The father of a Silver Spring, Md., transgender woman who died on Jan. 8 says he and his wife are hopeful that their daughter’s legacy will live on through two pending lawsuits she filed to challenge what he calls “shocking” abuse and discrimination she encountered in 2014 while an inmate at a federal prison in West Virginia.
Attorneys representing Paris Leibelson, who was 32 when the alleged prison abuse occurred, filed the lawsuits in 2015 and 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
The lawsuits say Paris Leibelson was incarcerated at the prison following a violation of probation stemming from an earlier arrest for purse snatching in D.C. in December 2004, a conviction for the offense in 2005, and subsequent multiple probation violations that landed her back in jail after having been released.
Michael Leibelson, Paris’ father, said her legal problems stemmed mostly from complications associated with heroin addiction with which she struggled since the time she was a teenager.
He said Paris was found dead in the backyard of the family’s Silver Spring house on Jan. 8 behind a cluster of trees and shrubs from an apparent drug overdose. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland listed the cause of death as methadone, heroin, and cocaine “intoxication with benzodiazepine use complicated by hypothermia.”
Michael Leibelson said the death was the sad culmination of Paris’ long struggle against addiction that he believes was exacerbated by the abuse she suffered in prison.
The lawsuits charge that officials at the all-male Federal Correctional Institution at Beckley, West Virginia, where Paris Leibelson was placed, failed to take steps to safeguard her from abusive and discriminatory treatment to which she was subjected as a transgender woman.
Among other allegations, the lawsuits say she was subjected to assault, battery, sexual assault, threats of violence, ongoing harassment, and emotional trauma between November 2013 and March 2014.
“Leibelson is female in physical appearance and feminine as regards all external aspects of her gender behavior and identity,” one of the two lawsuits states. “Leibelson has undergone hormone therapy and other treatments prior to and at all times relevant to the matters at issue herein,” it says.
“Beginning February 2014 and continuing for the pendency of her incarceration at FCI Beckley, Plaintiff Leibelson was chronically starved and deprived of food,” the lawsuits states. It says the denial of food was due to the “unavailability of adequate seating at dining tables that were not controlled by prison gangs who demanded sexual favors in return for ‘permitting’ Plaintiff to take her food in the FCI Beckley mess hall dining area.”
The lawsuit adds, “Plaintiff was required to either smuggle food out of the dining area or depend on others to bring her food, both of which were against FCI Beckley rules. As a result, Plaintiff often went for days without nourishment and her health and emotional, physical and mental well-being suffered from being chronically starved when confronted with the choice between avoiding being used as an object of sexual gratification by fellow inmates or not eating.”
It says that on Feb. 6, 2014 Paris Leibelson was sent to the prison’s Special Housing Unit, which is where prisoners are sent as a form of discipline for violating prison rules. The lawsuit says Leibelson claims she was sent there in yet another effort by prison guards to harass her. Shortly after arriving there on Feb. 6, the lawsuit says a guard identified as Federal Correctional Officer Christopher Cook ordered her to submit to what it says was an illegal strip search.
After ordering her to disrobe Cook told her to “bend over” and Leibelson complied, the lawsuit says. “Cook then commanded Plaintiff to ‘open that hole wide,’ whereupon F.C.O. Cook forcibly and without Leibelson’s consent or foreknowledge, rammed his finger into Plaintiff’s anus thereby sexually assaulting and digitally anally raping Plaintiff,” the lawsuit states.
“Defendant’s intentional or negligent action was to humiliate and degrade Plaintiff and to satisfy F.C.O. Cook’s craven lust for sexual gratification,” according to the lawsuit.
In referring to prison authorities who are named as defendants, the lawsuit states, “The acts, policies, practices and omissions of the Defendant and its employees that injured Plaintiff were knowing, deliberate, intentional, sadistic and motivated in whole or in substantial part because of Plaintiff’s transgender status and gender identification.”
In one of its court filings responding to the lawsuit government lawyers dispute the sexual assault allegation, saying Cook denied it ever happened. In other court filings the government lawyers point out that Leibelson was cited for numerous violations of prison rules during her stay at Beckley, including at least two instances where she deliberately broke a water sprinkler causing flooding in her cell area.
U.S. District Court Judge Irene Berger, who is presiding over the case of the two lawsuits, stated in one of two rulings upholding the lawsuits that Leibelson acknowledged in a deposition that “she was not a model inmate” and “sometimes used insulting or insolent language with staff.”
Nevertheless, Berger states in both rulings that Leibelson’s allegations could be viewed as credible if the cases were to go to trial.
In handing down one of two rulings denying the government’s request for dismissal of the lawsuits on summary judgment, Berger states, “The court finds that the Plaintiff has put forth sufficient evidence of damages and causation to survive summary judgement.”
Berger adds, “Ms. Leibelson’s testimony, as well as her treating psychiatrist’s testimony, would be sufficient to permit a fact-finder to find that abuse at FCI-Beckley caused her emotional damages and/or worsened existing mental health conditions.”
In mentioning Paris Leibelson’s testimony Berger was referring to Leibelson’s lengthy deposition or pre-trial testimony that her lawyers said included grueling questions by the government’s lawyer seeking to question her credibility. The lawyers representing her said she did exceptionally well and that her deposition testimony, which was recorded, would be used to support the lawsuit should the case go to trial.
One of the two lawsuits named as defendants at the time it was filed more than a dozen individual officials and employees at the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Beckley federal prison. In response to motions by government attorneys, Berger has since dismissed the case against all but two of the individual defendants.
Among the two Berger refused to dismiss from the case is Christopher Cook, the guard accused of committing the sexual assault.
In denying the government’s request that she dismiss the case against all of the individual defendants Berger allowed the lawsuit to continue to trial by jury or to a possible settlement.
The second lawsuit names the U.S. government as the defendant, saying high-level federal government officials, including those in charge of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, were responsible for not taking steps to prevent the abusive treatment to which Paris Leibelson was subjected. Under court rules, that case goes before a non-jury trial presided over by Berger if a settlement isn’t reached.
Two D.C.-based lawyers and other attorneys in West Virginia who filed the lawsuit on Paris’s behalf have arranged for Michael Leibelson to replace Paris as the plaintiff so the lawsuits can continue. Court records show that Judge Berger has approved that change.
Michael Leibelson said his and his wife’s aim is to bring about justice for the abuse and suffering they believe Paris experienced in jail and to make at least some effort to challenge what Paris believed to be widespread discrimination and abuse against transgender and gay people in the federal prison system.
He said they also plan to use any monetary return they receive should they win the lawsuit or in a possible settlement to create an endowment for a scholarship in Paris’s name.
Attorneys William Bruce DelValle and Bruce Fein of the D.C. law firm Fein & DelValle, who have represented Paris and are now representing the father, told the Washington Blade that following her denial of two motions by government lawyers on Dec. 27 and Jan. 3 seeking to have the two cases dismissed, Berger set a tentative date for a trial for one of the cases in May. He said she also ordered the parties to enter into mediation and attend a formal settlement conference over which Berger will preside.
DelValle called Berger’s decision to deny dismissal of the cases and to quickly set a potential trial date “a clear signal” that she believes the cases have sufficient merit to go to trial. He said Berger also made it clear that she wants the two sides to try to reach an out of court settlement.
Another development that is highly unusual, according to DelValle, is that lawyers from the main U.S. Department of Justice headquarters in Washington are heading the government’s effort to fight against the lawsuit that named the individual government and prison officials as defendants. In most cases like this, DelValle said, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the location where a lawsuit is filed handles the case and not the DOJ in Washington.
The decision to designate the DOJ to lead the defense against the one lawsuit, which is known as a “Bevins” case, took place under then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch during the last two years of the Obama administration.
Representatives of the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in West Virginia who are working on the case did not respond to a request this week by the Blade for comment.
In their court briefs and motions seeking to have the case dismissed, the government attorneys have argued that Paris Leibelson’s allegations of prison abuse could not be substantiated and that she made contradictory statements about the alleged sexual assault she claims a prison guard committed against her in a statement she made to a psychiatrist who counseled her during her stay at the prison.
Michal Leibelson, a retired government worker, and his wife Elyse, a retired school teacher, treated the person they continued to view as their son whom they continued to call Benjamin with unconditional love throughout Paris’ life, Michael Leibelson told the Blade in an interview earlier this month.
“He was diagnosed when he was a little kid of having Asberger Syndrome, which is on the autistic scale,” Michael Leibelson said. “When he was in preschool he was dressing up in women’s clothes when they were doing dress up,” Leibelson continued. “When he was in junior high school he told us he was gay and we said OK, OK, no biggie.”
Not long after finishing high school Paris came to the realization that she wanted to live her life as a woman, the father said.
“He stated to me and my wife that he was transgender and he was wearing women’s clothes,” Michael Leibelson said. “He was six foot seven and he was as skinny as a rail, a real string bean. And he wore size 13 shoes and he was very proud of himself when he walked around in high heels and women’s clothes, and we didn’t care.”
“We had no problem with it,” Leibelson continued. “But everybody else seemed to have a problem with it. And when he was in Beckley, West Virginia they had a problem with it.”
Leibelson said Paris suffered mental health problems most of her life, including depression. “And he had a drug problem from about the age of 12 or 13. He had been a user. And he was 36 when he died.”
Despite these challenges, Leibelson said Paris had a strong drive to fight for her rights and for her fellow members of the LGBT community, with whom she identified. He said he and his wife want to continue that fight by doing all they can to make sure the lawsuit succeeds “for social justice purposes” because gay and transgender people “in federal prisons all over this country are being abused.”
DelValle, the attorney working in support of the lawsuit, said he got to know Paris through meetings and phone conversations they had in preparation of the lawsuit.
“She was a very strong person and a very bright person,” said DelValle, who added that he believes her time in a federal prison was far too long for an initial offense of purse snatching.
“She was not a menace to society. She was not dangerous,” he said. “She basically came from an upper middle class Jewish community but had this dark street side because of her addiction” and possible rejection by society because of her status as a transgender person, DelValle said.
The National Center for Transgender Equality and Lambda Legal, an LGBT litigation group, did not immediately respond to a request by the Blade for comment on the Paris Leibelson lawsuit and the fact that the abuse she faced in a federal prison took place during the Obama administration, which expressed strong support for LGBT and transgender rights.
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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