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District of Columbia

Fourth man charged in 2016 D.C. trans murder sentenced to seven years

But with credit for time served, Cyheme Hall could be free in two years

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<strong.Deeniquia ‘Dee Dee’ Dodds was shot to death in 2016. (Photo via Facebook)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on May 10 handed down a sentence of seven years in prison for the last of four men originally charged with first degree murder while armed in the July 4, 2016, shooting death of transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds on a street in Northeast Washington.

Judge Milton C. Lee delivered his sentence on Tuesday for D.C. resident Cyheme Hall, 26, just under three weeks after he issued the same seven-year sentence to Hall’s brother, Shareem Hall, 28, who, along with two other D.C. men, were initially charged with first degree murder while armed in connection with the Dodds case.

Police and prosecutors said Dodds was one of several transgender women that the Hall brothers and co-defendants Jalonta Little, 31, and Monte Johnson, 26, targeted for armed robberies in the early morning hours of July 4, 2016. Court charging documents say Johnson allegedly fatally shot Dodds in the neck after she fought back during the robbery attempt.

Lee acknowledged at the Tuesday, May 10 sentencing hearing that Cyheme Hall and his brother agreed to an offer in 2019 to cooperate with police and prosecutors following their arrests in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to a second-degree murder charge. The two brothers testified as government witnesses at Little and Johnson’s trial in 2019 on the first degree murder charge and other charges, including armed robbery.

The judge noted that because of that cooperation, prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. issued a recommendation that the two brothers be sentenced to seven years in the Dodds case, a sentence that Lee pointed out is far lower than the potential sentence for a second-degree murder conviction. Under D.C. law, a second-degree murder conviction has a maximum sentence of life in prison.

As part of the plea offer that Cyheme Hall accepted in 2019, he also pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence. Lee on May 10 sentenced him to seven years for that charge in addition to the seven years for the second degree murder charge. However, Lee ordered that the two sentences be served concurrently for a total of seven years.

Under standard sentencing practices, Lee gave Cyheme Hall and his brother credit for the just over five years the two have already served in jail since the time of their arrest. That means Cyheme Hall could be released in less than two years, after which he must serve five years of supervised probation after being released as part of the sentence handed down by Lee.

Cyheme Hall’s attorney, Jonathan Zucker, told Lee at the sentencing hearing that his client faces a possible sentence of nine years for a parole violation charge in connection with an unrelated burglary case in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Zucker said Hall was given a nine-year suspended sentence in the burglary case on the condition that he would not become involved in criminal activity during the time of his parole.

Lee declined a request by Zucker that Lee consider making a recommendation to the judge overseeing Hall’s parole violation case in Prince George’s County that the nine years be served concurrently with the seven years for the D.C. case.

Zucker said this means that it will be up to a Maryland judge to decide whether Cyheme Hall should serve up to nine years or less time in the Maryland case upon his release in the Dodds case.

The 2019 trial for Little and Johnson, meanwhile, ended with Judge Lee declaring a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict. Before the case went before the jury, prosecutors dropped their initial designation of the murder as a hate crime after Lee ruled in favor of a defense motion that there was insufficient evidence to prove a hate crime. Prosecutors said they filed the hate crime charge because they believe the men targeted Dodds because she was transgender.  

After initially saying they planned to request another trial on the murder charge, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office offered Little and Johnson a plea bargain deal, which they accepted, in which they pled guilty to a single count of voluntary manslaughter with the murder charge dropped.

The offer included a promise by prosecutors to ask for a sentence of eight years for the two men. Lee agreed to that request when he sentenced Little and Johnson to eight years last December.

Some LGBTQ activists have expressed concern that prosecutors should have pushed for a second trial for Johnson and Little. Activists have said reducing the charge from first degree murder to manslaughter sends a message that targeting members of the LGBTQ community for crimes of violence, especially trans women of color, can result in a lenient sentence of little more than a slapping of the wrist.

Attorneys familiar with criminal cases like this have said prosecutors sometimes offer a plea deal after determining that going to trial a second time could result in a not-guilty verdict based on the circumstances of the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Donovan, the lead prosecutor in the Dodds murder case, discussed prosecutors’ rationale for agreeing to a sentence of eight years for Little and Johnson during their sentencing hearing last December in response to a question from Lee asking whether the sentence was too lenient.     

“Your honor, we believe that this takes into consideration the first trial and the evidentiary difficulties that were highlighted during the first trial and other incidents that occurred during the first trial,” Donovan told Lee. She added that the impact of a sentence on the victim’s family and the community was also considered. “And we believe that taking all of that into consideration, that it is an appropriate sentence,” she said.

At his sentencing hearing on May 10, Cyheme Hall offered his apologies to the family of the victim and said he was deeply sorry for his role in the incident that took the life of Dodds.

In a written statement submitted to the court, Hall expressed his “deepest remorse” for his actions. “I know that no matter what I say or do, I cannot change what has happened but going forward I vow to dedicate the rest of my life righting my wrong,” he wrote. “I feel like I owe this to the victim as well as the family and my community.”

Lee thanked Hall for his statement but said he could not lower the sentence to six years, as requested by Hall’s attorney, nor could he ask the Maryland judge to consider a lower sentence for the parole violation.

“You did not have the strength to say no to this crime,” Lee told Hall. “You could have extricated yourself from this, but you didn’t. There are some things you can’t get out of,” Lee said. “It was shameful what you did.”

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District of Columbia

Pride Run returns after two-year hiatus

1,500 participants to join 10th annual event on June 10

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The Pride Run 5K is back after COVID hiatus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

After a two-year pandemic hiatus that saw the Pride Run go mostly virtual, the DC Front Runners Pride Run 5K is elated to once again welcome nearly 1,500 runners, walkers, volunteers, and spectators back to the Historic Congressional Cemetery for their Tenth Anniversary Race on Friday, June 10.

As an official Capital Pride Partner Event, the Pride Run 5K kicks off Capital Pride weekend with a bang. Well perhaps more of a “On your mark, get set, GO!” 

Join us as we run, walk, skip, shantay, and sashay on a course that starts near the cemetery’s “Gay Corner” where many LGBTQ rights activists, such as Leonard Matlovich, are interred. The race then winds along the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail to finish where you started.  

Gates open at 5 p.m. for packet pickup with the race beginning at 7 p.m. The post-race party includes beer and hard seltzer provided by DC Brau along with a DJ playing music until 9 p.m. Be sure to check out the return of the DCFR dance troupe performing to a hyped-up crowd. 

Race proceeds benefit the following local LGBTQ and youth-supporting organizations via the Pride Run Foundation: Ainsley’s Angels (National Capital Region), Casa Ruby, Team DC Student-Athlete Scholarship, SMYAL, The Wanda Alston Foundation, The Blade Foundation, and Teens Run DC. You can help support these amazing charities by registering for the race or donate directly at DCPrideRun.com.

A special thanks to the presenting sponsors, Capital One Café, Choice Hotels, KNEAD Hospitality + Design, Shake Shack, and Wegmans Food Market to the premier sponsors DC Brau, Pacers Running, and Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP, and our elite sponsors, AHF Healthcare Centers, Avalon Bay Communities, Casey Trees, Endorphin Fitness, and Starbucks, and of course our special partner the Historic Congressional Cemetery. Last, but not least, a big thank you to all individual donors who contribute via the race website directly to our incredible charity partners. Together, we proudly celebrate who we are in a festive, safe, and inclusive event.

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District of Columbia

Mattachine Society of D.C. donates documents to William & Mary

New LGBTQ archive established at Swem Library

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Charles Francis, anti-gay purge, Mattachine Society, gay news, Washington Blade
‘Our motto ‘Archive Activism’ brings us to this decision to donate all of our collection to William and Mary,’ said Charles Francis. (Photo courtesy Francis)

The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the group that collects historic documents related to the federal government’s discrimination against and persecution of LGBTQ people in past years, announced this week that it is donating all its documents to a newly created Archive of American LGBTQ Political and Legal History at the College of William & Mary.

The Williamsburg, Va., based college announced last week that its new LGBTQ archive is being established at its Swem Library in memory of the renowned gay historian John Boswell, who was a 1969 Bachelor of Arts graduate in history at the College of William & Mary.

“There are many fabulous collections of LGBTQ historical materials in libraries across the country, but this archive will have a unique focus on the political and legal architecture of the movement,” said Carrie Cooper, dean of University Libraries at William and Mary.

“Our motto ‘Archive Activism’ brings us to this decision to donate all of our collection to William and Mary, for the benefit of historians, researchers, and students nationwide,” said Charles Francis, co-founder of the reestablished Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. The group was originally founded by D.C. LGBTQ rights pioneer Frank Kameny in the early 1960s as D.C.’s first politically active LGBTQ organization.

“This exciting new archive will collect materials that illuminate the history of LGBTQ Americans’ struggle to secure their rights through the political process and legal systems of the nation,” according to LGBTQ rights advocate and former William & Mary Rector Jeff Trammell. 

Trammell is donating to the new archive material collected from his tenure as the first openly gay board chair of a major public university, a statement released by William & Mary says. It says Trammell’s donation is the second donation after the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., which made the first of what is expected to be many more LGBTQ-related documents to be donated to the new archive.

The Mattachine donation includes “original, declassified documents obtained by meticulous research into sources such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, numerous presidential library archives, and public and university libraries, to name just a few, according to attorney Pate Felts, the other Mattachine co-founder.

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District of Columbia

Capital Stonewall Democrats backs Robert White over Bowser

LGBTQ group endorses Erin Palmer over incumbent Mendelson

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Council member Robert White won the backing of Capital Stonewall Democrats in his bid for mayor over incumbent Muriel Bowser. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Stonewall Democrats, the city’s largest local LGBTQ political group, announced on May 17 that it has selected D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At-Large) over incumbent Mayor Muriel Bowser and political newcomer Erin Palmer over D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson as its endorsed candidates in the city’s June 21 Democratic primary.

With Bowser and Mendelson as well as White having longstanding records of support for LGBTQ rights and Palmer expressing strong support for the LGBTQ community, local observers say the LGBTQ Democratic group’s 163 voting members appear to have based their endorsement decisions on other pressing issues facing the city rather than only LGBTQ specific issues.

In other races, Capital Stonewall Democrats, formerly known as the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, which was founded in 1976, voted to endorse incumbent Ward 1 Council member Brianne Nadeau over gay former D.C. police officer Salah Czapary and community activist Sabel Harris who are running against Nadeau.

In the Ward 5 Council race, the group has endorsed gay D.C. Board of Education member Zachary Parker in a five-candidate contest for the seat being vacated by incumbent Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who ran unsuccessfully for the office of D.C. Attorney General.

The group has also endorsed Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who is running unopposed in the primary; D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who’s favored to win re-election against two lesser-known opponents; and D.C. shadow U.S. Rep. Oye Owolewa, who’s also favored over a lesser known opponent.

Capital Stonewall Democrats announced it did not make an endorsement in the Ward 3 and At-Large D.C. Council races and in the D.C. Attorney General race because no candidate received a required 60 percent of the vote under the group’s longstanding rules for endorsements.

By not endorsing in the At-Large race, the group passed over incumbent At-Large Council member Anita Bonds, a longtime supporter of LGBTQ issues. Bonds is being challenged by Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Lisa Gore, former D.C. shadow House member Nate Fleming, and former D.C. Council staffer Dexter Williams.

In the hotly contested Ward 3 Council race, nine candidates are competing for the seat being vacated by incumbent Mary Cheh, another longtime LGBTQ rights supporter.

In the race for attorney general, three prominent local attorneys — Brian Schwalb, Ryan Jones, and Bruce Spiva — are competing for the AG position being vacated by incumbent Karl Racine, who chose not to run for re-election.

Capital Stonewall Democrats’ endorsements follow a series of five LGBTQ candidate forums the group held virtually in which most of the candidates running in the various races attended.
In the group’s mayoral form, Bowser was the only one of the four mayoral contenders that did not attend. Her supporters said she had a conflicting event organized by gay Democratic activist Kurt Vorndran that prevented her from attending the Stonewall event.

Those who attended the mayoral forum were Robert White, D.C. Council member and mayoral candidate Trayon White (D-Ward 8), and former attorney and community activist James Butler.
A detailed vote tally released by Capital Stonewall Democrats shows the vote count for each of the endorsed candidates as well as candidates in the races for which the group did not make an endorsement.

In the mayoral race, Robert White received 120 votes, or 74.5 percent. Bowser came in second place with 37 votes or 23.0 percent; Trayon White received just two votes or 1.2 percent, with Butler receiving just 1 vote at 0.6 percent. One vote was cast for no endorsement.

In the D.C. Council Chair race, Palmer received 89 votes or 60.1 percent, just surpassing the 60 percent threshold needed for an endorsement. Mendelson received 48 votes or 32.4 percent. Eleven votes were cast for no endorsement.

In the Ward 1 Council race, Nadeau received 100 votes or 69.4 percent compared to gay candidate Czapary, who came in second place with 23 votes or 16.0 percent. Candidate Sabel Harris came in third place with 9 votes or 6.3 percent, with a no endorsement selection receiving 12 votes or 8.3 percent.

In the Ward 5 contest, gay school board member Parker received 91 votes or 64.5 percent. Candidate Faith Hubbard came in second with 31 votes or 22.0 percent. The remaining candidates received fewer than 10 votes each, including former At-Large and former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange, who received 5 votes or 3.5 percent.

“Since Capital Stonewall Democrats has only 221 members, and only 163 bothered to vote, this is clearly not representative of the LGBTQ+ community in the District,” said gay Democratic activist Peter Rosenstein, who is supporting Bowser for mayor.

But longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights advocate A. Billy S. Jones-Hennin is among the local activists who view the Capital Stonewall Democrats’ endorsement of lesser-known challengers – most of whom have progressive, left-leaning views – as a reflection of changes in the demographics of the LGBTQ community and the Stonewall group’s members.

“At the forefront for voters is who they feel can address core problems like crime, open drug transactions, and increased homeless populations,” Jones-Hennin told the Blade. “Just asking voters for support based on their support of the LGBTQ+ community in the past does not cut it,” he said. “We are multi-faceted voters looking for new, more progressive and aggressive leadership.”

The Capital Stonewall Democrats list of endorsements as well as races with no endorsement can be viewed below:

• Mayor: Robert White, with 74.5% of the round one vote
• DC Attorney General: No Endorsement
• DC Council Chair: Erin Palmer, with 60.1% of the round one vote
• Ward 1 Council: Brianne K. Nadeau, with 69.4% of the round one vote
• Ward 3 Council: No Endorsement
• Ward 5 Council: Zachary Parker, with 64.5% of the round one vote
• Ward 6 Council: Charles Allen, with 83.2% of the round one vote
• At-Large Council: No Endorsement
• Delegate to U.S. House of Representatives: Eleanor Holmes Norton, with 69.7% of the round one vote
• U.S. Representative: Oye Owolewa, with 66.1% of the round one vote

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