Sen. Amy Klobuchar is facing scrutiny on the campaign trail for voting to confirm many of President Trump’s judicial nominees — and a closer look at that record reveals she backed one pick who once derided as “social policy” not only LGBTQ rights and abortion, but also school integration.
With weeks remaining before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3, Klobuchar’s vote to confirm David Ryan Stras to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals could dissuade supporters of LGBTQ rights and other progressives from supporting her in the Democratic presidential primary.
Although Stras hasn’t been as viciously anti-LGBTQ as some of Trump’s other picks, his past is troubling to LGBTQ advocates. As a law professor, Stras in a 2008 legal essay was condescending toward judges’ “ventures” into LGBTQ rights, abortion and school integration.
“The court’s own ventures into contentious areas of social policy — such as school integration, abortion, and homosexual rights — have raised the stakes of confirmation battles even higher,” Stras wrote.
Additionally, as a Minnesota Supreme Court justice, Stras in 2012 joined an opinion allowing an anti-gay marriage amendment to come intact to the ballot with a title obscuring its purpose and effect. Minnesota voters ended up rejecting the amendment anyway.
Along with Sen. Doug Wilson (Ala.), Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), former Sen. Heidi Heithkamp (N.D.) and former Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Klobuchar was among seven Democrats who joined Republicans in voting for Stras. The vote in January 2018 was otherwise along party lines, 56-42.
Ironically, Klobuchar voted for Stras even though she wasn’t consulted on the judicial pick, which was a customary part of the confirmation process before the Trump era, and recommended other choices for the judicial seat.
Carlie Waibel, national press secretary for the Klobuchar campaign, put distance between Klobuchar and Stras in response to a Washington Blade inquiry on whether the Democratic hopeful stands by her vote.
“Of course Sen. Klobuchar disagrees with his comments, just as she will not agree with every one of his opinions,” Waibel said. “She has made clear that Judge Stras was not the judge that she would ever recommend to the White House. In fact, she recommended other candidates.”
Waibel also defended the senator’s vote for Stras by saying he was better than other picks Trump might have offered.
“Her vote was based on the reality that given the choices, on balance she thought he was better than the other candidates who would have been nominated from other states,” the spokesperson said. “Judge Stras was recommended by liberal Justice Alan Page, who Sen. Klobuchar has great respect for, and in the vast majority of cases on the Minnesota Supreme Court Judge Stras sided with the majority, which included several Democratic-appointed justices.”
Klobuchar’s vote for Stras was one of many in favor of judicial nominees by Trump, who set records with judicial confirmations in ways that will likely affect the courts for generations to come.
According to an April 2019 article in ThinkProgress, Klobuchar voted for more than 56 percent of his judicial picks two years into his presidency. According to the Klobuchar campaign, the percentage since that time has dropped to just 33 percent.
Meanwhile, other Democratic senators who have run for president this cycle, such as Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, had a knee-jerk opposition to all of them.
Klobuchar cast a vote for Stras even though he was opposed by civil rights and progressive groups, who pointed to his statements and actions as a law professor and Minnesota Supreme Court justice. Among the groups that opposed him were Lambda Legal, People for the American Way and Alliance for Justice.
In a letter dated Jan. 29, 2018 urging senators to vote “no” on confirmation, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer Sharon McGowan wrote Stras’s record “raises serious concerns about his willingness to adhere to the Supreme Court’s landmark LGBT rights decisions.”
“His vision of the role of the courts as a nefarious force that seeks to block the will of the majority sends a dangerous message to vulnerable minorities that their constitutional rights are not guaranteed,” McGowan wrote. “Justice Stras’ failure to appreciate the important role that an independent judiciary plays in our constitutional democracy causes communities like ours grave concern.”
In a 2008 essay titled “Understanding the New Politics of Judicial Appointments,” Stras wrote intensified media scrutiny and organized interest groups have politicized the judicial confirmation process, which he said made lawmakers act “with a keen eye toward pleasing constituent groups and maintaining a consistent policy image.”
As an example of attempts at “pleasing constituent groups,” Stras pointed to judicial rulings on LGBTQ rights, abortion and school integration, suggesting either the decisions were best left to the political process or the courts got it wrong.
Although the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade is the case most cited in the article, Stras also draws on the 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, noting with a tinge of skepticism the court “struck down a Texas ban on homosexual sodomy because, according to the court, the state law violated privacy rights.”
Anthony Kreis, visiting assistant professor of law for the Chicago-Kent College of Law, told the Blade comments deriding LGBTQ rights as “social policy” are off-base.
“The problem with the notion of LGBTQ rights as being ‘social policy,’ is that viewpoint indicates that the Constitution’s protections do not sweep broadly enough to protect sexual minorities,” Kreis said. “In other words, LGBTQ people are at the mercy of legislatures to do right by them — and so then courts aren’t reliable actors to combat homophobia and transphobia.”
In written responses to questions from the Senate on his 2008 writing, Stras when asked about school integration acknowledged the Supreme Court applied the Fourteenth Amendment to desegregate schools in Brown v. Board of Education, which he said “overruled the Supreme Court’s detestable decision in Plessy v. Ferguson.”
“When I wrote the referenced book review essay, I did so as a law professor, not as a judge,” Stras added. “I was describing the factors that have increased political polarization surrounding the judicial nomination process over the past several decades.”
Asked whether the U.S. Constitution provides a textual basis for rights to contraception, women’s access to abortion and same-sex marriage, Stras acknowledged the Supreme Court’s rulings in favor of abortion rights and marriage equality, saying he’d “follow all binding precedent, including each of these precedents” on the Eighth Circuit.
Four years later, when Stras was a justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court, he joined an opinion that prevented the Minnesota secretary of state from changing the ballot title on a proposed anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment from “Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman” to “Limited the Status of Marriage to Opposite Sex Couples.”
Although Minnesota law dictates the secretary of state must “provide an appropriate title” for proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot, the court in the case of Limmer v. Ritchie concluded that language doesn’t enable the official to change a ballot title designated by the state legislature.
“Allowing the secretary of state, an executive branch officer with no constitutional authority over the form and manner of proposed constitutional amendments, to simply ignore the legislature’s action in proposing and passing a title to accompany a ballot question on a constitutional amendment potentially risks interfering with the legislature’s constitutional authority,” the decision says.
The decision, however, wasn’t unanimous. Minnesota Supreme Court Judge Minnesota Alan Page criticized the majority in his dissent by saying the ruling “announces a fundamentally flawed interpretation” of state law.
“Under the court’s view, a majority of the legislature could propose a constitutional amendment to, say, reinstate prohibition, propose the ballot title ‘Eliminating the Personal Income Tax,’ the secretary of state would be obligated to put the legislature’s title on the ballot, and under the standard the court announces today, this court could do nothing to prevent it,” Page wrote. “That is a result I cannot countenance.”
It should be noted that although the Klobuchar campaign defended the Minnesota Democrat’s vote for Stras by saying he was recommended by Page, the two weren’t in agreement in this instance.
Stras’s LGBTQ record was just part of the reason civil rights and progressives opposed his confirmation. A member of the Federalist Society, Stras clerked for conservative U.S. Associate Justice Clarence Justice, whom he called a “mentor” upon being sworn in to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Stras was on the list of 11 potential picks from which then-candidate Donald Trump said he wouldn’t stray when making selections for the U.S. Supreme Court. The Federalist Society and the anti-LGBTQ Heritage Foundation were said to have a hand in the selection of these names.
In Peterson v. Minnesota, which involves a police officer suing the City of Minneapolis for age discrimination, the Minnesota Supreme Court determined the 14 months the city took to investigate the case need not be applied to the statute of limitations under the law. Stras, however, joined a dissent that would have prevented the officer from bringing his case to the jury.
When the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in a rape case trial judges can allow expert testimony to explain why a victim would delay in reporting the incident, Stras strikingly dissented on procedural grounds. The testimony was deemed warranted in the case because the victim had waited several hours before reporting the incident.
Stras has cultivated this record even though his own family experienced persecution as a member of a minority community. Stras, who’s believed to be the first Jewish person to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court, is the descendant of Holocaust survivors.
To be sure, Klobuchar has built a solid record in support of LGBTQ rights as a member of the U.S. Senate. She was a co-sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act, which sought to repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act before it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and now co-sponsors the Equality Act. The Minnesota Democrat received a perfect score of “100” in the latest Human Rights Campaign congressional scorecard.
However, Klobuchar’s vote to confirm Stras to the Eighth Circuit despite his record on LGBTQ rights stands out.
Kreis acknowledged “there are often many reasons why senators could vote for nominees they don’t favor,” but didn’t see that at play with Klobuchar’s vote for Stras.
“It is hard to discern what reason she might have,” Kreis said. “Whatever the reason might be for the favorable vote, it was not a vote cast to help the advancement of LGBTQ rights.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been corrected to reflect the number of senators who voted with Republicans to confirm Stras and to update the percentage of judicial nominees she has approved. The Blade regrets the errors.
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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