Connect with us

homepage news

Smiling under the mask

How transparency in business can keep us all sane in a pandemic

Published

on

How transparency in business can keep us all sane in a pandemic

As our national isolation grinds on, and with little hope of change anytime soon, the crisis adrenaline that kept us going in the early weeks has worn off, and we’re over the novelty of it all. We’ve amused ourselves with Zoom backgrounds and we’ve delighted over one another’s kids and we’ve learned the value of the mute button. We’ve dug into the logistical challenges of this new landscape and figured out how we’ll survive. Small business owners, myself included, dove deep into the art of the pivot (in the before times, we thought we knew all about pivoting! Ha!). The new normal is getting old, and yet we know the end is nowhere in sight. It’s hard not to feel deeply burdened with the state of the world.

I’m the owner and founder of Flock, a family of mid-sized property management companies in Washington, DC that keeps 52 folks employed. Our weekly staff meetings have become an exercise in bearing witness, as we each begin to  comprehend the scope of this crisis, grapple with what it means for us and our families, and slowly accept the painful reality that much more of this lies ahead. Possibly and unbearably, it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

In this shared reality, I frequently remind myself that I have to leave room for the sadness, frustration and anger of my team members. Each of them are grieving on their own timelines.

I worry for their emotional and mental health. I worry about their families and their futures. I worry that they’re falling into the same internet rabbit holes as me, those gloomy places where you find disturbingly educated speculations on food supply chains, riots, political unrest, economic collapse. Where you read credible sources saying we’ll be here for 18 months, 24 months. Except nobody knows what “here” really is.  That the lives we’re living now is a new baseline, and things will never really return to the way they were.

We cope by embracing kindness and celebrating the smallest of victories. We remind ourselves that the old way of life was pretty lousy for a whole lot of people and for our planet anyway, and that a newer, better way of life is ours for the making. My personal morale-boosting coping strategies include tapping into my inner inspirational leader; suspending disbelief; and, let’s be honest, a fair amount of wine.

A few days ago I was video chatting with our team member Ben Berkow about life during the pandemic. Hiring Ben was a big win for the company. When our residents slip into their new front doors and are welcomed by a fresh, perfectly maintained and prepared space, it’s Ben they have to thank. 

He’s a former elementary school teacher with seriously good people skills who  can also mix up a killer cocktail. Ben is a fountain of extroverted positivity and chatty good cheer, great with residents, clients and his team. To make a living helping folks navigate one of life’s most stressful activities–moving house–you’ve got to like people a lot.  And anyone who knows Ben also knows the feeling is mutual.

Ben is not built for social distancing, nevermind a lockdown. Nearly all aspects of his job have become virtual, from managing maintenance to conducting move-out inspections, and he’s struggling. The human interactions he feeds on aren’t entirely gone, but he finds them disturbingly muted.  “Video meetings are fine, and I’m grateful for the technology, but it’s not even close to the same,” he said. “And in the rare instances when I’m face to face with an actual person, I find myself smiling like crazy under the mask. Then I remember they can’t gauge my expression. But I just keep grinning, in the hope they can see it in my eyes.”

My team is bruised but still scrappy. The company is set back but still fundamentally well. It helps that our industry is essentially recession-proof.  Maybe even depression proof.  The reality is,  everyone needs a place to live. Still, others in our field are not faring as well.  Our saving grace has turned out to be the same asset that got the company this far, the asset that grew us from a single adobe bungalow in Tucson Arizona to a family of companies that aggregate $6.5 million in business annually. That asset is our company culture.

Our culture manifests in a lot of ways, one of which is transparency. This tool has served me well during this crisis. I chose early to be honest and painfully open.  I prefer this over the quiet, solo fretting and sleeplessness nights that some CEOs are “leading with.” Not that worry and insomnia are strangers to me. I’m inclined to bolt out of bed at all hours with a new idea for salvaging what I can, or else to stay in bed all day long. But I talk about it with the team. I tell them what the outlook is, good or bad. I make sure they understand the numbers, and the danger those numbers represent. They knew very early on that our livelihoods were at stake. And with that, the bottom line was seen as ours, not just mine.

I realized very early on that the first payroll protection plan I could count on was simply to gut my salary, so I cut it by 75 percent.  Servant survival mode is my new set point.  In many ways this period feels like a return to the origins of the company. Very few members of my team remember the long period when the leader truly ate last. In the early days, to keep payroll…paid.  I went four years without taking a salary: I’d promised to take care of my staff and I did. You can’t run a service based business with servers that are underpaid and too few.. That math was simple, even if the financial realities scared me.

The math worked, as did the team.. And they worked hard. As the company thrived, I committed to bonusing nearly all profits back to the talent. We added benefits whenever and however we could: unlimited time off, fully paid healthcare, cell phone coverage, commuter stipends, short and long term disability, three month paid family leave, 401k matches, student loan assistance, and more. We shared the bounty early and often, so much so that creating a “best place to work” sometimes felt like an exercise in outbidding ourselves. And to be honest, some folks began to take these measures for granted rather than understanding them as an investment in our culture and our team. In the minds of a few, no matter how much we did, it never seemed quite enough.

Corona times changed all that, as our team looks around and sees how many friends and family have been left in the cold by their employers. With genuine  transparency, we eliminated every unnecessary expense and put under lock and key every job and every benefit we could. These measures, along with the leaders eat last mind-set, have not gone unnoticed. Gratitude has emerged stronger than before. My team has seen that not only am I willing to walk the talk, but that if necessary I’ll do it barefoot.

We’re also celebrating everything. We no longer take for granted the small wins. We repaired a roof? Incredible! We leased a dinky parking space? Hell yes! Coached a tenant through a toilet flapper repair? WOOT!

“It’s the uncertainty,” Ben told me when we spoke recently. I’ve been scheduling one-on-one check-ins with every one of our fifty plus people. Check-ins are a big part of our culture.  Even more so now. Every manager, every day, calls every member of their team. Task number one is to find how they’re doing, personally.  How’s their health, how are their kids, parents, partner?  How are the pets? The distant relatives?  How’s their home? How’s their state of mind?

“I feel consumed by the unknown,” Ben said. What could I say to this? Exactly nothing: Despite my name, I have no wise words. All I can do is listen, and empathize. Ben recognizes this. At the end of the call he told me how he values the cultural foundation we’ve built, the trust and social capital necessary to support one another authentically. “I’m really comforted by these personal check-ins, both from my managers and with my team. Nobody has the answers, but here we all are, learning how to survive. Taking care of ourselves emotionally is a survival skill. And so is empathy.”

 We closed our offices at 15th and U on March 13. That afternoon I stood with Grace, the Flock President and my professional right hand, under the now iconic mural of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. that we commissioned for the side of our building. When the Justice sent a personal note of appreciation, I was flying high.  Now my work life feels more like a crash landing.
But it’s a crash we’ve survived.  On Friday March, 13th, Grace and I wondered aloud how we would manage properties we couldn’t visit. How we would we survive remotely. How we would keep the team functioning. How we would solve problems–and do it as cheerfully as usual–when we can’t see them with our own eyes.

We’ve learned the answer isn’t Zoom meetings or Google Hangouts or virtual happy hours. These are nice, but they’re just tactics, not a safety net. What’s saving us now is the company culture we’ve worked so hard to develop. Leaning into our culture is a way of work life for our Flock, but we’ve never tried it during a  pandemic.  Yet it feels natural and authentic. Even as we distanced, we moved fast and furious to protect and nurture our connections to one another.

Practically, this  means daily updates from me to the entire staff on business solvency, continuity and strategy. I keep transparency at the forefront, along with a bit of inspiration. We are deliberate about consistent and meaningful time to engage visually rather than reverting to audio calls. We give one another permission and leeway not to be operating at 100 percent, especially for those with kids at home. We give the staff time off: on a recent Friday, we designated a personal “(re)treat day,” the kind you can spend with a cocktail or two, or giving yourself a four hour pedicure, or while asleep. Nobody was watching. We have also gifted our team with simple, cost-effective surprises like delivering a six pack of craft beer or a nice red wine to their door.

Alongside personal check-ins, we launched a staff survey to determine not just productivity but everyone’s mental wellness and work-life balance. We hired a therapist to offer a professional ear during this time. And because philanthropy makes everyone feel better, we’re doubling down on our work to support the community. Last week we raised $4,000 in donations to help our local belagured restaurants deliver meals to medical teams and to staff tending to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.  To be frank, we’ve never felt so rich. We are grateful for the reminder that good fortune is measured more than just financially.

Before Grace and I parted ways on that gorgeous March day, I had one last unanswerable question. “When?” I wanted her to tell me when we would  return to this building, to our work home. When we would congratulate one another for having survived and succeeded.

She couldn’t, of course. “Who knows,” Grace said. “But we do know that we are essential. No matter what or when, we will always be welcoming people home.”

When I look through my bird watching binoculars, I see a future where we’ll be reunited sooner than we think. Human ingenuity will beat a path to safe togetherness once again. As for us, we’re busy working on a 24 month business plan that considers the need for Flock-branded personal protective equipment (already someone has invented a mask with a window for the hearing impaired, so safe smiling may be coming soon!), staff rotations, small scale meetings and whole new ways of engaging meaningfully with our residents, our property owners and our community. Soon enough we will emerge from this all-consuming unknown into a future we’ve created. We’ll nest back into our groove, tap into our creativity and our moxie, and when we come back together we’ll have invented a new normal that’s far better than the old.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

homepage news

Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead

No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

homepage news

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

Published

on

New fencing around the Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection prevented some D.C. bills from being delivered to the Hill for a required congressional review. (Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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.

Continue Reading

homepage news

D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested

Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011

Published

on

shooting, DC Eagle, assault, hate crime, anti-gay attack, police discrimination, sex police, Sisson, gay news, Washington Blade

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular