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District of Columbia

Lesbian activist assaulted with barstool at D.C. lounge

Police say victim’s claim of anti-gay hate crime under investigation

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Ward 8 community leader Aiyi’nah Ford says she was attacked in a local bar. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. police say they are actively investigating an Aug. 3 incident in which lesbian activist and Ward 8 community leader Aiyi’nah Ford says she was hit three times in the head with the metal legs of a barstool swung by a man yelling anti-gay names at her.

A police report says the incident took place at the Player’s Lounge, a restaurant and bar at 2737 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E., in the city’s Congress Heights neighborhood shortly before and after midnight on Aug. 3 and 4.   

Ford, who witnesses say was covered in blood when she stepped outside the restaurant after other patrons intervened, was taken by ambulance to George Washington University Hospital for treatment of a head and scalp injury that required multiple stitches. 

Ford and an employee at Player’s Lounge said the man who allegedly committed the assault is a regular customer at the restaurant but is known to people only by his nickname of Black. A police spokesperson said that as of Monday no arrest had been made in the case but that it remains under “active investigation” by a detective with the department’s Seventh District in Southeast.

A police report obtained by the Blade lists the incident as an assault with a dangerous weapon, but it does not classify the incident as a hate crime.

“There is no indication at this time that this incident was motivated by hate/bias,” said D.C. police spokesperson Alaina Gertz in response to a question by the Blade about the police report. “Should further interviews with the complainant reveal information that suggests that this should be a hate crime, the report can be amended with the new information,” Gertz said.

“Anyone who has knowledge of this incident should take no action but call police at 202-727-9099 or text your tip to the Department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411,” Gertz said in an email message. “The Metropolitan Police Department currently offers a reward of up to $10,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for a violent crime committed in the District of Columbia,” she said.

Ford told the Blade she believes she made it clear to the police officers who spoke with her at the scene of the incident that the man who assaulted her called her anti-gay names, including “dyke bitch.” In a video of herself talking about the incident that she posted on Facebook Ford refers to the assault against her as a “gay-bashing.”

The police report says officers arrived on the scene while Ford was being treated by paramedics with the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

“Victim 1 stated that she was talking to a friend of hers at the location when another person who frequents the location interjected himself and began to curse at Victim 1,” the police reports states. “The verbal altercation escalated, and Victim 1 stated Suspect 1 began to assault her with a bar stool,” the police report continues. “Other patrons at the bar broke up the altercation and Suspect 1 fled,” according to the report.

It adds, “Witness 1 corroborated Victim 1’s story and stated that Suspect 1 frequents the area but doesn’t know his name, only his nickname.”

Ford told the Blade the incident began while she and three or four Player’s Lounge customers were engaged in a conversation about local community issues, including the city’s violence interruption program. Ford said that, among other things, she expressed her strongly held opinion that the violence interruption program was not working and was a “joke.”

It was around that time, she said, that the man who assaulted her approached the group and interjected himself into the conversation and indicated that he was interested in possibly becoming one of the violence interrupter program volunteers or participants. Ford said the man, who appeared to be over six feet tall, began referring to women as “bitches” and hurled other curse words.

“So, we’re all going like, what?” Ford said of her and the others’ reaction to the man’s comments. At that point, most of those she was speaking with left the restaurant because it was close to its 11 p.m. closing time.

“And I’m like, who are you talking to?” Ford said she recalls asking the man. According to Ford, he responded by repeatedly reciting the words “dyke bitch” in a hostile way.

“At that point I immediately knew he was talking to me because I’m the only openly lesbian person in that space that frequents there regularly and who was in that room,” Ford told the Blade.

She said she questioned the man’s motives, including whether he could become a violence interrupter, and the two began to argue back and forth until, according to Ford, he walked up to her and stood almost shoulder to shoulder next to her.

“He continues to call me all kinds of homophobic slurs,” Ford said. “He calls me all kinds of bitches and continues to encourage the bar staff to get me to shut up before he shoots me and whatever else he will do to bring my death,” Ford said.

“Before I know it, he has picked up this barstool and hit me in the head,” said Ford. “He takes a second barstool and proceeds to hit me again,” she said, adding that he hit her a third time in the head with one of the barstools, each time with the metal legs of the stool.

Ford said she has learned that the man who assaulted her has told people she spit on him, which he considered to be an assault by her against him. Ford called that allegation a lie, saying she absolutely did not spit on the man.

When the Blade contacted Player’s Lounge for comment, a man who answered the phone arranged for Teresa “Auntie” Smith, one of the longtime employees who was present at the time of the incident, to speak with the Blade. Smith said while she was getting ready to close the restaurant she saw and heard what sounded like a heated argument between Ford and the man known as Black, but she said she was busy doing something in another part of the room and did not see the assault take place.

But she said both Ford and Black, whom she has known for a long time from their role as regular customers, were each saying “very mean things” that she had not heard either of them say before. Among other things, she said she heard Ford say to Black that he engaged in “oral sex with other men.”

When asked about Smith’s claim that she raised the issue of oral sex with Black, Ford said, “Yes, after he called me a dyke bitch I most certainly did.” Ford added, “It sounds like she’s saying that I deserved to be hit with a barstool. Nothing a woman says to a man that is yelling and encroaching on her personal space justifies hitting her in the head three times with a weapon,” Ford said.

“We at Players had a very sad incident on Wednesday night,” the restaurant said in an Aug. 5 post on its Facebook page about the assault case. “We are mostly family here and we look out for each other. We are so sorry for what happened and hope she will be ok,” the message says. “We are still trying to sort out the details of what happened, but we know that no one here would support gay bashing or any type of violence.”

Phil Pannell, a longtime D.C. LGBTQ rights and Ward 8 community activist, said he has organized LGBTQ community events at Player’s Lounge, saying it has the reputation of being an LGBTQ-friendly establishment for many years. He told the Blade that he was surprised upon learning of the assault against Ford because he was unaware of that type of incident ever having occurred at Player’s Lounge.

Ford, among other things, serves as executive director of the Future Foundation, a Ward 8-based community organization that provides services to local teenagers and their families. The organization’s website says one of its programs, called LGBTQ+ You, has provided a “safe space” drop-in facility for LGBTQ youth living in the city’s east of the Anacostia River neighborhoods.

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District of Columbia

White House officials, HHS secretary praise local monkeypox response

D.C. Health points to data showing sharp decline in new cases

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HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra praised D.C. Health’s response to monkeypox.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and two leaders of the White House monkeypox response team joined officials with the D.C. Department of Health on Thursday for a visit to D.C.’s recently opened Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E. in Ward 8.

In a briefing for reporters, who were invited to join Becerra and the White House officials on a tour of the clinic, the D.C. and federal officials pointed to a sharp decline in new monkeypox cases in D.C. as a sign of a successful federal and local government partnership in dramatically boosting the number of people at risk for monkeypox who have been vaccinated.

“I welcome you all to our Ward 8 Monkeypox Vaccine Clinic,” said Dr. Sharon Lewis, Interim Director of the D.C. Department of Health, which is also referred to as D.C. Health.

“Please take note that D.C. Health was very active in initiating back in May” the city’s effort to address monkeypox, she said. “We started our planning and as soon as we were aware of the first case in June, we had actually set up vaccines and were ready to implement our plan.”

Dr. Anil Mangla, the State Epidemiologist for the D.C. Department of Health, told the gathering the number of D.C. monkeypox cases peaked during the week of July 17, and new cases in the District have declined since then by an average of over 20 percent per week.

“I would call it our success story in D.C.,” Mangla said. “So, our cases peaked nine weeks ago, the week of July 17. If you look at the national trends and statistics, the nation essentially peaked about six weeks ago, so we were already three weeks in advance,” he said.

Mangla pointed out that the clinic where the HHS and White House officials visited on Thursday at 3640 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave., S.E. and the city’s two other Monkeypox vaccination clinics are walk-in facilities where D.C. residents can go for a vaccination without an appointment. The other two are located at 1900 I St., N.W. and 7530 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Becerra praised Mangla and his boss, Dr. Lewis, and their team of public health officials for aggressively reaching out to those at risk for monkeypox, including gay and bisexual men, to encourage them to get vaccinated and promptly treating those who tested positive for the monkeypox virus.

“So, let me first say to Director Lewis, Dr. Mangla, and to all your team, thank you for being affirmative in bringing in the steps to stop monkeypox,” Becerra said. “And more importantly, to go where the people are rather than waiting for the people to come to you.”

He said D.C. efforts in addressing monkeypox were among the efforts in other cities and states across the country where a joint federal-local partnership was taking place. 

“We need strong partnerships,” he said. “We need your help, because you know the many trusted voices in the communities that you’ve got more of than we would,” he said. “We’ll provide the vaccine,” said Becerra, noting that the Biden administration in partnership with various federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, has distributed more than a million vaccine doses nationally.

Among the White House officials who spoke at the briefing and joined the tour of the Ward 8 Monkeypox Vaccination Clinic was Robert Fenton, who President Biden on Aug. 2 named as White House National Monkeypox Response Coordinator. Also speaking was Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, who Biden named as White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator.

A statement released by the White House at the time Biden appointed the two men says Fenton has served as Regional Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region 9 in the western part of the U.S. and was considered one of the nation’s most experienced emergency management leaders.

The statement says Daskalakis, a leading public health expert, is currently the Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of HIV Prevention.

“Widely known as a national expert on health issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ communities, his clinical practice has focused on providing care for the underserved LGBTQIA+ communities,” the White House statement says.

In his remarks at the briefing on Thursday, Daskalakis also praised D.C. Health officials and the communities they have reached out to for encouraging behavioral changes among the groups most at risk for monkeypox.

“So, the clear message is that gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, and other gender diverse folks who have sex with men are not only getting the vaccine and testing, but also what they can do in their daily lives to be able to prevent infection,” he said. “I think that is another testament to the work you’ve done and is another example of the great partnership between federal public health and local public health.”

The D.C. Department of Health’s most recent data on monkeypox cases in the city shows that as of Sept. 15, the city had a cumulative total of 488 cases, with 19 hospitalizations and no deaths. Out of the 488 total, 97.3 percent were male, and 1.2 percent were female.

Regarding the sexual orientation of those who make up the 488 cases, 48 percent were listed as gay, 5.7 percent as bisexual, 3.9 percent as straight/heterosexual, 1 percent as “other,” and 41.4 percent as “Unknown.” The data released included an asterisk for the number of lesbian cases, which a footnote says could be four or fewer such cases.

At the briefing on Thursday, the Blade asked Dr. Mangla, the D.C. Health epidemiologist, to explain why he thought the number of D.C. monkeypox cases in gay men and other men who have sex with men were initially listed by D.C. Health officials to be over 90 percent of the total cases. But in recent weeks, the Blade pointed out, the data show the number of “gay” cases were at about 50 percent or a little lower and a new category of “unknown” sexual orientation cases was in the 40 percent to 50 percent range.

Mangla said he thought the discrepancy was due to a flaw in the data gathering during the early stage of the monkeypox outbreak in D.C. that has since been corrected. “It took us a few weeks to make that kind of adjustment and to say we are now confident enough that the data is accurate for policy decisions and anything else,” he said.

He did not say whether he or D.C. Health knows which demographic groups made up the “Unknown” category of 41.4 percent in the most recent data released.

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District of Columbia

Gay man gets 6.5 years in prison for stealing $2.1 million in pandemic funds

Former D.C. Catholic official pleaded guilty

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Kenneth P. Gaughan was sentenced earlier this month. (Photo via Facebook)

In a little-noticed development, a federal judge on Sept. 2 sentenced Kenneth P. Gaughan, a gay former assistant superintendent and contracting liaison for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, to six years and six months in prison on charges that he fraudulently obtained more than $2.1 million in funds for personal use from two federal COVID relief programs.

Records from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia show that Gaughan pleaded guilty on March 2, 2022, as part of a plea bargain offer by prosecutors to partially reduced charges related to the COVID relief program case as well as to a charge that he embezzled more than $438,000 from the Archdiocese of Washington, where he was employed from 2008 to 2018.

A statement released by the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. says Gaughan pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering in the federal relief fund case and one count of wire fraud in the case involving the Archdiocese of Washington.

Gaughan was released while awaiting trial after his arrest on Aug. 11, 2020, on a criminal complaint that combined the charges from the federal relief fund case and the Archdiocese of Washington case. 

In addition to the six years and six months prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan sentenced Gaughan to three years of supervised probation upon his release. She also ordered that he pay restitution for the money he is charged with stealing through fraud and embezzlement at an amount to be determined at a Nov. 15 restitution hearing, according to court records.

“For a decade, Kenneth Gaughan stole money meant to help needy people, businesses, and organizations, starting with a scheme defrauding his own employer and later looting government COVID-relief efforts,” said U.S. Attorney for D.C. Matthew M. Graves in a statement released at the time of the sentencing.

“He went to great lengths to conceive, carry out, and conceal his crimes,” Graves said. “Now, he will be facing the consequences of his greed with confinement in a federal prison.”

The statement released by the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office says Gaughan’s work at the Archdiocese of Washington, which oversees churches and Catholic schools in D.C. and Maryland, included overseeing services such as anti-bullying programs, crisis intervention, and professional development efforts at approximately 95 Catholic schools.

“Beginning in at least June 2010 and continuing through April 2018, Gaughan caused the Archdiocese to pay invoices manufactured by Gaughan purportedly for anti-bullying and crisis intervention programs, as well as for software used to send mass messages to Archdiocese students and families,” the statement says. It says he concealed his ownership and control of three companies that billed the Archdiocese for services the fake companies never performed.

The statement says Gaughan targeted the COVID-related Federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program for his fraud scheme in which he allegedly stole more than $2.1 million. It points to evidence gathered by the FBI and the IRS showing that Gaughan created at least nine fake companies to apply for COVID relief loans that, under the relief programs, do not have to be repaid.

Charges filed in court show that most of the fake companies Gaughan created purported to provide support for animals, using such names as Service Dog of America, Inc. and Therapy Dog Incorporated.

“Gaughan made false representations to receive the loan funds, including forged paperwork and bank records,” the U.S. Attorney’s statement says. “Gaughan then used a portion of the loan proceeds to purchase a 2020 Cruisers Yachts 338 CX 33-foot watercraft, a 2020 Kia Stinger, and a rowhouse in Northeast Washington,” according to the statement.

A sentencing memorandum filed in court by prosecutors in August called on the judge to hand down a sentence of 78 months in prison, which is what the judge handed down at the Sept. 2 sentencing. The sentencing memo also notes that Gaughan agreed in his plea deal to pay restitution in the amount of $2,620,665.99, a higher amount than the amount prosecutors initially said he stole through the government relief programs and from the Archdiocese of Washington. 

“The higher amount includes additional victim requests made after the entry of the plea that should be awarded as mandatory restitution,” the sentencing memo says.

The memo makes no mention of whether Gaughan has the financial ability to pay that amount.

Property records from the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue show that the townhouse that Gaughan allegedly bought with stolen and embezzled funds at 112 V St., N.E. in June 2020 for $1,089,000 was sold by the city in a tax sale in August of this year. The city property records show the owner, which was identified as 112 V St., NE Trust, was $24,596 in arrears in property taxes. The Blade couldn’t immediately determine whether Gaughan or someone else owned the 112 V St., NE Trust company.

Court records also show that Gaughan’s attorney, Jonathan N. Rosen, filed a motion in court on Sept. 15 requesting that Gaughan be placed in the Federal Correctional Institution prison in Morgantown, W.Va. “and that the defendant be allowed to self-surrender after the restitution hearing in these matters,” which is scheduled for Nov. 15. 

Although the public court records do not show whether Gaughan was ordered to begin his prison sentence at the time of the Sept. 2 sentencing, the motion by his attorney suggests he may not have been sent to jail at the time the motion was filed on Sept. 15.

Rosen couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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District of Columbia

‘Casa Ruby should be dissolved’: report

Court filing by Wanda Alston Foundation paints grim picture

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June Crenshaw is executive director of the Alston Foundation, which determined that Casa Ruby should be dissolved. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Wanda Alston Foundation, which a D.C. Superior Court judge named last month as the city’s receiver for the LGBTQ community services center Casa Ruby, issued a preliminary finding in an interim report filed in court on Tuesday, Sept. 13, declaring that “Casa Ruby should be dissolved in an orderly manner pursuant to D.C. Code.”

The seven-page Receiver’s First Interim Report says an ongoing examination of Casa Ruby’s financial records, which it says were in disarray, indicates outstanding liabilities exceeding $2 million.

“Other than an assortment of donated furnishings at the two leased properties, there are no other meaningful assets,” the report says.

It says the Alston Foundation took immediate steps to secure financial records and sensitive documents pertaining to Casa Ruby’s clients and employees that were abandoned in two leased offices in the Dupont Circle area.

“Casa Ruby’s landlords and employees had gone unpaid for some time and both sites were abandoned and appeared to have been ransacked,” the report says. “The documents which remained were in complete disarray and would require time to collect, organize, and analyze,” it says.

“Eighty percent of the critical records and files at 1635 Connecticut Avenue [N.W.] have been secured and removed,” the report says, enabling the receiver to vacate the property prior to an eviction underway by the landlord.

“However, additional time may be required to go through the records and files at 2033 Connecticut Avenue,” according to the report, which says may require the court to order a temporary stop on the pending eviction at that property.

Superior Court Judge Danya A. Dayson issued an order on Aug. 12 naming the Alston Foundation as the Casa Ruby receiver at the recommendation of the Office of the D.C. Attorney General. The AG’s office stated in court filings that Casa Ruby and its founder and longtime executive director, Ruby Corado, had violated the city’s Nonprofit Corporations Act by failing to account for the expenditure funds provided by D.C. government grants and private donors.  

The judge’s order came one day after she approved the AG office’s request that Casa Ruby be placed under receivership and two weeks after the judge approved the AG’s request that all of Casa Ruby’s bank and credit card accounts be frozen.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said his office’s action put forward in a civil lawsuit against Casa Ruby came after he opened an investigation that found the LGBTQ community services center had failed to pay landlords more than $1 million in back rent and could no longer pay the salaries of its employees, forcing the organization to cease most of its operations before a full shutdown in late July.   

The receiver’s report filed in court on Monday says in its capacity as receiver, the Alston Foundation attempted to contact Ruby Corado for any additional documents or information related to Casa Ruby’s finances, but Corado did not respond to an email message requesting the information.

“The Receiver did reach out to the D.C. Attorney General’s Office to advise them of potential criminal misconduct that it had uncovered and to make arrangements for the transfer of items deemed to have a significant potential evidentiary value,” the report says. “The details of those discussions and arrangements are omitted from this report in the interest of protecting anticipated ongoing criminal investigations,” it says.

The Alston Foundation, a longstanding LGBTQ organization, has provided housing and support services for D.C. homeless and at-risk LGBTQ youth since its founding in 2008. 

In her Aug. 12 order naming the Alston Foundation as the Casa Ruby receiver, Judge Dayson directed the Alston Foundation to submit a preliminary status report by Sept. 13 on its findings on whether Casa Ruby had or could obtain the financial resources to resume operating as an organization supporting LGBTQ people in need, such as emergency housing and immigrant related services, or whether it should be dissolved in an orderly manner.

The judge also asked that the report assess whether the Casa Ruby board of directors “should be reconstituted” following allegations by the D.C. Attorney General’s office that the board for years failed to provide legally required oversight of Casa Ruby’s finances and actions by Ruby Corado. 

“Casa Ruby’s Board of Directors failed to provide any meaningful oversight and Casa Ruby should be dissolved in an orderly manner pursuant to D.C. Code 29-412.23,” the Alston Foundation interim report states.

Alston Foundation Executive Director June Crenshaw and its Board of Directors chairperson, Darrin Glymph, couldn’t immediately be reached to determine whether they might reconsider the recommendation of dissolving Casa Ruby as an organization if new members could be recruited to serve on the Casa Ruby board.

The judge, who is expected to make the final decision on the fate of Casa Ruby, called all parties in the case, including Ruby Corado, to appear in court or appear virtually through a phone or video hookup on Sept. 29 for a status hearing.

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