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Brett Parson arrested in Florida on sex with minor charges

Former D.C. police lieutenant served as head of LGBT Liaison Unit

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Brett Parson, gay news, Washington Blade
Former D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Former D.C. police lieutenant Brett Parson, who served as supervisor of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit before retiring from the force in 2020, was arrested in Boca Raton, Fla., on Feb. 12, for allegedly having sex with a consenting 16-year-old boy in violation of Florida’s age of consent law, which is 18, according to an arrest affidavit filed in court.

The affidavit, which was prepared by a detective with the Coconut Creek (Fla.) Police Department, says the 16-year-old told police he and Parson met on the gay online dating app called Growlr and agreed to meet for a possible sexual encounter after exchanging “explicit” photos of each other.

An arrest warrant obtained by Coconut Creek police charges Parson with two counts of “Unlawful Sexual Activity with a Minor.” A separate incident and investigative report filed in court by Boca Raton police says officers with that department, in cooperation with Coconut Creek police, arrested Parson outside the Boca Raton residence of his parents where Parson was staying while visiting Florida from D.C.

The Washington Blade couldn’t immediately reach Parson for comment or determine the status of his case. Fox News reported it obtained court records showing Parson was being held at the Main Detention Center in Palm Beach County without bond as of Feb. 14, and it wasn’t clear if he had retained an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

The incident report filed by Boca Raton police says Parson was arrested on Feb. 12, several hours after Coconut Creek police say he and the 16-year-old allegedly had a sexual encounter in a car belonging to Parson’s father that Parson was driving and after he and the 16-year-old arranged to meet at a gas station in Coconut Creek near where the youth lives.

Criminal defense lawyers have expressed concern on behalf of clients in similar cases that an adult arrested for having consensual sex with a 16 or 17-year-old in a state where the age of consent is 18 would not have violated the law in states where the age of consent is 16. An online search of U.S. age of consent laws shows that at least 16 states and D.C. have established the age of consent for sexual acts at 16.

At the time of his retirement in 2020 after 26 years on the D.C. police force, Parson announced he was starting a consulting business to advise law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad on police-related issues. He also announced he would become a part-time volunteer D.C. police reserve officer as part of the department’s Reserve Officer Corps.

When asked to confirm media reports that Parson had been removed from his position as a reserve officer, D.C. police spokesperson Sean Hickman sent the Blade a short statement confirming those reports.

“We were made aware of the retired member’s arrest early Sunday morning,” the statement says. “MPD immediately terminated him from our Reserve Corps.”

According to the arrest affidavit filed by Coconut Creek Police Det. Sgt. John McKinney, officers on routine duty during the early morning hours of Feb. 12 observed a vehicle driven by the 16-year-old being followed by a vehicle driven by Parson. The affidavit says the officers approached both vehicles after they observed the vehicle driven by the 16-year-year-old, a Ford Focus, turned into a “restricted access facility owned by Comcast.”

It says the vehicle driven by Parson, a red Buick convertible, “waited in the middle of the roadway,” prompting officers to approach Parson. The affidavit says Parson told the officers he was a police officer visiting his parents from D.C. and wasn’t familiar with the area and simply got lost. It says the officers allowed Parson to leave the area after he told them he did not know the person in the other vehicle.

“The officers then made contact with the driver of the gray Ford Focus, later identified as the 16-year-old minor hereinafter referred to as ‘RT,’” the affidavit says. “RT advised the officers that he was using Growlr, a dating application for gay men, to communicate with a male who identified himself as Brett,” the affidavit continues. “He stated that Brett told him he was looking for no strings attached casual sex, repeatedly asked him to meet, and sent each other explicit photographs.”

After initially meeting at a Shell gas station, at about 1 a.m. on Feb. 12, he and Parson arranged to drive to another location and park their cars in a secluded parking lot at the site of a daycare center in Coconut Creek, where RT got into the car Parson was driving, according to the affidavit. He told police the two talked for a while before they began kissing and a short time later performed oral sex on each other, the affidavit says RT recounted to police.

It says that the two attracted the attention of police when RT became nervous after someone walked past the parked car where he and Parson were engaging in intimate acts and the two decided to drive in their separate cars to find another location. That’s when police noticed that RT drove his vehicle into a restricted area and officers approached him to find out what was going on.

The affidavit does not say what prompted RT to disclose the intimate details of his alleged sexual acts with Parson when the officers would not otherwise have learned about that. The affidavit also doesn’t explain how it came about that RT’s parents arrived on the scene where police were interviewing their son as stated in the affidavit, although it’s likely that RT provided police with his parents contact information.

“We first spoke with RT’s parents and explained what we knew up to this point and the process involved in a case of this nature,” the affidavit states. “After a detailed explanation of their options, RT’s parents stated they would like to press charges against Brett Parson and together with their son would consent to the necessary steps for evidence collection,” it says.

“We then spoke with RT,” the affidavit says in recounting the action by McKinney and other police investigators. “It should be noted that RT is a thin build male who clearly does not appear to be 18 years of age or older,” it says. The affidavit says RT then repeated his account of his interactions with Parson that he gave to the officers who stopped him in his car earlier that morning.

The affidavit says RT turned over his phone to police to allow them to read the text messages that he and Parson exchanged after they met on the Growlr dating site. It quotes RT texting Parson to say “so sexy” after Parson sent him a shirtless photo of himself. After RT sent Parson a clothed photo of himself, Parson replied, “You are so cute,” the affidavit says. It says the two subsequently exchanged “explicit” photos of each other.

The affidavit’s recounting of the text messages between Parson and RT makes it clear that RT willingly chose to meet Parson for a sexual encounter knowing that Parson was an older man. The affidavit says Parson is 53.

After interviewing RT and his parents, the affidavit says detectives escorted them to the Coconut Creek Police’s Sexual Assault Treatment Center “for a physical examination, evidence collection and sworn recorded statement.” It says RT was then shown a group of photos of others along with Parson’s photo and he “positively identified Brett” as the person with whom he engaged in sexual activity.

“Based on the facts above, probable cause exists for the issuance of an arrest warrant for Brett Parson because Parson, who is over 24 years of age, did engage in sexual activity, in this case oral sex with each other, involving the victim who is only 16 years of age,” the affidavit concludes.

By mentioning that Parson was older than 24 years or age the affidavit was referring to the Florida age of consent statute that allows a person between the age of 18 and 23 to legally engage in consensual sex with a person who is 16 or 17 years old.

The affidavit does not say — and it could not immediately be determined — whether RT self identifies as gay, whether he was out to his parents as a gay person before the incident with Parson surfaced, or whether his parents are supportive of his sexual orientation. LGBTQ youth advocates have reported that many LGBTQ young people are confronted with hostile parents who disparage their sexual orientation or gender identity and sometimes prompt the young LGBTQ people to run away from their homes.

Gay former D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Alex Padro, who says he has known Parson for many years in Padro’s role as a community activist in the city’s Shaw neighborhood, said Parson “earned my respect and that of many in our city and beyond” during Parson’s career as a police officer.

“Brett Parson served our city proudly for 26 years before his retirement in 2020,” Padro said. “Just like anyone else accused of a crime, Mr. Parson deserves to be treated as being innocent until proven guilty, and is entitled to mount a defense,” he said.

“MPD’s action in terminating a 26-year veteran of its ranks from the Reserve Corps without due process, without even hearing his side of the story is both un-American and unjust, depriving our citizens and MPD of his years of experience and demonstrating to those volunteer reservists that MPD does not have their back,” Padro said.  

D.C. gay activist Rick Rosendall said Parson’s arrest raises the issue of teenage sexuality that the prevailing political and social climate does not appear ready to address.

“A 16-year-old cruising on Growlr may be a poor choice for a sexual partner, but he is not a victim,” Rosendall said. “Our society continues to have the most absurdly counterproductive attitudes regarding teenage sexuality, as if it could be wished away,” he said. “The result of this denialism is teen pregnancies and STDs.”

“Brett Parson has done our community considerable service and I hold him in high regard,” added Rosendall.

Legal observers have said age of consent laws are based on the long-held belief that a person under the age determined to be the legal “age of consent” is incapable of giving informed consent to sexual acts.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride reveals 2023 Pride theme

This year will focus on ‘peace, love, revolution’

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Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith speaks at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in D.C. on March 16, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Over 300 people turned out Thursday night, March 16, for the annual D.C. Capital Pride Reveal celebration, which organizers say served as the official kick-off of the LGBTQ Pride events for 2023 in the nation’s capital.

Among other plans for the 2023 Pride events, including the annual Pride parade and festival, organizers announced this year’s theme for the Pride festivities will be “peace, love, revolution.”

The event took place in one of the large ballrooms at D.C.’s Kimpton Hotel Monaco at 700 F St., N.W.

Officials with Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s annual Pride events, also announced at the Reveal celebration that the 2023 Pride events will set the stage for 2025, when D.C. will serve as the host city for World Pride 2025.

World Pride is an international LGBTQ event that takes place over a period of several days that usually draws a million or more visitors from countries throughout the world to the host city.

Organizers of the World Pride celebration announced last year that they had accepted D.C.’s bid to host World Pride 2025. The bid was prepared by the Capital Pride Alliance and D.C. government officials, including officials from the office of Mayor Muriel Bowser and the city’s convention and visitor’s bureau.

“We are thrilled to introduce our theme for Capital Pride 2023 as we gear up to welcome the world to D.C. in 2025, which is also the 50th anniversary of Pride in D.C.,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos in a statement released on Friday. “This year’s theme kicks off a three-year campaign leading into the message that we want to share with the world in 2025,” Bos said.

In the statement it released on Friday, Capital Pride explained its rationale for selecting its theme, saying it was based in part on the LGBTQ rights movement’s history.

“Social justice issues, including those involving the LGBTQ+ community, were shaped by moments that turned into movements beginning in the 1950s and in the years that followed,” the statement says. “These movements created a REVOLUTION of change that sparked the beginning of newfound freedoms,” it says.

“The fight for these liberties instilled a sense of Pride in members of the LGBTQ+ community in the decades since,” the statement continues. “PEACE and LOVE motivated many of these pioneers to be brave and inspired others to fight for human rights for years to come,” it says.

The statement points out that “recent challenges” have arisen in state legislatures and in Congress that have once again placed the LGBTQ community “under fire from those who would deny us our basic civil rights.” It says these challenges will require a continuation of the fight for freedom “through direct action in the streets and the halls of government.”

Among those who spoke at the Reveal event, in addition to Bos, were Capital Pride Board President Ashley Smith, and Capital Pride’s public affairs director, Marquia Parnell.

Also speaking was Japer Bowles, director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, who told the gathering that the city government, especially Bowser, will be working diligently to provide full city support for WorldPride 2025.

D.C. drag performer Shi-Queeta-Lee drew loud applause from the crowd that filled the hotel ballroom for a drag performance after the speakers addressed the crowd.

“We’re going to be focused on peace, love, and revolution over the course of this next year,” Smith told the Washington Blade at the conclusion of the Reveal event. “We’re super excited about it because this is a part of the movement that adds to the historical pieces as we approach 2025 and World Pride in 2025,” he said.

In its statement released on Friday, the Capital Pride Alliance announced the 2023 Capital Pride Parade will take place June 10, and will travel the same route as last year’s D.C. Pride Parade. A Pride block party will also take place this year in a two-block section of 17th Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle in the same location as last year, the Capital Pride announcement says.

And it says the annual Capital Pride Festival and concert will take place on June 11, also at the same location as last year — along a stretch of Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., with the U.S. Capitol as a backdrop.  

“Through the events of Capital Pride and its many partnerships, last year Capital Pride Alliance was able to raise over $200,000 for the Pride 365 Fund,” according to the Capital Pride statement. 

“The success of last year allowed CPA to invest and partner with the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community to establish a new LGBTQ+ community center for Washington, D.C., and continue the support of partner organizations that organize events such as DC Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride, Silver Pride, Latinx Pride and Asian and Pacific Islander Pride,” the statement says.

Further details of plans for Capital Pride 2023 can be access at www.CapitalPride.org.

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District of Columbia

Casa Ruby board members deny responsibility for org’s collapse

Civil complaints filed against officials to be discussed at March 17 hearing

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Ruby Corado has denied engaging in any improper financial actions. (Washington Blade photo by Ernesto Valle)

At least five of the eight former members of the Casa Ruby board of directors who are named in a civil complaint charging them with failing to adequately oversee the organization’s finances and practices by its former director Ruby Corado have filed court papers disputing the allegations against them.

Details of their response to a third-party civil complaint filed against them by the Wanda Alston Foundation in its role as the court-appointed receiver of the now-defunct Casa Ruby LGBTQ community services center were expected to surface at a March 17 D.C. Superior Court virtual hearing on the Casa Ruby case.

The Alston Foundation’s complaint was filed on Dec. 23, several months after the Office of the D.C. Attorney General filed its own civil complaint against Casa Ruby and Ruby Corado. The Attorney General’s complaint, among other things, alleges that Corado and the organization violated the city’s Nonprofit Corporations Act in connection with its financial dealings. An amended version of the original complaint charges that Corado withdrew more than $400,000 of Casa Ruby’s funds for unauthorized use in El Salvador, where Corado currently lives.

The Alston Foundation complaint, which also names Corado as a defendant, identifies each of the eight former board members as defendants and “respectfully requests restitution, compensatory damages, punitive damages, receivership fees and expenses, court costs, attorneys fees and expenses, and any other relief the court deems necessary and proper.”

According to the complaint, each of the board members failed to exercise their legally required oversight of Casa Ruby’s operations and of practices by Corado that allegedly resulted in the financial collapse of Casa Ruby, forcing it to close its operations.

Miguel Rivera, one of the former board members who is an attorney, states in his response to the complaint that it “fails and/or may be barred, in whole or in part, because a bona fide fiduciary relationship did not exist between Third-Party Plaintiff [Alston Foundation on behalf of Casa Ruby] and Third-Party Defendant Miguel Rivera.”

Rivera’s response adds that the complaint should be dismissed on a wide range of grounds, including his assertion that he as a board member “has not engaged in (a) willful misconduct; (b) crimes; (c) transactions that resulted in improper personal benefits of money, property, or service; and (d) acts or omissions that are not in good faith and are beyond the scope of authority of the corporation.”

The responses filed by the former board members are not included in the current online D.C. Superior Court case docket for the Casa Ruby case. At the request of the Washington Blade, Douglas Buchanan, the court’s public information officer, provided the Blade with the responses by Rivera and former board members Meredith Zoltick and Carlos Gonzales.

Similar to Rivera’s response, the response filed by Zoltick and Gonzales also disputes the validity of the complaint and asks the judge to dismiss the case against them.

Nick Harrison, the attorney representing the Alston Foundation in its role as Casa Ruby Receiver, said he has learned that another two former Casa Ruby board members have filed some form of a response to the complaint against them.

In a separate motion filed in court on Jan. 21, Harrison states on behalf of the Alston Foundation that it has taken the legally required steps needed to properly serve each of the eight former board members with court papers informing them they have been named as defendants in the complaint. He said he expects Superior Court Judge Danya Dayson, who is presiding over the Casa Ruby case, to rule that the legally required efforts to serve each of the defendants have been met.

Court records show that Corado, who has appeared in previous virtual court hearings through a phone hookup, has yet to retain an attorney to represent her.

Corado has denied engaging in any improper financial actions and has insisted the Casa Ruby board approved her actions, including her decision to open a Casa Ruby operation in El Salvador. In a December interview with the Blade’s El Salvador correspondent, Corado said the allegations that D.C. officials have made against her amount to “persecution.”

At a Jan. 6 court hearing held virtually, Corado reiterated her earlier claims that the D.C. government was responsible for Casa Ruby’s closing in July 2022 by withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars that Corado says the city owed Casa Ruby for services it provided under city grants.

City officials have disputed those claims, saying the funds were withheld or discontinued because Casa Ruby did not provide the required documentation or reports showing that it performed the work associated with the city grants.

The March 17 court hearing is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. and will be broadcast through the court’s Webex system.

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District of Columbia

Protesters show up at D.C. Gospel Drag Brunch

Monthly event at Capitol Hill restaurant continued uninterrupted

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Shi-Queeta-Lee performs at Perry's on Sunday, March 12, the day after the incident at Crazy Aunt Helen's. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

About four or five men showed up Saturday morning, March 11, outside the Crazy Aunt Helen’s restaurant in the Barracks Row section of Capitol Hill to protest the restaurant’s monthly Gospel Drag Brunch.

According to drag performer Shi-Queeta-Lee, who performs at the event, and the restaurant’s owner, Shane Mason, the small group of protesters displayed a large sign saying, “Pride Is of The Devil” and recited biblical passages from a bullhorn.

But Lee and Mason said the Gospel Drag Brunch, which sells out each time it is held, took place uninterrupted by the protesters, who were told by a D.C. police officer not to interfere with customers entering or leaving the restaurant.

The mini protest took place two weeks after D.C. police turned out in full force at the same restaurant after news surfaced that the far-right group Proud Boys planned to stage a potentially violent protest against a Drag Story Hour event scheduled to take place at the restaurant on Feb. 25.

As it happened, the Proud Boys did not show up to protest, according to D.C. police. Instead, dozens of supporters of the drag event turned out along with members of Parasol Patrol, a group of Drag Story Hour supporters that have supported similar events in other parts of the country.

The Drag Story Hour events, held in bookstores, libraries, and other places around the country, consist of drag queens reading children’s stories to children accompanied by their parents. Mason said Crazy Aunt Helen’s restaurant hosts the Drag Story Hour twice a month.

The March 11 protest outside Crazy Aunt Helen’s against the Gospel Drag Brunch appeared to attract far less attention than the cancelled protest by the Proud Boys.

In a video recording of Shi-Queeta-Lee speaking to the protesters before she began her Gospel Drag Brunch performance, which was taken by one of the participants in her show, at least one of the protesters appeared to be surprised when Lee challenged their opposition to the drag event on religious grounds.

“I grew up in the church,” Lee told the Washington Blade. “I’m from the South and so I know where these people are coming from,” Lee said, adding that her response to the protesters in her brief exchange with them was, “Who are you to judge me and how I live my life or what I choose to do with my life?”

On the video, one of the protesters can be heard saying he is an “ex-transgender” person who followed God’s will and chose to leave a life of sin.

Mason said he, too, was raised in a religious family and is the son of a Pentecostal preacher.

“So, I understand how these folks think,” he said. He told the Blade he hired Shi-Queeta-Lee to be the host of his restaurant’s Gospel Drag Brunch to provide a unique show with a supportive, nonjudgmental religious theme. He said the show includes a gospel piano player who plays gospel music to which Lee sings and three other drag performers lip sync as they join Lee in putting on the show.

“We had people showing up for brunch who weren’t even planning on coming to brunch because they heard there was a commotion and they wanted to come over and support us,” Mason said in discussing the March 11 protest. 

Meanwhile, with the next twice monthly Drag Story Hour scheduled for Saturday, March 18, Mason said he has not heard any reports of yet another protest and was hopeful the children’s event will take place in a calm and pleasant way similar to past events.

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