moulton recounted.

During a trial session on Jan. 14, in which a Blade reporter was present, Ware’s defense attorney, Chantaye Redmon-Reid, played an audio recording of the police interview of Ware and argued that one or more detectives repeatedly “badgered” Ware into saying things that were not true.

Redmon-Reid said police investigators “lied” to Ware during the interview by claiming they had obtained DNA evidence showing Ware sexually assaulted the 9-year-old. Moulton said police subsequently acknowledged fabricating the DNA claim but have said doing so is a legally permissible technique for interrogating suspects in a criminal case.

“Judge Morin was very critical of MPD detectives’ tactics in deceiving the teacher and essentially badgering him until they obtained the story they wanted to hear,” Moulton said.

Morin called the claim about DNA evidence a “legal” but “concerning tactic in view of the court,” which “was not productive,” Moulton recounted.

In describing Morin’s explanation for his verdict, Moulton said the judge said he carefully looked at the facts in the case.

“And he just said the guy didn’t intend to touch the kid, Moulton recalls. “He wasn’t planning to do it. It took at most like two seconds that he was reaching for his hand and may have accidentally touched the kid’s penis. But it was in no way intentional. And that’s what the case hinged on,” Moulton recounted the judge as saying.

Ware told the Blade in a brief interview on Friday that he plans to release a statement soon, among other things, expressing concern that the news media for the most part downplayed or failed to report that he was acquitted after sensationally reporting the accusations against him at the time of his arrest.

He said he “unofficially” submitted a letter of resignation from his job as a special education teacher in the D.C. public school system shortly after his arrest. But he said the letter was never formally processed through the school system’s personnel office. He said he later informed school officials that he rescinded the resignation and would take a leave of absence until his case was resolved.



Flight attendants union endorses Sarah McBride

Del. lawmaker would be first transgender member of Congress



Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride speaks at the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund National Champagne Brunch in D.C. on April 10, 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Delaware congressional candidate Sarah McBride has earned the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, the nation’s most prominent flight attendant union.

It’s the second big labor endorsement for McBride after the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27’s endorsement. The Association of Flight Attendants praised her for spearheading efforts to bring paid family and medical leave to Delaware, which will take effect in 2026. 

“Sarah’s record in the Delaware Senate shows that she understands how to work collaboratively, build power and make big things happen,” the union’s president, Sara Nelson, wrote in a press release shared exclusively with the Washington Blade. “That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy.”

McBride also announced her support for creating a list of abusive passengers and banning them from flying. Each airline has a list of passengers banned from flying, but airlines don’t share the lists with each other, though Delta Air Lines has asked them, because of “legal and operational challenges,” as a representative for the airline industry trade group Airlines of America told a House committee in September 2021.

“Right now, someone can be violent towards a flight attendant or another passenger and walk directly off of that flight and onto one with a different airline to endanger more people,” an Association of Flight Attendants spokesperson wrote in a statement. 

The Protection from Abusive Passengers Act would put the Transportation Security Administration in charge of building the database of passengers fined or convicted of abuse and has bipartisan support but has sat idly in committee since March. It failed to pass last year, and civil rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have charged that the list would disproportionately target people of color and strip and a better step to reducing hostility would be making flights more comfortable. Reports of defiant and unruly passengers have more than doubled between 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2022.

“I thank the Association of Flight Attendants for endorsing our campaign,” McBride wrote in the press release. “It’s important that we recognize and celebrate the symbiotic relationship between strong, unionized workforces and the continued growth of employers here in our state.”

The union representing 50,000 flight attendants across 19 airlines is putting pressure on airlines to grant union demands in contract negotiations. At American Airlines, unionized flight attendants voted to authorize a strike — putting pressure on the airline to accede to its demands. Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines say they are ready to strike but have not voted to authorize one yet. United Airlines flight attendants picketed at 19 airports around the country in August, ratcheting up the pressure. 

The union’s endorsement adds to a growing list of McBride endorsements, including 21 Delaware legislators, the United Food and Commercial Workers, the Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List, and Delaware Stonewall PAC. McBride, who would be the first openly transgender politician in Congress, has powerful connections in Washington — including with the White House — and is favored to win Delaware’s lone House seat. 

A poll commissioned by HRC shows her leading the pack of three candidates vying for the seat — 44 percent of “likely Democratic voters” told pollster company Change Research, which works with liberal organizations. The poll of 531 likely Delaware Democratic primary voters, though, was conducted only online — meaning those with less familiarity or access to the internet may not have been counted — and Change Research’s methodology for screening likely voters is unclear. The company also did not provide a breakdown of respondents by age, gender, and race, but says it uses an algorithm to make the results representative.  

Nelson said McBride’s time in Delaware’s state Senate shows her prowess in building power and working collaboratively.  

“That’s the kind of leader we need in Congress, and we’re proud to endorse her candidacy,” she wrote.

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Lawsuit seeks to force Virginia Beach schools to implement state guidelines for trans, nonbinary students

Va. Department of Education released new regulations in July



(Bigstock photo)

Two parents in Virginia Beach have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the city’s school district to implement the state’s new guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students.

NBC Washington on Friday reported Cooper and Kirk, a D.C.-based law firm, filed the lawsuit in Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

The Virginia Department of Education in July announced the new guidelines for which Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin asked. Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Prince William County Schools are among the school districts that have refused to implement them. 

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HME Consulting and Advocacy stands on frontline of LGBTQ policy

Heidi Ellis is a consultant who doesn’t take clients ‘not aligned with my mission’



‘Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,’ says Heidi Ellis. (Photo courtesy of Ellis)

September is here, which means Congress and the D.C. Council return from their August recess and life for consultant Heidi Ellis quickly gets busy. 

Her days are filled with negotiating with Council members, phone calls with clients, and policy planning for advocacy groups. The organizations she represents are looking to her to help them push policy and she hopes to guide them to victory. 

Ellis’s company, HME Consulting and Advocacy, came after years of working in the public and private sectors as a consultant. In 2019, Ellis decided to shift her focus to work that stood at the center of the intersections in which she lives. She sought to figure out how she could better serve her community as a Black queer Latino woman. Ellis recognized that there was a niche for mission-driven consulting in the District. 

“I was sought out and recruited by a lot of organizations that wanted me and I took a beat, because I was like ‘Do I want to go back into a machine where even if I do effect change, I have to answer to someone?’”she said, in reference to consulting agencies that were in pursuit of her talent. Ultimately, she decided against continuing her work under another company. “By doing what I do, I have much more flexibility for one to say ‘Yes’ but also to say ‘No’.”

Although Ellis has considered going back to working in the corporate space, she still loves the flexibility of being able to be nimble as a private consultant. 

Although Ellis doesn’t work entirely in the advocacy space, her consulting clients still align with her personal values. She joked that she differs strongly from the stereotypical money-driven D.C. consultant who sports Brooks Brothers suits on K Street. 

“Even though I am a private consultant … my work is very much mission driven,” she said. “I don’t take any clients that are not aligned with my mission.”

Her mission is simple, Ellis is “committed to elevating issues that sit at the nexus of education, mental health, LGBTQ+ individuals, and people of color.”

“The more marginalized you are, the more you suffer from the failures of policy and the gaps of service,” she said. 

As a consultant in the advocacy space, Ellis does the behind-the-scenes work for organizations to help correct these policy failures and close the gaps. Whether she is facilitating training for companies to better understand how to serve their LGBTQ communities, or she is on the frontline of education policy changes –– Ellis aims to only do work that she is passionate about.

She said that the balance of her combined passion and level-headedness help her to build trusting relationships with her clients and in the end, “Get stuff  done.”

Since starting her organization, some of her proudest work has been done with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition. The coalition is made up of more than 30 organizations that aim to advocate for investments and policy changes that affect LGBTQ lives. As a leader of this coalition, her services include policy support, facilitation, training, initiative development and organizational redesign. Since she began leading the coalition, they have raised more than $5 million of investments in LGBTQ programs.

Later this fall, she will work with the DC LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition along with the ANC Rainbow Caucus to convene the first LGBTQ+ Housing Summit from Nov. 29-30.

“The one thing we all recognize is that housing is the common denominator of every other social affliction facing LGBTQ communities,” she said.  

At the summit they will focus on the barriers within the current housing system and explore revitalized approaches to dealing with the current housing market. To pre-register for the event, visit the LGBTQ+ Housing Summit website.

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