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Florida prosecutor expected to drop sex with minor charges against Brett Parson

Former D.C. cop arrested in 2022 for alleged consenting sex with 16-year-old

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Brett Parson was arrested in 2022. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A spokesperson for the lead prosecutor in Broward County, Fla., has confirmed a notice filed in court indicating plans for dropping two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor filed against former D.C. police lieutenant Brett Parson by Boca Raton, Fla., police in February 2022.

An arrest affidavit filed by Coconut Creek police at the time of Parson’s arrest on Feb. 18, 2022, says Parson allegedly had a consenting sexual encounter with a 16-year-old boy who told police he met Parson on the gay online dating app Growlr and agreed to meet for a sexual encounter after the two exchanged “explicit” photos of each other.

Police and prosecutors at the time charged Parson, 54, with violating Florida’s age of consent law, which is 18, even though authorities acknowledged that the Growlr app requires users to be at least 18 years old.

“There is a court hearing scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Monday [March 13] when it is anticipated the prosecutor will drop or dismiss the two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor,” Paula McMahon, Public Information Officer for the Broward State Attorney’s Office, told the Washington Blade in a March 9 email message.

“If the hearing goes ahead as anticipated, the prosecutor will provide the judge with full details,” McMahon said. “These include the parents of the victim, who was 16 at the time of the incident, recently informed prosecutors that he does not want to go forward with the case.”

McMahon told the Blade in her message that her office would be in a position to release more information about the outcome of the case after the March 13 hearing in Broward County Circuit Court, which is located in Fort Lauderdale.

NBC 4 Washington was the first to report the plans by prosecutors to drop the charges against Parson.

Parson’s arrest took place about two years after he retired from the Metropolitan Police Department of D.C. after a 26-year career in which, among other duties, he served as supervisor of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit. At the time of his retirement Parson announced he was starting a consulting business to advise law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad on police-related issues.

Parson has declined to speak with the media since the time of his arrest.

Charging documents filed by Boca Raton and Coconut Creek, Fla., police say Parson had been staying at the Boca Raton home of his parents at the time of his arrest. An incident report filed by Boca Raton police says Parson and the 16-year-old youth, who is not identified in charging documents, arranged to meet at a gas station in Coconut Creek near where the youth lives.

A separate arrest affidavit filed by Coconut Creek police says after first meeting at the gas station the two agreed to drive in their separate cars to another secluded location, where the two parked and the youth entered the car Parson was driving and had a consenting sexual encounter with Parson.

The document says after someone walked past the parked car where the two were engaging in intimate acts, the two decided to drive in their separate cars to find another location to park. That’s when police noticed the youth, who is identified only as RT in the charging documents, drove his vehicle into a restricted area at a Comcast facility and police officers approached him to find out what was going on.

The document says police also stopped Parson’s car, but they allowed him to drive off after he told them he didn’t know the person in the other car and he was from Washington, D.C. and not familiar with the area where he was driving.

It was at that time, according to charging documents, that RT provided the officers with a full account of his interaction with Parson. The documents do not provide a reason why the youth provided information the officers would not otherwise have obtained.

Among other things, the affidavit says RT turned over to police his cell phone, which included text messages between him and Parson, which helped police locate Parson to carry out the arrest. Court records show Parson, who pleaded not guilty, was released on a $50,000 bond six days after his arrest for which defendants usually must pay 10 percent, which would have been $5,000.

After initially requiring that Parson remain in Florida at his parents’ home while awaiting trial, a judge later allowed Parson to return to his D.C. home with the requirement that he attend any court hearings deemed required by the judge.

“In Florida, laws governing sexual activity with minors are ‘strict liability’ offenses,” Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent told the Blade at the time of Parson’s arrest. “This means that a person can be charged where they do not know the age of the person that they engaged in sexual activity with, or even worse, where the other person has lied about his or her age,” said Kent, the former owner of South Florida Gay News, an LGBTQ community newspaper.

Kent noted that in Parson’s case, the alleged victim used a dating app that limits its users to individuals over the age of 18. He said it also appears from police reports that the 16-year-old never told Parson he was under 18.

“These are troubling facts that could be presented to a prosecutor or judge in support of mitigation, but the law does not allow them to operate as a complete defense to the crimes charged,” Kent said.

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District of Columbia

Concern over possible D.C. juvenile crime wave targeting LGBTQ victims

Anger, frustration at attorney general’s ‘Listening Session’ in Dupont Circle

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D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb’s office oversees prosecuting juveniles charged with committing crimes in the District, but critics say it’s a ‘catch-and-release’ system.

The rapidly growing number of violent crimes in the nation’s capital committed by juveniles armed with guns and knives that D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has called a juvenile crime emergency is surfacing in neighborhoods where LGBTQ people are likely being targeted, according to activists following local crime reports.

Concern over reports of cases where LGBTQ people may have been targeted for armed robberies and carjackings in the Dupont Circle area by juvenile assailants coming to the area from other parts of the city surfaced at a Feb. 28 Ward 2 Listening Session hosted by D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb.

The event, held at St. Thomas’ Parish Church in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, included strongly worded presentations from Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Vincent Slatt and former Dupont Circle ANC Commissioner Mike Silverstein, both of whom are longtime LGBTQ rights advocates.

The two told Schwalb, whose office oversees prosecuting juveniles charged with committing crimes in the District, that the city’s juvenile justice system appears to be failing to take adequate measures to address the juvenile crime problem.

Among the main concerns raised by Silverstein and Slatt as well as others is that the city’s criminal law pertaining to juvenile offenders has a strict confidentiality provision that prevents D.C. police and prosecutors with the D.C. Office of the Attorney General from publicly disclosing the outcome and disposition of cases in which a juvenile is arrested for a crime of violence or any other crime.

Activists raising this concern have said they do not want authorities to disclose the identity of juveniles charged with crimes. But what they would like to know, Silverstein and Slatt said, is whether officials like Attorney General Schwalb and members of the D.C. Council will take steps to change the law to allow the disclosure of the outcome of juvenile cases.

“Last year there were 1,400 juvenile arrests and 56 percent of those who were arrested had guns,” said Silverstein, whose remarks were recorded on a video taken by Peter Semler, editor and owner of the Capitol Intelligence Group news organization.

“These are children with guns,” Silverstein continued. “Seventy-five percent of those arrested for carjacking last year were kids, were children,” he told Schwalb. “And people are questioning, you know, where is the prosecution?”

Schwalb responded by saying he would consider asking the D.C. Council to pass legislation allowing the public disclosure of the disposition of juvenile criminal cases, but he did not commit to doing so, according to Silverstein and others who attended the AG’s Listening Session.

A spokesperson for Schwalb did not respond to a request from the Washington Blade for a comment from the attorney general elaborating on any plans he may have to propose a change in the law as requested by activists speaking at the Feb. 28 Listening Session.

In his remarks at the Listening Session, Slatt, who serves as co-chair of the city’s ANC Rainbow Caucus, said he and other Dupont Circle residents were especially troubled that they have not been able to determine the status of the prosecution or whether a prosecution took place for three juvenile males arrested for committing four separate armed robberies in the Dupont Circle area within about 30 minutes on Sunday evening, Jan. 29.

Slatt said he and others alarmed over the incidents have not been able to determine whether any of the victims are members of the LGBTQ community or whether any of the incidents might be hate crimes.  

D.C. police released a statement announcing that detectives had arrested three juvenile males for allegedly committing the armed robberies in different nearby locations between 9:45 and 10:14 p.m. on Jan. 29. The police statement says two of the juveniles were 16 years old and the other was 15.

The police statement lists the offenses allegedly committed by the youths as Attempted Armed Robbery, Armed Robbery (Gun), Assault with a Dangerous Weapon (Gun), and Armed Robbery (Gun). It says the 15-year-old was additionally charged with Carrying a Pistol Without a License, and Possession of a Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device.

“The ongoing question about youth crime and youth getting re-released is a major thing in the city right now,” Slatt told the Blade. “And as you know, they won’t release information about these cases,” he said. “And also, they’re not letting us know is this a hate crime?”

Slatt added, “And so we don’t know when they are gay related. And there is no way for us in the gay community to do community impact statements because we’re not allowed to follow these cases because of the anonymity protections on the youth criminals.”

He was referring to the longstanding process in the local D.C. court system for adult criminal cases where victims of a crime and members of the community, including members of the LGBTQ community, can submit to a judge a victim impact statement or community impact statement. 

The impact statements usually are submitted at the time a judge is about to hand down a sentence after the person charged with a particular crime has been convicted in a trial or pleads guilty as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors.

“My thing specifically is, is this a gay issue or not,” said Slatt. “Are they hiding that data or not? How can we even say these are hate crimes or not if we can’t even follow the cases, if we can’t say what it’s about?”

In a development that may come as a surprise to activists calling for the release of information about juvenile cases without releasing the identity of a juvenile, the controversial 450-page D.C. criminal code reform bill that Congress overturned earlier this month does not address in any way the city’s juvenile criminal code.

The Revised Criminal Code Act, which the Council passed unanimously last September and voted 12 to 1 to override Mayor Bowser’s veto of the bill, became the target of criticism from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress and from President Joe Biden because of several controversial provisions.

Among them are language calling for eliminating most mandatory minimum prison sentences, reducing the maximum sentence for crimes such as burglaries, carjackings, and robberies, and allowing jury trials for all misdemeanor cases in which a prison sentence is possible.

Bowser, who said she supported about 95 percent of the bill’s voluminous proposed overall of the city’s antiquated criminal code, has called on the Council to remove the provisions that triggered the reaction by Congress and a Democratic president to oppose the legislation in its original form.

Jinwoo Charles Park, executive director of the D.C. Criminal Code Reform Commission, which played a lead role in helping the D.C. Council draft the criminal code reform bill, said the Council limited the commission’s scope of work to the city’s adult criminal code when it created the commission in 2016.

According to Park, now that the commission finished most of its work on the criminal code bill for adults – with some changes needed to address the objections by Congress and Biden – the commission can look into possible changes in the criminal code’s provisions dealing with juveniles. He said he would support looking into such a revision for the juvenile code.

“I do think going forward there is a whole other part of the law that probably should be revised,” he said in referring to the juvenile provisions of the D.C. criminal code. “I’m not taking a position on that at this point. But I think it is an important project that does need to be tackled in coming years,” he said.

Bowser, meanwhile, stated at a Feb. 6 press conference in response to a question from the Washington Blade that she would support a revision in the juvenile code to allow the public disclosure of the outcome of juvenile cases with the identity of a juvenile charged in such a case remaining confidential.

“I would, and I say that with a lot of caveats because it is a complicated issue,” Bowser said. “But I agree with the sentiment,” she said, adding that the current blanket confidentiality in juvenile cases might also have a negative impact on other D.C. government agencies that provide services for juveniles.

Among those who have also said they would consider changing the city’s juvenile law to allow the outcome of juvenile cases to be disclosed to victims and possibly to the community is D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2). Pinto currently serves as chair of the Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, where any legislation calling for changing the juvenile criminal law will be sent for consideration and approval.

“It is something that the committee is looking at very closely and something that we’re going to try to make some actionable improvements on in the coming months,” Pinto told the Blade. But she said her focus would be “from the perspective of victims’ rights and what survivors need to have some resolution to their case.”

When asked if she would commit to having the disposition of juvenile cases disclosed to the public as well as to victims of juvenile related crimes, Pinto added, “I would say I’m committed to looking at it.” An important concern, she said, is to carefully balance the issue of youth privacy and making sure there is a just resolution to a case for all parties.

“The most important dynamic to me that I’m thinking about are the survivors and victims as well as government partners having access to this information,” she said. “But I am open minded to looking at this other piece to make sure that our communities can be kept safe and have the resolution that they need and deserve.”

The other Council members who serve on the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee who would join Pinto in deciding on whether to change the city’s juvenile criminal statute include Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), and Christina Henderson (I-At-Large).

Among those expressing concern over the city’s juvenile justice system is Washington Post columnist Colbert King. In a Feb. 24 column, King reported that in response to his request, the Office of the D.C. Attorney General sent him data showing that out of 462 juvenile arrests made by D.C. police between Oct. 1, 2022, and Feb. 15, 2023, the AG’s office prosecuted only 295, or 64 percent, of the cases. Ninety-four of the cases, or 19 percent, were dropped for insufficient evidence, King said the AG’s office informed him.

According to King, 73 of the juvenile arrests during that period, or 16 percent, were dismissed and diverted to “alternative or no-incarceration programs or deferred sentencing agreements.”

Silverstein, the former Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and LGBTQ rights advocate, raised the issue of how many juvenile cases were being prosecuted or dropped in his remarks to D.C. Attorney General Schwalb at Schwalb’s Feb. 28 listening session.

“There is this growing belief, sir, and I’m not one of those who wants to lock everybody up or anything like that,” Silverstein said, “that people don’t believe it’s anything but catch and release, that people are getting away with this kind of stuff and there is no prosecution.”

Silverstein concluded his remarks telling Schwalb about an anti-gay hate crime that took place several years ago involving juvenile attackers.

“A gang of between 10 and 15 kids set upon two young gay men on U Street and beat the hell out of them, called them all kinds of homophobic names, and broke the bones around one of their eyes,” he said. “We never found out what happened to the kids – the three who were arrested. The rumor was they had to write a paper.”

Added Silverstein, “There’s no trust, sir, in the consequences. It breaks my heart because it plays to those who want to lock everybody up. I’m sorry if I had to spill my guts, but it scares the hell out of me.”

The audio part of the video recording of Silverstein’s remarks became mostly inaudible when Schwalb responded to Silverstein.

“He said he would consider the possibility of supporting some change in the confidentiality laws regarding the disposition phases, that he would consider supporting it,” Silverstein told the Blade in an interview. “And it was just word salad. It’s totally nonspecific and it is not a promise at all,” said Silverstein.

The Washington Blade will report Schwalb’s positions in greater detail on these issues if his office responds to the Blade’s request for comment by the attorney general.

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District of Columbia

Bill calls for designating D.C. street in honor of gay former slave

Black resident called ‘early pioneer’ for LGBTQ rights in 1880s

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Excerpt from the National Star, Jan. 13, 1896. (Image courtesy National Archive)

The D.C. Council is expected to approve a bill that calls for designating Swann Street, N.W., near Dupont Circle in honor of William Dorsey Swann, a little known Black gay D.C. resident and former slave who is credited with leading a group that organized drag shows in the late 1800s. 

A statement released by D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), who introduced the bill along with 10 other Council members, including gay Council member Zachary Parker (D-Ward 5), says William Dorsey Swann was an early pioneer in LGBTQ rights who referred to himself as “The Queen of Drag.”

“Beginning in the 1880s, William Dorsey Swann ran a group known as the ‘House of Swann’ and organized balls, largely attended by queer, formerly enslaved men who would gather to dance and cross dress,” according to Pinto’s statement, which she released on Feb. 28 at the time she and the other Council members introduced the bill.

“William Dorsey Swann was persecuted by the authorities and arrested multiple times for ‘impersonating a woman’ and ‘keeping a disorderly house,’ and was the first American activist to lead an LGBTQQIA+ resistance group,” Pinto’s statement says. “Swann eventually sought a pardon from President Grover Cleveland, becoming the first American on record to pursue legal action in defense of LGBTQQIA+ rights,” the statement says.

Her statement cites the Jan. 24, 1912, edition of the Congressional Record for the U.S. Senate as saying that Swann Street, N.W. had originally been named for Thomas Swann, an “enslaver” who served as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland.

“Officially designating this street in honor of native Washingtonian and trailblazing LGBTQQIA+ rights activist William Dorsey Swann is an opportunity to ensure that our streets honor those who embody the District’s value of social equality and human dignity,” the statement says. 

“The location of Swann Street, N.W. provides a physical and symbolic representation of the District’s Black Queer community, sitting both within the Strivers’ Section Historic District, a historic Black neighborhood, and the Dupont Circle neighborhood, the historic epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQQIA+ community,” it says. The street would maintain the current nomenclature and signage as ‘Swann Street,’” the statement concludes.

Swann Street is located between 14th Street, N.W. and 19th Street, N.W. and parallel to and between S Street, N.W. and T Street, N.W.

Pinto’s statement says William Dorsey Swann is believed to have been born in 1858 and died in 1925.

At the time of its introduction, the bill, called the William Dorsey Swann Street Designation Act of 2023, was sent to the Council’s Committee of the Whole, which consists of all 13 Council members.

In addition to Pinto and Parker, the Council members who co-introduced the bill include Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Robert White (D-At-Large), Kenyan McDuffie (I-At-Large), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Janeese Lewis George (D-Ward 4), Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), Anita Bonds (D-At-Large), and Matthew Frumin (D-Ward 3).

Lindsey Walton, a spokesperson for Mendelson, said the Committee of the Whole voted unanimously on March 21 to approve the bill, which was expected to come before the full Council on April 4 for the first of two required votes.

One potential problem for the immediate passage and implementation of the Swann Street bill surfaced in a March 21 memo prepared by D.C. Chief Financial Officer Glen Lee and sent to Council Chair Mendelson.

Lee says in his memo that the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation has determined it will cost $30,000 to fabricate and install a commemorative sign called for under the bill explaining the historic background of William Dorsey. It says the sign is to be located at the intersection of Swann Street, New Hampshire Avenue, and 17th Street, N.W.

“Funds are not sufficient in the fiscal year 2023 through fiscal year 2026 budget and financial plan to implement the bill,” Lee says in his memo. “Department of Parks and Recreation will need to work with ANC 2B to design the sign and then will fabricate and install it…The fabrication and installation will cost $30,000 and the agency is unable to absorb the cost within its existing budgeted resources,” the memo says.

Walton, Mendelson’s spokesperson, said Mendelson and the other supporters of the bill on the Council will look for funds for the $30,000 needed to implement the bill in the city’s supplemental budget.

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District of Columbia

Former Trump official elected president of D.C. Log Cabin Republicans

Says GOP group welcomes ‘wide spectrum’ of conservative adherents

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D.C. Log Cabin Republicans President Thad Brock (Screen capture via Heritage Action for America YouTube)

Log Cabin Republicans of D.C., the local chapter of the national LGBTQ Republican organization with the same name, earlier this month elected former Trump administration official Thad Brock as its new president.

Brock replaces longtime GOP activist Adam Savit, who served as the D.C. Log Cabin group’s president for the past five years. The local group held its officers election on March 7 during a meeting in which U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) appeared as a guest speaker.

Brock served from 2018 to 2019 during the Trump administration as Assistant to the Administrator at the U.S. General Services Administration, according to his LinkedIn page.

His LinkedIn page says he served from 2019 to January 2021 as Special Assistant to the CEO at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. agency that works with the State Department to help facilitate foreign trade and assistance for developing countries.

Brock told the Blade the two positions were presidential appointments.

Information released by the D.C. Log Cabin group says its members also elected Andrew Mink as vice president, Matthew Johnson as secretary, Greg Wallerstein as treasurer, and Andrew Desser, Tyler Stark, and Jaime Varela as at-large board members.

“Log Cabin Republicans is the nation’s largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies,” the national Log Cabin group states on its website. “For more than 40 years, we have promoted the fight for equality through our state and local chapters, our full-time office in Washington, D.C., and our federal and state political action committees,” the statement says.

“We believe in limited government, strong national defense, free markets, low taxes, personal responsibility, and individual liberty,” the statement continues. “We believe equality for LGBT Americans is in the finest tradition of the Republican Party,” it adds, an assertion that many LGBTQ Democrats strongly dispute.

Asked what he thought about the Trump administration’s record on LGBTQ rights, Brock said he would defer that question to Charles Moran, president of the National Log Cabin Republicans.

In discussing plans for the D.C. Log Cabin group, Brock said he and the newly elected board members will continue the types of activities and emphasis of the former board and former President Savit.

“We will definitely continue to build off the success of the former board members and continue with speakers and events that are representative to the interest of our membership,” he said. “But one of our big focuses will be meeting people where they are,” he said, noting that plans were underway to hold events in different D.C. neighborhoods.

“I think one of the things that we’re also really looking forward to doing is a really big recruitment push to get a lot more members on the conservative spectrum that share a wide variety of ideas,” he said.

But Brock said he and his fellow board members will likely retain a policy put in place by Savit and the previous board in which most of the group’s meetings and events are closed to the press.

“The culture of our membership is strengthened by an open and honest dialogue with our speakers,” he said, which have included GOP members of Congress. “For a better free-thinking environment, we have limited access for the press to attend,” Brock said. “If there is an event that warrants press availability, I will certainly let you know,” he said.

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