Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two part series about gay men in Nigeria who are held hostage, blackmailed and extorted after using hookup apps. The first part of the series was published on the Washington Blade’s website on April 21.
LAGOS, Nigeria — After spending hours in the belly of the beast, Kelvin and Tunde were released and able to go back to their families. What happens to the next set of innocent people who could fall victim today? Tomorrow? What happens if they never make it out of the lion’s den alive? Sadly, the authorities in Nigeria are not doing much, if anything, about this. The criminals are still at large in different parts of Nigeria.
It appears Lagos State is not the only state plagued by the menace of kidnap, blackmail and extortion of LGBT people in Nigeria. According to Levites Initiative for Freedom and Enlightenment Programs Director Uchenna Samuel, these crimes have been ongoing and worsened since the passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in 2014.
He said the gangs target both single and married members of the LGBT community. Samuel added they “operate independently” within Delta, Edo, Abia and Lagos States and noted the most notorious of them reside in the remote town of Ibusa in the Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State.
“Through fake social media accounts, they lure their unsuspecting victims with promises of discreet relationships, assumed love attractions, good sexual encounters, job opportunities and benevolent gifts, amongst others,” he said.
Samuel said these gangs use gang rape, physical assault and armed robbery as part of their menace.
“Their victims are threatened at gun point, beaten with wooden clubs, gang raped and robbed of all their material and financial possession,” he said. “These actions have caused an untold mental, psychological, emotional and physical harm to their victims.”
Samuel added the assumed reason behind these acts is based on the knowledge that same-sex relationships are criminalized in Nigeria and victims are cajoled not to speak about their ordeal with the threat their sexual orientation would be made known to both their families and the public.
He emphasized the need for security and safety for the LGBT community.
“The LGBT community in Nigeria needs to ensure adequate movement building and honest solidarity if these atrocities are to be curbed,” said Samuel. “The safety and security of the life and property of any gay person living in Nigeria is entirely an individual responsibility. There is a need to maintain discreet and productive relationships.”
Grindr won’t shut down its app in Nigeria
Bisi Alimi in his March 22 tweets requested the management of Grindr shut down its app in Nigeria. When Grindr replied to his tweets, noting the organization constantly sends alerts and in-app messages in multiple local languages to Nigerian users to ensure their safety, Alimi tweeted those efforts were not enough to ensure the safety of the community. He also added it was not the first time he had asked Grindr to suspend the app in Nigeria or make it safer.
The tweets read in part: “…@Grindr has not (sic) become the tool of aggressive #homophobia in Nigeria. I have raised this issue with them and they have failed to do anything about it… Also, @Grindr don’t you think it is your responsibility to switch your app off in Lagos today? At least that is the best you can do if the lives of people you are helping are in danger. Stop acting irresponsibly #LGBT”
These men threatened their victims not to tell the police or anyone about what has happened. @Grindr has not become the tool of aggressive #homophobia in Nigeria. I have raised this issue with them and they have failed to do anything about it.
— Ashiwaju Bisi Alimi (@bisialimi) March 22, 2018
“Across #Africa is it time to start a campaign to #deletegrindr?,” asked Alimi in another tweet. “@Grindr has failed to take into consideration the uniqueness of the danger #gay men face across Africa because of their apps, and we all should come together and act. Unless we do, #Grindr will put profit over safety.”
Across #Africa is it time to start a campaign to #deletegrindr? @Grindr has failed to take into consideration the uniqueness of the danger #gay men face across Africa because of their apps, and we all should come together and act. Unless we do, #Grindr will put profit over safety
— Ashiwaju Bisi Alimi (@bisialimi) March 23, 2018
Grindr for Equality Executive Director Jack Harrison-Quintana told the Washington Blade that Grindr will not shut down its app in Nigeria.
“Grindr is aware of the situation in Nigeria and has been in touch with five Nigerian LGBTQ organizations to find ways of using its app to help stop homophobic violence,” he said, noting one group in particular has sought to build a more formal collaboration with Grindr for Equality.
“While we are constantly improving upon this process, it is important to remember that Grindr is an open platform. I can confidently say that shutting down Grindr in Nigeria is not the consensus opinion,” added Harrison-Quintana. “For now, Grindr for Equality will not recommend that the app’s services be suspended in the country. What we have always said about shutting down the app in any location where things are getting bad is that we believe it can do more harm than good. We didn’t shut things down in Egypt or Chechnya, so we don’t anticipate doing so in Nigeria.”
Harrison-Quintana said if the majority of LGBT organizations in a given country come together in consensus that the app’s services should be suspended for a time in their context, then Grindr would definitely consider it. He also encouraged users to report suspicious and threatening activities, but refused to disclose further information about the particular organizations with which it had established communication in Nigeria.
The need for action
Alimi’s tweets were also an admonition on the Nigerian LGBT community to delete the app to ensure their safety. The tweets read in part: “Please if you are a #gay guy in #Nigeria using @Grindr around Ijegun area, please can you switch off or delete the apps. Also, don’t go on a date with anyone in that area if you don’t know them before now. #LGBT.”
Samuel also emphasized the need to take action in order to reduce the kidnap of LGBT people. According to him, the prevalence of these crimes towards gay persons living in Nigeria — especially in Delta State where his organization is located — required strategic action to bring these crimes to the notice of the state government and the traditional leaders.
He said his organization in March “engaged in a strategic advocacy campaign” with the police in Delta State and Obi Sen. Nosike Ikpo of the village of Umuodafe in Ibusa.
“Umuodafe Village is the main hideout of the gang in Delta State,” noted Samuel. “Following this development, we equally reported another recent case of extortion to the Ibusa Police Division. Consequently, the police investigated the case.”
Samuel said the victim provided prosecutors with the phone numbers of those who contacted them and they were able to arrest and prosecute one of the gang members. He added efforts are being made to ensure other gang members are arrested.
The case is still ongoing at the Chief Magistrate Court in Ibusa.
“It is equally important at this point that all organizations working on LGBT issues in the country come together to condemn such crimes and hold the government accountable for failing in their duty to protect the lives and properties of its citizens,” said Samuel. “There should be an outcry to the international community concerning the dangers and violence LGBTI persons face in Nigeria.”
Does the law overlook these crimes?
Kidnapping, blackmail, extortion, vigilante justice and other forms of homophobic attacks on the LGBT community worsened after the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act passed in 2014.
The Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004, Part 5, Chapters 29, 30 and 31; Part 6, Chapter 36 lists assault, abduction, kidnapping, extortion by threats as punishable crimes.
Although these crimes are outlawed, it seems the law has a preference in enforcing justice or punishment for crimes stipulated in the code when they are committed against LGBT people.
Debunking this assumption, Mike Enahoro Ebah, a lawyer and human rights defender, said the law is fair but members of the LGBT fail to report their cases as a result of the peculiarity of their circumstances.
“The law has no preference for any set of individuals in its applicability, but the problem is in who is invoking the law,” he said.
“For LGBT members who are extorted or blackmailed, the unfriendly nature of the society and the way the police are excited to punish them forces most of them to be quiet and succumb to blackmail and extortion,” added Ebah. “The law is fair but they do not complain so people extort, blackmail them and go free. The victims are usually quiet especially when what is being held against them is incriminating and sufficient to discredit their innocence.
Ebah said in “trying to solve the crime, the victims may get themselves into more trouble.”
“Because a previous supposed crime has come to the knowledge of the authority, they will not close their eyes to it, even if the victim has made a complaint,” he said.
According to him, it does not matter who the victim is in a society where rights are equal. If one makes a complaint, it should be investigated; the suspect should be apprehended prosecuted.
It is not a crime to be gay in Nigeria
The enactment of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in 2014 led to arguments from both the proponents and opponents on whether one has committed a crime by virtue of their sexual orientation. As a result, the LGBT community and activists have constantly called for the law to be repealed. Ebah pointed out, however, the anti-gay law was unconstitutional and contravenes the provisions of the Nigerian constitution.
“Their (LGBT) sexual orientation is not a crime if they were not caught in any act as stipulated in the SSMPA, but the disadvantage of the SSMPA is that it does not just criminalize same-sex marriage, but puts other people who are not LGBT in danger too,” said Ebah.
“Aside the SSMPA, there were the pre-colonial Penal Code and Criminal Code applicable in some northern and southern states,” he added. “If the authorities do not find your alleged crime to be suitable for prosecution within the anti-gay law, they may find them in the Penal and Criminal Code where the allegations are written, to qualify why your conduct amounts to crime.”
But the constitution explains its to other laws in the country.
Chapter IV, Sections 33-45 makes provisions for the fundamental human rights of the citizens of Nigeria. According to Ebah, there are basic standards of human rights contained in local, regional and international laws to which Nigeria is a signatory. They prescribe equality and do not give any basis for discrimination.
“The SSMPA does not override the provision of the constitution; it contravenes the provision of the constitution and is unconstitutional,” he said. “But until the court makes that pronouncement, the law remains and the Police will continue to enforce it.”
Is the police the friend of the LGBT community?
“The police is your friend” is a popular phrase used by the Nigeria Police Force.
Alimi in a tweet urged the Nigeria Police Force to take necessary action to protect gay and bisexual men who have been targeted. The tweets read: “Hello @PoliceNG, I want to bring to your attention a group of men in Aboke Street in Ijegun who are running an operation of kidnapping and extortion on vulnerable citizens in #Lagos. Please, can you do something? They are using @Grindr. @Gidi_Traffic #LGBT”
“The victims can’t report to police because they are part of the system of oppression. They can’t talk to their families. These men carry this guilt and shame, adding to their fear and destroying their mental health. This bullshit has to stop. Someone needs to do something, FAST!”
Hello @PoliceNG, I want to bring to your attention a group of men in Aboke Street in Ijegun who are running an operation of kidnapping and extortion on vulnerable citizens in #Lagos. Please, can you do something? They are using @Grindr. @Gidi_Traffic #LGBT
— Ashiwaju Bisi Alimi (@bisialimi) March 22, 2018
The victims can't report to police because they are part of the system of opression. They can't talk to their families. These men carry this guilt and shame, adding to their fear and destroying their mental health. This bullshit has to stop. Someone needs to do something, FAST!
— Ashiwaju Bisi Alimi (@bisialimi) March 22, 2018
Alimi’s tweets to the Nigeria Police Force have not been answered. Samuel hinted authorities were aware of these incidents.
The Blade contacted the Assistant Commissioner of Police and Head of the Police Public Complaint Rapid Response Unit (PPCRRU) Abayomi Shogunle, to find out what actions had been taken regarding the complaints. He said during a phone interview that he was not aware of any complaint on the official Twitter account of the unit which he heads.
“I am in charge of complaints and can only respond to complaints made to my unit. As we speak, no such complaint was made to @PPCRRU on Twitter,” said Shogunle. “I can only comment on a case that was reported. We cannot procrastinate or imagine an unreported case. We are bound to carry out investigations on any cases reported to us. For the means of making such reports, they can report to that particular handle on Twitter.”
He nevertheless said it was the duty of the police to investigate such cases, regardless of the situation or circumstances.
“The law comes first no matter who the complainant is,” said Shogunle. “The law also states that if your rights have been infringed upon, you have the right to make a complaint. No matter your status, beliefs or circumstances, your rights are guaranteed and the Police must not infringe on your rights. For example, if someone was caught stealing, and the law states that stealing is an offence, the person is still entitled to his rights under the law. If in the police of arrest, the police infringes on the person’s rights, the person still has the right under the law to make a complaint.”
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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