Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced at a D.C. Superior Court hearing on Tuesday that they were dropping a charge of misdemeanor solicitation for prostitution against transgender activist Dee Curry.
Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Motley immediately approved the prosecutors’ request for a “Nolle Prosequi,” a legal term for stopping a prosecution, and dismissed the case.
The two prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marco Crocetti and Joshua Rothman, gave no reason for their decision to drop the charge. William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said his office would have no comment on the prosecutors’ decision.
Curry, 64, a D.C. resident and longtime advocate for transgender rights, denies she was engaging in prostitution at the time of her arrest on Feb. 8 on the 1300 block of West Virginia Ave., N.E.
She says she considers the undercover D.C. police tactics used to arrest her a form of entrapment that she feels the LGBT community and the public at large should view as a misuse of police resources to target commercial sex workers, especially trans sex workers.
Curry disclosed her arrest in an interview with the Washington Blade last month, saying she wanted to bring to light what she believes to be an improper arrest and unfair police targeting of transgender female sex workers. She acknowledged that she had engaged in sex work in the past and that her arrest took place along a street where trans sex workers are known to congregate.
But Curry said she was in the area to visit her godmother who lives in a nearby house. She said an undercover police officer posing as an Uber driver drove up to her and led her to believe he was seeking a passenger.
Police charging documents allege that Curry consented to the undercover officer’s suggestion that she engage in sex for money. Curry told the Blade she needed a ride home and may have played along with who she thought was an Uber driver, but says she doesn’t recall giving consent to sex for money.
Regardless of what she may have said to the “driver,” Curry says she believes the police tactic of assigning a cop to pose as a driver for hire who she says solicited her for sex constitutes a misuse of police resources and a possible targeting of transgender women for such arrests.
D.C. police spokesperson Alaina Gertz told the Blade last month prior to Tuesday’s dismissal of the case that the department could not comment on the specific circumstances surrounding Curry’s arrest because it was a pending case.
But Gertz said the police enforcement efforts do not target any specific population and that prostitution arrests are generated by citizen complaints and are focused on geographic areas were those complaints are located.
When contacted on Tuesday, Gertz declined to comment on the dismissal of the charge against Curry.
Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the police LGBT Liaison Unit, has said that protecting the safety of the transgender community at a time when it as well as the LGBT community as a whole has been targeted for hate crimes and other violent crime is a high priority for the department and the liaison unit.
Legal observers, including the online legal information site Nolo, say prosecutors decide to drop a criminal charge against someone for a number of reasons, including a reevaluation of evidence, the emergence of new evidence, the failure of witnesses to cooperate, or a desire to give a defendant a second chance.
“I believe the reason why it happened – I think a lot of times what they do is they target individuals who are vulnerable,” Curry told the Blade in an interview outside the courthouse on Tuesday, minutes after her case was dismissed.
“And I think because I no longer live that lifestyle and because I have a following and because I advocate for people who are in a position of vulnerability, they really didn’t feel it would be worth going up against that kind of dynamic,” she said.
Curry’s arrest also came at a time when many LGBT activists have joined human rights groups in calling for the decriminalization of sex work between consenting adults. D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At-Large) has said he plans to reintroduce a bill he first introduced in 2017 calling for decriminalizing prostitution between consenting adults in D.C.
“I’m elated that this has been dismissed, said Curry. “I’m no longer engaged in that type of work. I do believe they should decriminalize it,” she said.
“But I also advocate for other choices for transgender women. And the city has to stand up and do some things to give options to transgender women so they won’t be in this precarious situation,” she said.
Curry was referring to the March 30 murder of transgender woman Ashanti Carmon, 27, who was found shot to death on a street in Fairmount Heights, Md., one block from Eastern Avenue, N.E., which serves as the D.C.-Prince George’s County boundary line. The area where Carmon was found is known as a place where transgender female sex workers congregate, and Carmon’s friends have said Carmon sometimes engaged in that line of work.
P.G. County police say they have no suspect and no known motive in the case. They are calling on the public for help in identifying the person or persons responsible for Carmon’s murder.