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Man accused of assaulting lesbian activist surrenders to D.C. police

Aiyi’nah Ford attacked at Congress Heights bar earlier this month

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Aiyi'nah Ford at the 2022 National Cannabis Faestival (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. police on Aug. 11 charged a 46-year-old D.C. man with assault with a dangerous weapon in connection with an incident earlier this month in which lesbian activist Aiyi’nah Ford said she was hit in the head three times with the metal legs of a barstool wielded 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 Aug. 4.

Police identified the man charged in the case as Donnell Anthony Peterson, who police say is a resident of 1200 block of Southern Avenue in Southeast D.C.

Ford told the Washington Blade that Peterson, who is a regular customer at Player’s Lounge as is she, assaulted her after the two got into a verbal argument over, among other things, the city’s violence interruption program. Ford said she told Peterson and others who were having a discussion that she considered the program to be ineffective and a “joke.”

It was around that time, Ford said, that Peterson began repeatedly calling her a “dyke bitch” and threatened to shoot her.

The arrest affidavit says witnesses reported seeing Ford covered in blood from a serious head injury before an ambulance arrived on the scene and took her to George Washington University Hospital, where she was treated for a head and scalp wound that required multiple stitches. 

The affidavit, which was filed in D.C. Superior Court, says Peterson on Aug. 11 “turned himself into the Seventh District Police Station,” saying he did so after someone told him police issued a Twitter posting announcing he was wanted on an assault allegation.

Court records show that at the time of his arrest, D.C. police also charged Peterson with Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance (Cocaine) based on an unrelated Aug. 26, 2021, outstanding warrant for his arrest on the drug charge obtained by U.S. Park Police. 

The affidavit for his arrest on the assault charge says police learned about the outstanding U.S. Park Police arrest warrant when they conducted a criminal record background check after learning through a tip that Peterson was the person who allegedly assaulted Ford at Player’s Lounge.

Court records also show that Peterson appeared before Superior Court Judge Renee Raymond on Aug. 12, one day after his arrest, for a presentment hearing in which Raymond ordered him held in the D.C. Jail until a scheduled preliminary hearing on Monday.

At the Monday hearing, through his attorney, Peterson waived his right to a full preliminary hearing and agreed that Judge Neal E. Kravitz, who presided over the hearing, would rule that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office established probable cause that Peterson committed the assault. The probable cause finding means that the case can proceed to a trial.

While ruling in favor of probable cause, Kravitz denied a request by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alec Levy that Peterson continue to be held in jail pending trial. Levy argued that Peterson “viciously” hit Ford over the head with a barstool at least two times as shown on a video recording of the incident obtained from a camera from Player’s Lounge video security system.

Levy also said that at the time Peterson assaulted Ford he used “derogatory” language referring to her sexual orientation. 

But court records show that as of the time of the Monday hearing, the U.S. Attorney’s office did not list the assault against Ford as a bias related crime.

In response to an inquiry by the Blade, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office said the office is not considering adding a bias or hate related enhancement to the assault charge. “We typically do not comment on charging decisions and have no further comment,” said spokesperson William Miller. 

As part of his argument for Peterson to be held while awaiting trial, Levy requested and received permission from the judge to show a segment of the video on a large projection screen in the courtroom. Peterson, who is seen in the video wearing a red shirt, is shown knocking Ford to the floor, and picking up a bar stool and twice hitting her in the head with the metal legs of the stool.   

Levy concluded his argument by noting that Peterson has three prior convictions on drug related charges. The prosecutor said Peterson fled the scene when he was stopped in his car by U.S. Park Police who found cocaine in the vehicle in August 2021, which resulted in the warrant for his arrest being issued and which Levy called a fourth prior criminal offense.

Combined with the Assault with a Dangerous Weapon charge, Levy argued that Peterson should be held pending trial on grounds that he is a danger to the community.

Brandon Burrell, Peterson’s court appointed attorney, argued that the current assault case was the only case in which Peterson is accused of a crime of violence. Burrell said that Peterson has never failed to appear at a court hearing in any of his prior arrest cases and is gainfully employed at a facility providing services to senior citizens in Ward 8. 

Burrell also said he plans to point to evidence shown in the video of the assault at Player’s Lounge that Ford acted in an aggressive and hostile way toward Peterson and that Peterson has grounds for making a case of self-defense. Levy disputed Burrell’s claim that there may be grounds for self-defense. Levy said that, among other things, the video footage shows Peterson acting as the aggressor by violently wielding a bar stool as a weapon.

After listening to the arguments by the defense and prosecutor and after reading the arrest affidavit, which describes in detail the segments of the video that were not shown in the courtroom, Kravitz ruled that Peterson was eligible to be released into the court’s high intensity supervision program. Kravitz ordered Peterson into “home confinement” at his residence in Southeast D.C. except for the time during the week when he goes to work at his job. The judge also ordered that Peterson must wear a GPS device that keeps track of his whereabouts. 

Kravitz scheduled a felony status conference for which Peterson must return to court on Sept. 16. 

The four-page arrest affidavit prepared by a D.C. police detective describes in detail the video obtained from the security camera at Player’s Lounge that captured the incident as it occurred and in which Peterson is seen striking Ford in the head at least two times with what it describes as a chair.

“The suspect grabs one of the chairs that’s at the bar (red with black frame) at 23: 11:06,” the affidavit says. “The suspect then slams the chair into the complainant’s head,” it says. 

“The suspect then pushes the complainant into the bar at 23:11:09. The suspect pulls a chair from underneath the complainant and slams it into the complainant’s upper body again at 23:11:15,” the affidavit states.

According to the affidavit, “The suspect attempts to grab a chair for the third time, but patrons are able to separate the suspect and push him into another room.”

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District of Columbia

Hearing postponed for gay D.C. gym owner charged with distributing child porn

Prosecutors call for Everts to be held in jail until trial

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Michael Everts will likely remain in jail until a Jan. 10 hearing in his case. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A detention hearing scheduled for Monday, Dec. 4, in which a judge would decide whether gay D.C. gym owner Michael Everts should remain in jail or be released while he awaits a trial on a charge of distribution of child pornography was postponed with no immediate date set to reschedule it.

However, records with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, before which the case is being held, show that Everts’s defense attorney later in the day on Dec. 4 filed a motion in which Everts waived his right to a detention hearing and requested that a preliminary hearing be scheduled on Jan. 10, 2024.

In his motion, defense attorney David Benowitz says the lead prosecutor with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. does not oppose this request. As of Tuesday morning, the magistrate judge presiding over the case had not ruled on Benowitz’s motion.

But an entry in the court record on  Wednesday, Dec. 5, states that Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey approved the motion and agreed to set the date for the preliminary hearing on Jan. 10 at 4 p.m. The court record shows that Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather will preside over the preliminary hearing, in which prosecutors must present evidence, sometimes through testimony by witnesses, that probable cause or sufficient evidence exists to proceed to a trial. Meriweather will issue a ruling on whether probable cause exists.

Everts has been held without bond since the time of his arrest on Nov. 29 on a single charge of distribution of child pornography following a joint D.C. police-FBI investigation that led to his arrest.

He has owned and operated the FIT Personal Training gym located at 1633 Q St., N.W., near Dupont Circle since its opening in 2002.

Court records show that Benowitz filed a motion on Dec. 3 seeking a one-day postponement of the detention hearing to give him time to review the evidence presented by prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office. But Benowitz’s second motion waiving Everts’s right to a detention hearing and calling for a preliminary hearing on Jan. 10 appears to have voided his first motion and will result in Everts being held in jail until at least the time of the preliminary hearing in January.  

“Mr. Everts has been advised of his rights under the Speedy Trial Act (“STA”) and agrees to toll the time under the STA until the next hearing in this matter,” Benowitz’s second motion states. 

On Dec. 1, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jocelyn Bond, the lead prosecutor in the case, filed a 20-page Memorandum In Support of Pretrial Detention that describes the government’s evidence against Everts and argues strongly in favor of having Everts held in custody at least until the time of his trial.

“Distribution of Child Pornography is a crime of violence and there is no condition or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the safety of children in the community – both in the physical world and online – if Mr. Everts is released,” the memorandum states.

The memorandum notes that Everts’s arrest came about after an employee at the gay and bi hookup site Sniffies alerted the FBI that a Sniffies user was exchanging messages with other users expressing an interest in images of underage boys for sexual gratification. A joint FBI and D.C. police investigation traced the messages to Everts, according to an arrest affidavit and the U.S. Attorney’s memo.

The affidavit and memo point out that an undercover D.C. police detective working with the FBI and posing as someone interested in underage boys contacted Everts through the Sniffies site and a social media messaging address of @ethaneffex. The undercover detective, who is identified in charging documents as the “online covert employee” or “OCE,” engaged in messaging with Everts that prompted Everts to send the OCE video and photo images of child pornography, the arrest affidavit and memo state.

The memo seeking pretrial detention for Everts says Everts went beyond just expressing interest in viewing or sending the OCE child porn videos or photos but also described his interest in interacting with and possibly having sex with underage boys he knew.

“On multiple occasions he discussed his sexual interest in actual children that he encountered in his life, particularly emphasizing his desire to sexually abuse Minor 1 and noting that he had surreptitiously recorded Minor 1 at the playground in the past,” the memorandum says.

“Not only did he send photos of these children to someone whom he had reason to believe also had a sexual interest in children,” the memo states, “but he sent multiple voice messages to the OCE reiterating his sexual interest in Minor 1 – as well as in Minor 2 and other unknown minors — and describing the specific sexual acts he wanted to engage in with these minors.”

The memo adds, “Only amplifying his danger to children, Everts then bragged about having previously engaged in sex with a minor and his willingness to sexually abuse a child as young as 10 years old.”

Benowitz, Everts’s attorney, didn’t immediately respond to a request by the Washington Blade for comment on the case and whether he or his client dispute any of the allegations against Everts brought by prosecutors.

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District of Columbia

‘Behind-the-scenes’ activist Paul Kuntzler marks 62 years in D.C.

Inspired by Kennedy, Michigan native played key role in early LGBTQ movement

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Paul Kuntzler is the last surviving member of the original 17 members of the D.C. Mattachine Society. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

In reflecting on his many years of involvement in U.S. politics and the LGBTQ rights movement, Paul Kuntzler points out that Dec. 28 of this year will mark his 62nd year as a resident of Washington, D.C. And he also points out that two days before that, on Dec. 26, he will celebrate his 82nd birthday.

Those who have known Paul Kuntzler over the years say that while his is not a household name in politics and the LGBTQ rights movement, he has played a critical role as an everyday hero and behind-the-scenes organizer for the Democratic Party and the local and national LGBTQ rights movement.

Among other things, Kuntzler served as campaign manager for D.C. gay rights pioneer Frank Kameny’s 1971 role as the first openly gay candidate for the U.S. Congress when Kameny ran for the newly created position of non-voting Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives for D.C.

In his role as campaign manager, Kuntzler is also credited with arranging for more than a dozen volunteers from the then-Gay Activists Alliance and Gay Youth group of New York City to come to D.C. on a bus that the Kameny campaign paid for to help gather the needed 5,000 signatures to get Kameny’s name on the ballot.

“I knew how difficult that was going to be,” Kuntzler said. “And I recognized we were not going to do this all on our own,” adding that the gay volunteers from New York, who joined forces with local D.C. volunteers, obtained a total of 7,800 signatures of registered D.C. voters to get Kameny’s name on the ballot.

Although Kameny finished in fourth place in a six-candidate race, his run as the first openly gay candidate for the U.S. Congress drew national publicity, including support from actor Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward, who made a $500 contribution to the Kameny campaign while they were performing at the time at D.C.’s National Theater.

Observers of the LGBTQ rights movement at that time considered Kameny’s candidacy an important development in the effort to advance LGBTQ rights both in D.C. and nationwide. 

“Looking back, that probably was one of the most significant things I did in my life,” Kuntzler said in recalling his role as Kameny’s campaign manager.

He says his involvement in politics began in the summer of 1960 in his hometown of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., a Detroit suburb, when he co-founded the Grosse Pointe Young Democrats and served as a volunteer on the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy.

“I met JFK at the Detroit airport and shook his hand,” Kuntzler recalls while he joined a crowd of supporters welcoming Kennedy on his arrival for a campaign tour in Michigan. “It was Labor Day weekend – Sunday, Sept. 4, 1960,” Kuntzler said in demonstrating an amazing recall of dates and events.

Kuntzler, who traveled to D.C. to attend the Kennedy inauguration on Jan. 20, 1961, said the idealism of the Kennedy administration prompted him to move to D.C. one year later to become involved in politics and the fledgling gay rights movement.

“I met Frank Kameny at Lafayette Chicken Hut on Sunday, Feb. 25, 1962,” Kuntzler says in referring to the then-popular D.C. gay bar. “And he was then president of the Mattachine Society of Washington,” Kuntzler noted, which was the first significant gay rights group in D.C. that Kameny co-founded.

“He invited me to attend the next Mattachine Society meeting,” Kuntzler recalls. “So, on Tuesday, March 6, 1962, at Earl Aiken’s apartment on Harvard Street, I became the 17th member of the D.C. Mattachine Society.,” Kuntzler continued. “And at the age of 20, I was the only minor involved in the gay rights movement consisting of about 150 people in five American cities,” he said. “I’m the only one still living of the original 17.”

His membership in the Mattachine Society of D.C. was the start of Kuntzler’s 50-plus years of involvement in the local and national LGBTQ rights movement. He recalls that he helped make history when he joined Kameny and other members of the Mattachine Society in April of 1965 for the nation’s first gay rights protest in front of the White House.

Kuntzler said he brought with him a large poster-size sign he made reading, “15 Million Homosexuals Protest Federal Treatment.” He said Mattachine Society of D.C. co-founder Jack Nichols asked permission to carry that sign on the picket line in front of the White House. Kuntzler gave him permission to do so.

To this day, Kuntzler says, he has a large United Press International photo of Nichols carrying the sign with Kameny, lesbian activist Lilli Vincenz, and Kuntzler standing beside him with the White House as a backdrop.

In the following three decades or more, Kuntzler served as an organizer and founder of several LGBTQ organizations and projects while pursuing a work career as a manager for several organizations. He served from 1973 to 2007 as assistant executive director for advertising, exhibits and workshop sales for the D.C.-based National Science Teachers Association.

His many behind-the-scenes involvements included serving in 1975 as the first treasurer for the Gay Rights National Lobby, one of the first national LGBTQ rights organizations based in D.C. that later evolved into the Human Rights Campaign in 1980, for which he also served for a short time as treasurer. In 1979, Kuntzler became a co-founder of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, D.C.’s first LGBTQ Democratic organization.

Also in 1979, Kuntzler helped found the National Convention Project, an effort to elect openly gay delegates and secure a “gay rights” plank in the platform at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. The effort resulted in the election of about 100 openly LGBT delegates to the 1980 convention from states across the country, including D.C. and the adoption of an LGBT supportive plank in the Democratic Party’s platform at that time.

Kuntzler said he and the others working on the project, which he called a success, were deeply disappointed when then-Democratic President Jimmy Carter lost the November 1980 presidential election to Republican Ronald Reagan. But he said he was inspired to continue his work on behalf of the Democratic Party and LGBTQ rights issues over the next several decades.

The person most important in his life, Kuntzler said, was his domestic partner Stephen Brent Miller of 42 years who died in July 2004.

“Stephen and I met on Friday, March 30, 1962, at Lafayette Chicken Hut,” Kuntzler said. “I was sitting on the side and Stephen was sitting in the middle, and I think he sent me a beer and then came over and sat down and we talked,” Kuntzler recalls. “We had our first date on the second Sunday in April of 1962.”

The two went to brunch before going to see a movie and then took a bus to get to Frank Kameny’s house. It was a housewarming party of the house that Kameny had just secured a lease to rent for his residence and his gay rights endeavors. Miller, a professional stenographer who later started his own court reporting business, Miller Reporting, quickly took on the role of being the loving spouse to a committed activist, people who knew the couple have said.

Kuntzler said his attendance at the Human Right Campaign’s annual Washington dinner last month, which is one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ events, in which President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden spoke, was a further sign of progress for the LGBTQ rights movement as he sees it.

Asked if he has any advice for the LGBTQ community at this time, Kuntzler said, “I think we need to continue to be vigilant … We need to continue to be vigilant.”

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District of Columbia

Close to 200 turn out for D.C. LGBTQ+ Housing Summit

Speakers say LGBTQ residents impacted by housing ‘crisis’

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Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, was among those who gave presentations at the summit’s opening session. Bowles is pictured here at a Pride event earlier this year. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Close to 200 people turned out on Nov. 29 for the first day of a two-day D.C. LGBTQ+ Housing Summit held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Public Library’s upper floor conference center.

Officials with the D.C. LGBTQ+ Budget Coalition and the D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commission Rainbow Caucus, the two lead organizers of the summit, said participants, among other things, would be discussing ways to address what organizers say is the disproportionate impact of the city’s shortage of affordable housing on members of the LGBTQ community.

Among those who helped organize and who participated in the event were Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At-Large), who chairs the Council’s Committee on Housing.

White and Japer Bowles, director of the Office of LGBTQ Affairs, were among those who gave presentations at the summit’s opening session on Nov. 29. Also speaking at the summit and pledging support for LGBTQ housing issues was D.C. Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), the Council’s only gay member.

“Please come to testify at our Council budget hearings for more funds for housing, “ Parker told summit participants at the opening plenary session. He was among several speakers who called on the city to increase funding for affordable housing programs.

“Finding secure and affordable housing is an increasingly challenging task for many individuals in the District of Columbia,” a statement released by summit organizers says. “However, for members of D.C.’s LGBTQ+ community, this challenge often reaches near impossible levels,” the statement says.

“Alarming statistics in the District indicate that up to 40 percent of D.C.’s homeless youth identify as LGBTQ,” the statement continues. “Furthermore, the absence of LGBTQ+ affirming senior housing in the District is an urgent concern,” it says. “Participants will delve into strengthening LGBTQ+ participation in existing housing programs, identifying LGBTQ+ specific barriers to program participation, and leveraging federal resources to transform DC into a national leader in LGBTQ+ housing policy,” the statement adds.

Heidi Ellis, director of the D.C. LGBTQ Budget Coalition, which consists of more than a dozen local LGBTQ and LGBTQ supportive organizations, pointed out that the two-day summit also included a resource fair in which as many as 20 LGBTQ and LGBTQ supportive organizations would be setting up information tables staffed with people who would provide important housing related resources to conference participants.

Among the organizations that set up information tables at the summit were the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and the LGBTQ youth support and advocacy group SMYAL.

Ellis said summit organizers plan to release a report summarizing the main issues of concern raised at the summit and proposed solutions.

“I think the summit is going really well today,” Vincent Slatt, chair of the ANC Rainbow Caucus, told the Blade during the summit’s first day lunch break. “This is the start of a larger conversation,” Slatt said. “The summit does not finish. Our talking about housing and coming out of this with policy recommendations, demands for budget changes, getting people involved” will continue after the two-day event, he said.

Organizers said the summit was open to the public and free of charge, and they would welcome community members to stop by on the second and closing day on Thursday, Nov. 30. The MLK Public Library, where the summit is being held, is located at 901 G St., N.W.

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