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District of Columbia

US Attorney’s office discloses two D.C. anti-LGBTQ hate crime cases

Murder, assault with dangerous weapon cases still pending

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(Photo public domain)

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which prosecutes most people charged with committing crimes in the nation’s capital, disclosed for the first time earlier this month that a murder and an assault with a dangerous weapon that occurred in D.C. in 2021 have been classified as anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.

Court records show that arrests have been made in both cases and a man arrested in the murder case is being held without bond and is scheduled for a jury trial on May 6, 2024. Another man arrested in the unrelated anti-transgender assault case is scheduled to stand trial on Sept. 26, 2023.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Linda Monroe provided information about the two cases at a June 15 virtual meeting of the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Hate-Bias Task Force, which was attended by local LGBTQ activists.

Although Monroe provided only a brief description of the two cases, she disclosed the D.C. Superior Court case numbers for the cases, which enabled the Washington Blade to obtain further details of the cases.

Murder case

Public court records show that D.C. police, following a month-long investigation, charged D.C. resident Idrissa Idy Fall, 36, on Aug. 3, 2021, with the July 18, 2021, murder of his ex-girlfriend, Dara Northem.

A 7-page affidavit in support of Fall’s arrest prepared by a D.C. police homicide detective states that a friend of the victim listed as an eyewitness to the incident who is identified only as Witness 1, or W-1, called 911 and reported that Fall allegedly shot Northem in the head while Northem was sitting in the front passenger seat of Witness 1’s car.

Witness 1, according to the affidavit, said the car was parked in front of the house where Northem, Fall and another person lived at 6101 4th St., N.W. Witness 1, the affidavit continues, told police Fall shot Northem through the passenger side window seconds after Northem entered the car and after he chased after her and shouted at her, “Stop playing with me with that gay shit.”

The affidavit says the police investigation learned from Witness 1 and the other person who lived in the house with Fall and Northem, who is identified as Witness 2, that Fall and Northem were in a relationship that became strained when Northem became friends with and went out with Witness 1, who identifies as a lesbian.

“It was learned that the decedent’s sexual orientation was heterosexual, but W-1 is gay and there was no romantic relationship between the decedent and W-1,” the affidavit states. 

Nevertheless, the affidavit and other court documents filed by prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office imply that Fall believed his girlfriend, who broke up with him shortly before the murder while the two continued to live in the same house, was being “unfaithful” to him by having an affair with Witness 1.

“Witness 2 said the defendant had paranoia because the decedent had gay friends,” the affidavit says.

Like other hate crime cases it prosecutes, the U.S. Attorney’s official initially charged Fall with Second Degree Murder While Armed and did not list the case as a hate crime. But court records show that in November 2022, prosecutors brought the case before a D.C. Superior Court grand jury. 

The court records show that on Nov. 9, 2022, the grand jury handed down a three-count indictment against Fall, including First Degree Murder While Armed (Premeditated.) 

“The grand jury further charges that the murder was a bias-related (hate) crime,” the indictment states. Although the indictment doesn’t say so directly, court observers believe the hate crime classification is based on defendant Fall’s perception of Northem’s sexual orientation as being homosexual and his hatred toward her for becoming a gay woman as he saw her. 

The second count of the indictment charges Fall with Possession of a Firearm During Crime of Violence or Dangerous Offense; and the third count charges him with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm after having been previously convicted of a crime punishable for a prison term. 

The arrest affidavit says D.C. police learned that Fall pleaded guilty in November 2020 to a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol in Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court and was sentenced to 60 days with seven days suspended.   

Court records show that the first judge that presided over the case and another judge who replaced him each denied requests by defense attorneys requesting that Fall be released while awaiting trial. 

The records show that a status hearing for the case is scheduled for July 5, and a jury trial is scheduled for May 6, 2024. Neither the court records nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office have given a reason for why the trial could not be scheduled for an earlier date.

Man charged with assaulting woman while shouting anti-LGBTQ slurs

The second of the two cases disclosed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office involves an Oct. 23, 2021, incident in which Darryl Barnes, 45, whose address is not provided in court charging documents, was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly hitting a woman in the face with a metal pole inside Chen Sunny’s Carry Out restaurant at 3131 Rhode Island Ave., N.E.  

A D.C. police charging document says witnesses, including the woman who was allegedly assaulted, and another person who was with her, told police that Barnes called them both “faggots” shortly before he assaulted the woman.

“Officers interviewed Complaint 1, who stated that her and Complainant 2 were coming to the location to get something to eat when Defendant 1 produced a screwdriver and a pole and hit her in the face with the pole while wielding the screwdriver in his other hand,” the charging document says. 

The charging document says Complainant 1 sustained a small abrasion over the left cheek from the metal pole and Complainant 2 sustained a small abrasion to the left shoulder as a result of Barnes hitting them with the pole.

The charging documents do not say why Barnes was charged only with assaulting Complainant 1, who is identified by name as a woman. The Blade has a policy of not disclosing the names of crime victims except for murder cases if they cannot be reached for permission to use their names. Contact information for the victim could not immediately be obtained by the Blade.

Court records, like the murder case, show that Barnes was not immediately charged with a hate crime. But the records show that on May 31, 2023, at the request of prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a Superior Court grand jury handed down an indictment charging Barnes with Assault with a Dangerous Weapon that it classified as a hate crime.

“The grand jury further charges that such criminal act demonstrated the prejudice of Darryl Barnes based on the actual or perceived gender identity or expression of [name of victim],” the indictment states. 

Court records show that Barnes was initially ordered held in jail pending a mental health competency hearing, which was postponed several times. The records show that on Jan. 28, 2022, Superior Court Judge Michael Ryan issued an order finding Barnes “mentally incompetent” and ordered him to undergo “Inpatient Competency Restoration.” 

The court record shows that Ryan ordered that Barnes be committed to D.C.’s St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for the competency restoration process. According to the records, the judge on April 1, 2022, found Barnes incompetent to stand trial and ordered that the competency restoration process continue and be conducted on an inpatient basis. 

However, by July 29, 2022, the records show that Ryan approved Barnes eligible for release on his personal recognizance under the court’s High Intensity Supervision Program. 

On Nov. 29, 2022, the court record shows that Barnes, though his attorney, rejected a plea bargain offer made by prosecutors and a trial date was set for July 11, 2023, after the court determined he was competent for a trial.  But the records show that following the grand jury indictment against Barnes on May 31 of this year, the trail date was changed to July 26, 2023.

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District of Columbia

Pepco, Exelon announce $2.7 million in funding for four minority-owned businesses

‘It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table’

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Pepco and Exelon held a press conference Friday to announce four recipients of $2.7 million in investments. (Photo courtesy Exelon)

Pepco and Exelon announced a $2.7 million investment in four minority-owned businesses on Friday.

“Today’s been a long time coming,” said Pepco Vice President of Governmental and External Affairs Valencia McClure.

Pepco’s parent company, Exelon, launched the Racial Equity Capital Fund (RECF) in 2022 to expand capital access to diverse businesses. This latest $2.7 million investment is just a portion of RECF’s $36 million in funding.

At the announcement, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser spoke about the other ways Pepco and Exelon have “put their money where their mouth is” through their partnership with the D.C. Infrastructure Academy. She reported that all 22 of the residents that graduated from the program last week have a job offer from Pepco.

“We know that is not just a job, but a career,” she said to the crowd’s applause. “We know that working together, we can invest in D.C. residents, provide opportunity, and ensure that our D.C. businesses are a part of D.C.’s growing prosperity.”

The four minority businesses that received funding were Gemini Energy Solutions, Public Sector Solutions Group, CJR Development Partners, and Escalate.

“It’s good business sense to bring more people to the table,” said fund recipient Nicole Cober, CJR Development’s Principle Managing Partner.

Gemini Energy Solutions, which is Black owned, received $1 million, the most of the four companies. Its mission is to equitably scale energy efficiency to marginalized communities. For the founder and CEO Anthony Kinslow II, this investment means that he is able to get paid and advance the work of his organization.

“We are now able to accelerate the work in our software and technology development,” he said. “What we were going to do in two years, we are now going to do in six months.”

For Escalate, a workforce development platform focused on frontline worker retention, the funding means that it will be able to double the pay for frontline workers.

Public Sector Solutions Group CEO Darryl Wiggins emphasized that this investment was not just ‘charity’ work, but mission-driven work.

“The principle and the intent is greater than the money we receive,” he said. Public Sector Solutions is Black owned.

Public Sector Solutions Group received a $600,000 debt investment; CJR Development, a minority and woman-owned small business, received a $600,000 debt investment; and Escalate, a majority Black and woman-owned company, received a $500,000 equity investment.

Exelon launched the RECF in partnership with RockCreek, one of the world’s largest diverse-owned global investment firms, in 2022. The RECF expands capital access to diverse businesses so they can create more jobs, grow their companies and reinvest in their neighborhoods and communities, according to a statement from Exelon.

New RECF applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Interested businesses may apply online or contact RockCreek at [email protected] for more information.

(Photo courtesy Exelon)
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District of Columbia

AIDS Healthcare Foundation celebrates opening of new D.C. healthcare center

Ribbon-cutting marks launch of state-of-the-art facility on Capitol Hill

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AHF’s new healthcare center is located at 650 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the world’s largest HIV/AIDS healthcare organization with its headquarters in Los Angeles, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 27 to mark the official opening of its Capitol Hill Healthcare Center.

The new center, which AHF describes as a state-of-the-art facility for the holistic care and treatment of people with HIV as well as a site for HIV prevention and primary care services, is located at 650 Pennsylvania Ave., S.E.  a half block away from the Eastern Market Metro station.

A statement released by AHF says the Capitol Hill Healthcare Center will continue AHF’s ongoing delivery of “cutting-edge medical care and services to patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.” The statement adds, “The site also features a full-service AHF Pharmacy and will host Wellness Center services on Saturdays to offer STI testing and treatment.”

The statement was referring to the testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The D.C. Department of Health has said the highest number of STIs in the city have been reported for men who have sex with men.

Mike McVicker, AHF’s Regional Director for its D.C., Maryland, and Virginia facilities, said the Capitol Hill center began taking patients in October of 2021 as AHF transferred its operations from its facility on Benning Road, N.E. about two miles from the Capitol Hill site. McVicker said the Benning Road site has now been closed.

AHF’s second D.C. medical center is located downtown at 2141 K St., N.W. AHF operates three other extended D.C.-area health care centers in Falls Church, Va., Temple Hills, Md. and Baltimore.

“Our Capitol Hill Healthcare Center has no waiting room, so patients immediately are escorted to treatment rooms and serviced from a centrally located provider workstation,” McVicker said. “The goal is to maximize efficiency using this patient-centered model to improve health outcomes and increase retention in care.”

McVicker told the Blade the AHF Capitol Hill center is currently serving 585 patients and has a staff of 10, including Dr. Conor Grey, who serves as medical director. He said a separate team of five staffers operates the Saturday walk-in center that provides STI services as well as services related to the HIV prevention medication known as PrEP.

“I’m very excited to be a part of this team,” Dr. Grey said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was held in a courtyard outside the Capitol Hill office building where the AHF center is located. About 50 people, including D.C. government officials, attended the event.

“This is a beautiful thing to celebrate,” Grey said. “So, I’m very happy to enjoy the day with all of you, and looking forward to a bright, productive future working together and fighting a common enemy that has unfortunately been with us.”

Others who spoke at the event included Tom Myers, AHF’s Chief of Public Affairs and General Counsel; Toni Flemming, Supervisory Public Health Analyst and Field Operations Manager for the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration (HAHSTA), and Dr. Christie Olejeme, Public Health Analyst for HAHSTA’s Care and Treatment Division.

Also speaking at the event was Japer Bowles, director of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs.

Bowles called the AHF Capitol Hill center “another pivotal resource” for the LGBTQ community as well as for the city.

“We know, as has been previously stated, a low-barrier HIV prevention support is pivotal to the mayor’s mission of eliminating HIV infections in the District of Columbia and the region,” Bowles told the gathering.

“So, I’m very excited to see more services specifically provided to those in the Southeast and Northeast quadrants of our District,” he said, referring to the AHF Capitol Hill center. “This is a great moment for our community, but also for D.C. as a whole.”

In its statement released this week announcing the official opening of the Capitol Hill Center AHF notes that currently, 11,904 D.C. residents, or 1.8 percent of the population, are living with HIV. It points out that HIV disproportionately impacts Black residents, who make up about 44 percent of the population but comprise nearly three-quarters of the city’s HIV cases.

AHF official Myers said the Capitol Hill center will join its other D.C.-area facilities in addressing the issue of racial disparities related to HIV.

“Our treatment model helps eliminate barriers for those already in care, those who may not know their HIV status, and those living with HIV who may not currently be in care,” he said.

AHF says in its statement that it currently operates more than 900 healthcare centers around the world in 45 countries including 17 U.S. states. It has more than 1.7 million people in care, according to the statement. Founded in 1987, the organization has also taken on the role of public advocacy for federal and local government programs in the U.S. to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including efforts to lower the costs of HIV drugs.

During its work in the late 1980s and early 1990s AHF emerged as a strong advocate for addressing the special needs of gay and bisexual men who were hit hardest by HIV/AIDS at the start of the epidemic.

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District of Columbia

Georgetown University hosts panel on transgender, nonbinary issues

Lawmakers from Mont., Okla. among panelists

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Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner speaks at Georgetown University on Sept. 26, 2023. (Photo by Sydney Carroll)

A panel on transgender and nonbinary issues took place at Georgetown University on Tuesday.

The panel included Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr and her fiancée, journalist Erin Reed, who are both trans, and nonbinary Oklahoma state Rep. Mauree Turner. Charlotte Clymer was also on the panel that Amanda Phillips, a nonbinary Georgetown professor, moderated. 

The panel began with a discussion about anti-trans laws that have been enacted across the country.

Reed said the Alliance Defending Freedom and the American Principles Project developed a strategy in response to North Carolina’s now repealed law that banned trans people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity. 

They focused on states that are more “business-friendly and therefore harder to boycott, and started with sports. Reed said bans on gender-segregated sports put an “asterisk on [trans] identity” that made further attacks possible.

Clymer spoke on attitudes towards trans policies. 

She referenced a survey that asked Americans if they supported nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals. Around 75 percent of respondents, including almost half of Republicans, said yes. Clymer said the next question that asked if such protections exist concerns her.

Roughly half of respondents said yes. 

While there are two U.S. Supreme Court rulings — Obergefell and Bostock — that extended marriage rights to same-sex couples and employment protections to LGBTQ people respectively, Clymer noted there are no federal protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Turner and Zephyr spoke about being censured for defending trans rights. 

Oklahoma lawmakers in March censured Turner after they refused to turn into the authorities a trans person who had allegedly assaulted a state trooper. 

Turner said in Oklahoma, where there is no public debate, and politicians are openly anti-trans, residents are fighting against an “apathetic” and “heinous” legislature. On the topic of activism, they said being a “truth teller,” and saying “absolutely not” is “what got [them] censured.”

Zephyr’s censure was in April after she criticized a bill to restrict gender-affirming health care in Montana. The protests that followed stemmed from trans issues, but Zepher said they were about much more. 

“The protests […] were about recognizing that when you silence a legislator, you take away representation from their constituents,” she said. “That fight became a larger fight about democracy.” 

From left: Erin Reed and her fiancée, Montana state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, speak at Georgetown University on Sept. 26, 2023. (Photo by Sydney Carroll)

The panelists talked about mental health and addressing it.

Turner said that being the representation they needed keeps them going. 

“I didn’t think I was going to make it through middle school,” they said. “Representation matters for so many people […] if you can aid in being that representation, being that force that helps somebody else keep going, that is one of the most powerful experiences.” 

The panel agreed that finding community is important to mental health. 

“Sometimes our best activism is finding our community,” Reed said. 

The panel also spoke about queer joy and strength. 

“Queer joy is the thing they can’t take away,” Zephyr said. 

Reed talked about photos of activists who were organizing before the Stonewall riots in 1969; they were smiling and enjoying their community. 

“The queer story is a story of not just surviving in the margins but thriving in the margins,” Reed said.

Turner added “trans lives aren’t just lives worth fighting for, they are lives worth living.”

A self-described “journalist” who didn’t identify himself or his outlet asked the panel, “What is a woman?” Clymer turned the question back to him, and he said it “comes down to genetics.”

Clymer began to explain that chromosomes don’t always define sex. The audience member began to argue and ignored an event organizer who was asking him to leave. Security promptly escorted him out. 

Reed continued Clymer’s point that even biological sex is difficult to define. 

“Last year, 15 different state legislators tried to define sex, did you know that none of them managed to do so in a way that was scientifically correct?”

The panelists also offered advice to allies. 

Clymer said treading about trans issues and being informed about them is a great start. 

“You’ve got to step up,” she said.

Turner said allyship goes beyond relationships, and into the realm of being uncomfortable. 

“Allyship is synonymous with action and moving forward,” they said.

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