National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey has no plans to resign in the wake of January’s protest at the annual Creating Change conference that forced the cancellation of a reception with two Israeli activists.
“There are a lot of opinions both from people who were and weren’t there,” Carey told the Washington Blade during an interview at the Task Force’s offices in Northwest D.C. on Feb. 25. “I love the work that I do and I’m not stepping down.”
Carey spoke with the Blade a month after more than 200 people opposed to “pinkwashing,” which they describe as the promotion of Israel’s LGBT rights record in an attempt to deflect attention away from its policies toward the Palestinians, protested the reception at the Creating Change conference in Chicago.
A Wider Bridge, an organization that seeks to bolster “LGBTQ connections with Israel,” organized the reception. Sarah Kala-Meir and Tom Canning from the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance were scheduled to speak, but they left the room in which the gathering was taking place through a back door as protesters began shouting.
Organization does not have ‘international mission’
The National LGBTQ Task Force initially cancelled the reception amid criticism from Dean Spade, founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and others who accused A Wider Bridge of “pinkwashing.” Carey later reversed this decision.
She stressed that the National LGBTQ Task Force “does not have a policy stance on the Israeli Palestinian conflict.” Carey also touched upon the debate around the campaign in support of a boycott, economic divestment and sanctions against Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians that took place during the protest and in the days and weeks afterwards.
“We are not an organization with an international mission,” she said.
A Wider Bridge CEO Arthur Slepian told the Blade on Monday that he welcomes Carey’s comments on the Israeli government’s policies toward the Palestinians.
“That’s a good thing,” said Slepian. “It should not be the role of the National LGBTQ Task Force to have a policy position on the conflict.”
Dana Beyer, a member of A Wider Bridge’s board of directors, agreed.
“Our goal as LGBT organizations is to do the best we can for our citizens and for those elsewhere in the world who need our help and want their help,” she told the Blade on Monday during an interview. “We need to be concerned about their well-being, not the geo-political situations in which they live.”
Safety of conference participants top priority
Carey throughout the interview said the decisions she made around the A Wider Bridge reception were about safety.
“It is in fact at the core of every decision I made about that reception, including to cancel it,” she said.
She told the Blade that A Wider Bridge promoted the reception “more publicly for people to come in from the outside.”
“That happens sometimes with our receptions … so it was a public thing,” said Carey. “We can’t always check badges as we do with the plenaries and workshops to make sure that people have registered for the conference.”
Carey said standard protocol for Creating Change is to make sure that those who attend a workshop or plenary are registered and have a nametag.
“[If they] don’t have one we simply ask them to go register, please go get a nametag and go on back,” she said. “It’s so hard to do that on reception night … you’ve got 4,000 people going from hallway to hallway, room to room, plus some receptions have made them open to the public.”
Carey told the Blade that most of those who organized the protest did not register for the conference. Slepian dismissed suggestions that his organization’s decision to promote the reception contributed to the protest.
“In the weeks leading up to the conference, there was just some agitation from a small number of folks who were complaining that we were on the itinerary,” he said.
Staff helped ‘deescalate’ situation with police
Carey said that Task Force staff spoke with security personnel at the Chicago Hilton about the protests that they expected to take place. She told the Blade that they did not want them to call the police “unless things got really violent or something,” in part, because of the controversy surrounding the shootings of Laquan McDonald and other people of color in Chicago.
“My worst fears were that this gets out of hand somehow, the police are on site and it gets worse and worse,” said Carey.
Carey told the Blade that Task Force staff were inside and outside the reception “to try to deescalate things, which they tried to do actually outside the reception at one point.”
Hotel personnel nevertheless called the police.
“We then, our staff, were talking to the police trying to get them to help deescalate the situation, knowing the experiences that many of our attendees have had with the police,” she said. “Unfortunately that itself was going to be a challenge for a number of people. It was a very intense situation where I think a lot of people were trying to deescalate it.”
‘Peacekeepers’ possible at future conferences
Carey in the weeks after the protest has reached out to organizers.
Slepian told the Blade that he and Carey had a “very cordial conversation” for nearly an hour. Carey has also exchanged emails with Jerusalem Open House Executive Director Sarah Kala-Meir.
“On site we started assessing what we did, what we could have done,” said Carey. “We started to talk with people.”
Carey told the Blade it “would have been helpful if we could have had conversations” with A Wider Bridge and other organizations holding the reception about “what they felt they needed in the room.” She said they did not consider the need for security during the event.
Slepian disputes this account.
He told the Blade that there was a person inside the room in which the reception took place for security.
“That person basically used his body to barricade the door to keep the protesters outside,” said Slepian.
Carey said she and Task Force staff could have also spoken with the protest organizers.
Bashar Makhay, one of the protest organizers with whom the Blade has previously spoken, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment this week.
“We have protests at Creating Change,” said Carey. “Often times when we talk to the protest organizers, we’re actually able to create a situation where they get to have a protest, have their voice heard, say what they want to say and make sure that it’s a protest that doesn’t turn into something that they don’t want and we don’t want, whether it’s physical violence or insulting other people.”
Carey told the Blade that the layout of the reception rooms in the hotel “exacerbated the situation.” She added another solution at which the organization is looking for future Creating Change conferences is to use so-called “peacekeepers” who are trained to de-escalate protests and other situations.
“I wish it hadn’t gotten to the point where the police had been called by the hotel,” she said.
Carey told the Blade that the National LGBTQ Task Force is undertaking a larger assessment of Creating Change and how it can continue to be “the conference that moves our movement forward.” She stressed that the safety of those who attend the annual gathering remains her highest priority.
“Anything that happens under my watch is my responsibility, and I take it seriously,” said Carey. “I and we are learning and I think we’re going to come up with some creative and concrete recommendations with how we can move forward for the conference, for the organization and for the movement.”
Panel with ICE officials also cancelled
The first Creating Change Conference took place in D.C. in 1988.
Carey told the Blade that roughly 200 people attended the first conference that Task Force Director of Creating Change Sue Hyde and Urvashi Vaid organized.
This year’s Creating Change had 234 workshops, 70 caucus sessions, 31 events, two-dozen institutes and four plenary sessions. Several people delivered Carey’s annual State of the Movement speech that she traditionally gives during the gathering.
Carey told the Blade that nearly 4,000 people attended this year’s Creating Change.
“It’s a lot of people,” she said.
Another controversy that emerged ahead of this year’s Creating Change was Carey’s decision to cancel a workshop that was to have featured three officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Carey noted to the Blade that government officials, including former White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan, have attended Creating Change. She nevertheless decided to cancel the ICE workshop because a number of undocumented immigrants who had planned to attend said they would not feel safe.
“Personally I am an activist,” said Carey, noting she has been arrested twice during immigration reform protests. “I am happy to tell a government official what I think they should do any time, but this wasn’t the safest situation for a lot of people to do so, and we heard that.”
Immigration reform a ‘significant priority’
The Task Force, which was founded in 1973 as the National Gay Task Force, is the country’s oldest national LGBT advocacy group. It is among the dozens of LGBT advocacy groups that urged the Obama administration last month to stop conducting raids that have targeted undocumented immigrants from Central America. Carey’s organization has also advocated for comprehensive immigration reform, which includes the release of LGBT detainees in ICE custody.
“It is a very significant priority for the Task Force,” said Carey. “It is something that I personally care deeply about.”
Carey during the interview described her organization as “a racial, economic and social justice organization that works for the LGBTQ community.”
“For 43 years, we have always been an organization that has pushed this country to understand our full lives,” she told the Blade. “Part of that is looking at issues that, unfortunately, some don’t consider to be LGBTQ issues.”
Carey said her organization continues to advocate in support of expanded economic and employment opportunity for LGBT Americans, which includes opposing so-called religious freedom bills. She also sharply criticized congressional Republicans for their opposition to President Obama nominating someone to succeed the late-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who died last month.
“I am extremely disappointed and I would say as a voting citizen of this country angry that members of Congress would derail democracy,” Carey told the Blade.
Carey stressed her organization is not going to expand its mission into international issues.
“That is not our area of expertise,” she said. “We are a U.S.-based domestically focused and missioned organization and that’s our best work.”
“Having said that, we absolutely understand…there’s a global experience that we all have now,” added Carey. “So we absolutely understand that issues that happen in other countries around the world, conflicts that happen in other countries affect people here in the United States.”
Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead
No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise
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.
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
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.
D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested
Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011
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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