If you hear about the United States announcing the sale of military technology to a foreign ally, R. Clarke Cooper will have had a hand in it.
As assistant secretary for political-military affairs at the State Department, Cooper is charged with advancing national security interests by coordinating with allied and partner nations the sale of U.S. conventional weapons, such as F-35 aircraft, bombs, missiles and firearms. Each year, his bureau facilitates more than $190 billion in U.S. defense transfers.
Among the recipients are democracies like the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan — although others, such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, have repressive governments notorious for criminalizing gay relationships and restricting women’s rights.
As a gay combat veteran, Cooper said he’s aware the United States supplies weapons to countries with less than stellar — even abysmal — records on human and civil rights.
“I’ve probably spent a good chunk of my life serving in places where one’s orientation like mine, would be either defined as criminal or even under the threat of a death sentence,” Cooper said. “But it doesn’t preclude us from presenting our people forward into these places, and it certainly doesn’t suspend our bilateral relationships.”
Cooper is acquainted with policies that suppress gay people. In the early Obama years, Cooper, as executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, worked with Congress to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and coordinated litigation that compelled the Pentagon to support open service.
Speaking with the Washington Blade in his office at the State Department on Aug. 21 about his present role, Cooper said the weapons sales are about a different thing entirely: Maintaining global security with U.S. allies to limit the influence of adversaries like Russia and China.
“It is always going to be what U.S. interests do we have in that particular country, in that region that we need to protect,” Cooper said. “That is overriding. Full stop. Always will be.”
Although Cooper is a Trump appointee (making him one of the handful of openly gay officials in the administration), the sale of weapons to these countries spans both Democratic and Republican administrations, including those of Trump, Obama, Clinton and both Bushes.
It’s the wiggle-room in between, Cooper said, that enables the United States to advocate for decriminalization of same-sex relationships and women’s role in society. Among these efforts, he said, are the United Nations’ Women, Peace & Security initiative and requirements on troop-contributing countries in global peacekeeping operations.
“There are a number of countries that have been challenging either statutes or policies on women and the LGBT community, who are significant troop contributors to U.N. peacekeeping operations or African Union peacekeeping operations,” Cooper said. “That does provide us a point of entre as a department to advocate for those communities.”
Cooper said the process for the arms transfer can take years, and during that time, red flags addressed in the State Department Human Rights Report or regional contextual issues could come into play.
“At the end of the day, though, regardless of whatever outlying issues there are, it’s always going to be about what’s in our interest,” Cooper said. “Again, not a new protocol, that is sustained.”
Weapons sales are but one part of the job of managing the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. The responsibilities also include helping coordinate diplomacy and defense policy, assisting countries with clearing explosive hazards and building a capable and accountable staff of political-military practitioners.
Cooper won Senate confirmation in April after his nomination by President Trump was pending for about eight months. Since that time, Cooper said his day-to-day life on the job is unpredictable and “predicated on what’s happening globally.”
“I can have a day where I know that, OK, I’ve got calendar items, there’s either a meeting at the National Security Council, or there’s a briefing on Capitol Hill, or I’ve got to make sure I got to get a decision up to Secretary [Mike] Pompeo,” Cooper said. “Those are things that are on our calendar, and I can plan [for], what we don’t plan for is a particular reaction from an adversary or a posturing or threatening act by an adversary, and how that might be disruptive, and how we have to react.”
Cooper knows his stuff. Over the course of the interview, he quickly rattles off military acronyms, policy initiatives and recalls historical policies set by the Untied States and allies in the immediate aftermath of World War II.
Although Cooper said he’s forced to speak in generalities because much of his work is sensitive and classified, he identified both Russia and China as adversaries the United States is seeking to limit through weapons sales to allies.
“When we’re talking about the national security strategy that is very much focused on China and Russia,” Cooper said. “So when we’re looking at how we’re prioritizing not only foreign military financing, and foreign military sales and security assistance, all of that is looking to bolster and support our security partners who may be either directly challenged by Moscow or Beijing.”
In historical context, Cooper said those partners have been limited to countries bordering Russia and China, but in an asymmetric environment where the world is flat, those partnerships are “much broader than that.”
“When we are looking at security assistance, when we’re looking at presence and when we’re looking at influence, countering China is inclusive of Africa, and the African continent, countering Russia is inclusive of, well, this hemisphere as well,” Cooper said.
In terms of China, Cooper also identified the Indo-Pacific region as an area “where we have put significant attention and resources.”
“That is, we’re wanting to make sure that is it not only free and open for trade, but unmolested, and undisrupted by China,” Cooper said. “That does help us as far as prioritization.”
It’s a dream job for Cooper, who following his stint from 2010 to 2012 at Log Cabin returned to active duty service in the U.S. Army. His tours include United States Africa Command, Special Operations Command Africa, Joint Special Operations Task Force Trans-Sahara and Special Operations Command Central.
In a previous life during the Bush administration, Cooper worked in the State Department as a representative to the United Nations and an adviser at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Immediately before his confirmation, Cooper was director of intelligence planning for Joint Special Operations Command’s Joint Inter-Agency Task Force in the National Capital Region.
But it’s also a dirty job, according to a majority of Americans. Last month, the Chicago Council for Global Affairs issued survey data finding 70 percent of Americans believe that selling weapons to other countries makes the United States less safe, not more.
That view cuts across party lines, with 75 percent of Democrats, 70 percent of independents and 62 percent of Republicans believing the United States is worse off for the weapons sales. Another 20 percent say the weapons sales make no difference.
Elliot Imse, a spokesperson for the LGBTQ Victory Institute, which has sought to facilitate the appointment of LGBT people to federal government posts, had an altogether different complaint about Cooper: Too white male, not LGBT enough.
“All aspects of our government have been dominated by straight white cisgender men — and that perspective, and conscious or unconscious bias, seeps into every policy decision our country makes,” Imse said. “Better decisions are made — whether about our economy, international relations or national defense — when people of color, women, LGBTQ people and other diverse voices are part of the conversation.”
Imse pointed out Cooper is an appointee in the Trump administration, which has gained a reputation for being hostile to LGBT people and other minorities.
“The Trump administration is still the Trump administration and the people they appoint rarely reflect our values, but the hope is that even those who don’t can provide some new openings toward more inclusive thinking,” Imse said. “There will be no miracles, however, as this administration remains fundamentally opposed to equality.”
There’s one other aspect of Cooper’s job: It’s macho and consists of engagements with military officials and foreign leaders in countries hostile to LGBT rights.
Cooper, however, said being gay has “not at all” come up as an issue.
“I have not encountered anything that would be interpreted or defined as counter to supportive,” he said. “I’ve not witnessed or assessed anything that would have been degrading, or holding me back in my career.”
Cooper pivoted to his time in the military immediately after his tenure at Log Cabin and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal to emphasize the transition in the way the United States views gay people, including in the military. At the time, Cooper said no one else with whom he served was aware of his time at the Republican LGBT group.
“I think one of the best things, probably the most equitable place for the LGBT community is the military,” Cooper said. “Because it is such a merit based place. Again, you either are able to meet requirements, and you’re able to fulfill those requirements. And then there are certain programs like I was in that have very specific assessment and selection procedures. But none of them factor in orientation. None.”
At the same time, Cooper developed his relationship with his now husband Michael Marin, who’s also an active duty officer. Cooper said as members of the military they were both expected to attend each other’s functions as a date.
When the time came for marriage, Cooper said he informed his commander, per military tradition dating back to the 18th century, and received an enthusiastic response. Not only that, Cooper said, but his colleagues in the military were supportive.
“They were making jokes about life’s gonna be a little easier being married to a guy,” Cooper said. “I was like, What? ‘You can fart in bed and stuff.’ And so I’m sitting here thinking, I can’t believe I’m having this conversation. We’ve gotten to that point where it’s like there, and then they’re giving marital advice.”
Cooper said he realizes that transition may surprise older gay men, who are used to the idea of the military being hostile to gays. Holding back emotion for a brief moment, Cooper said, “The exciting part of this is not everybody gets to see the fruits of their labor, and they don’t get to see it as quickly.”
Still, Cooper conceded what has changed in the military for gays in the aftermath of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” may not be true in all areas of the United States.
Invoking a time before the civil rights era for black Americans — when they were treated more equitably in the military after desegregation, but not in other places of the country — Cooper said the same holds true for gay people at military bases, which he said have become “islands of equality.”
“Fort Bragg, North Carolina, I’m a peer. I’m equal,” Cooper said. “There is no difference…I’m married. My spouse is identified by the Department of Defense as my spouse, not my partner, my spouse. Step into Fayetteville: Not so much.”
But Cooper stopped short of criticizing the transgender military ban implemented under the Trump administration. Asked if based on that experience whether he opposes the policy, Cooper replied, “No.”
Cooper relented by saying “if someone is trans and they are capable of serving, they should be serving,” but towed the line of the Defense Department.
“This is not my wheelhouse right now, but my understanding of where the current status is with the Department of Defense is that there is no ban that’s in place,” Cooper said.
Under the Trump administration, service members are discharged who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria or are prescribed transition-related care. In terms of enlistments, the policy bars applicants with a history of gender dysphoria — unless the individuals are willing to serve in their biological sex (an extremely small number of transgender people). Applicants who obtained transition-related care are outright banned.
In a recent Washington Blade article on the transgender policy, which was implemented in April, the military reported no discharges — although transgender rights advocates have doubts about those numbers.
“I do know that [James] Mattis and [Mark] Esper made clear that if we are going to address readiness across the board, there was a refocus on people’s weight, people’s exposure to drug and alcohol abuse…if people had to come off line from service, for whatever reason,” Cooper said, adding he’s “not equating someone’s status with other issues.”
Asked if that means he’s fine with the policy, Cooper replied, “If I understand it correctly, there’s not a ban on trans service. There’s not an operative ban on trans service at the department.”
Pressed again by the Blade about the issue, Cooper said, “I think it’s I think it’s still being addressed.” (The issue is considered resolved by the Trump administration.)
“I know that depending on where somebody may be in transition, that that was probably part of the dialogue,” Cooper said. “I say probably because I’m guessing because I wasn’t a part of that conversation.”
Informed by the Blade an estimated 14,700 transgender people are serving in the military, Cooper said those service members should be able to stay “if they’re in current service, and they’re deployable.”
Asked whether he had any input on Log Cabin’s recent controversial endorsement of Trump, Cooper distanced himself and said he hasn’t been involved in politics for some time.
“I’ve been in a Hatch Act space now for quite a while,” Cooper said. “So I can say from previous experience of how those work. Any group that would be seeking endorsement of any candidate usually is going to be doing some homework prior to doing that. But I have zero visibility on what either they or the RNC is doing.”
Cooper, however, still has allies from his days at Log Cabin.
Christian Berle, a gay Republican who worked with Cooper at Log Cabin on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, praised his one-time colleague.
“He’s a conservative, so locking himself to the White House fence has never been who he is, but he has, in my experience, used his personal and political connections to advocate for those who he knows are disadvantaged,” Berle said.
Berle said Cooper’s efforts during the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal process were “rooted in his frustration” about privileged gay people like him being able to serve in high-profile civilian positions, but others not being allowed to serve in the military.
“I think Clarke is very capable of using his positions, his opportunity to interact with Secretary Pompeo and other members of the administration to argue for a fairer [world],” Berle said. “I think there is a lot more that needs to be done, a lot of people elsewhere in the administration who also need to stand up, but I’m confident in the work that Clarke is doing to raise the voice to stand up for LGBT members of the diplomatic corps.”
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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