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Prosecutors dismiss case against suspect in 2017 murder of D.C. trans man

Distraught mother of victim is told lead witness went missing

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Akihs Gaius Green was shot to death in 2017.

At the request of prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney, a D.C. Superior Court judge on Aug. 17 dismissed a charge of first-degree murder and two gun related charges against a D.C. man arrested for the 2017 shooting death of a transgender man in a Southeast D.C. apartment where police say both men were living.

Court records show Akihs Gaius Green, 42, was found shot in the head execution style on March 1, 2017, in an apartment where he and the man charged with shooting him, Jordan Smith, 36, and Smith’s girlfriend, had been living at 212 Wayne Place, S.E.

Green died from the gunshot wound more than four months later on July 21, 2017, court records show. Charging documents show that D.C. police initially charged Smith with second-degree murder on Nov. 9, 2017, following an investigation into the incident.

At the request of prosecutors, a grand jury on June 11, 2018, indicted Smith on charges of First-Degree Murder While Armed, Possession of a Firearm During a Crime of Violence, and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm (Prior Conviction). Court records show Smith had a prior conviction of illegal possession of a gun.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office did not respond to a request by the Washington Blade for an explanation of why its prosecutors decided to dismiss the case. The office has a longstanding policy of not publicly disclosing its reasons for dismissing cases or not prosecuting cases.

Green’s mother, Vickie McNeal, told the Blade prosecutors in the case informed her last week that the lead prosecution witness in the case could not be found and they did not believe they could obtain a conviction at Smith’s trial, which was scheduled to begin on Sept. 12.

An affidavit in support of Smith’s arrest says the lead witness, identified only as Witness 2, was believed to have been Smith’s girlfriend. The affidavit says Smith and Green reportedly had been staying at her apartment at the time of the shooting.

McNeal said she believes Green, who was a friend of Witness 2, was visiting the apartment on the night of the shooting but was not living there.

The arrest affidavit says Witness 2 told police she saw Smith pull out a gun after he got into an argument with Green and she heard three shots fired, but she didn’t see who fired the gun. Another witness, according to the arrest affidavit, told police Witness 2 told that witness that she saw Smith shoot Green.

But Witness 2 denied she said that and has insisted she did not witness the shooting, the affidavit states. The affidavit also states that Witness 2 told police she was high on PCP at the time of the incident and her memory of what happened was unclear.

McNeal said prosecutors called her and visited her home to inform her of the decision to dismiss the case. She said their visit and phone call came after they informed her in June that the case was moving forward, and they were ready for the upcoming trial.

Among those who called and came to her home to tell her the case was dropped, McNeal said, were Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marybeth Manfeda and David Gorman, and witness-victim specialist Jennifer Clark.

 “They were just saying they couldn’t find the witness,” McNeal told the Blade. “And I said the United States can find anybody they want to find. So, you can’t tell me they can’t find her. Because I say nothing has been done.”

Added McNeal, “I was hollering and crying and screaming for hours and made myself sick” shortly after being informed the case against the man she believes murdered her transgender child had been dropped.

The arrest affidavit says Smith told detectives who questioned him that his girlfriend and Green had been in a relationship at one time, but his girlfriend told him they were just friends at the time of the shooting. That raised speculation that Smith’s motive for the shooting could have been jealousy over his girlfriend having a relationship with Green.

But McNeal said she is convinced the motive for the murder was Smith’s anti-gay and anti-trans bias. 

“He’s a hater,” she said. “He’s a hater of homosexual women. He’s homophobic and transgender phobic.”

Veteran D.C. defense attorney Cheryl Stein, at the Blade’s request, reviewed some of the court records for the case against Smith before it was dismissed on Aug. 17.

“Because I do not have access to most of the relevant pleadings in the case, I cannot give a definitive explanation of why the government dismissed the case,” she told the Blade. “But based on the documents that I have reviewed, it is clear to me that the prosecution determined that it simply didn’t have enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” she said.

Stein noted that the defense raised serious questions about the credibility of the lead witness in the case, Witness 2, by citing her statements to police that she was on PCP at the time of the incident.

“When questioned right after the murder, she said she had no memory of the events,” Stein points out. “When a witness is so altered by drugs or alcohol that it affects their ability to accurately perceive and/or remember what they witnessed, they are disqualified from testifying,” she said. “Without that witness, the prosecution cannot possibly prove its case.”

Stein also points to court records showing the defense raised in a motion to “Suppress Tangible Evidence and Statements” that police allegedly violated Smith’s Miranda rights to remain silent when police took him into custody and obtained statements from him that could be incriminating.

“If those facts are correct, then nothing he said could be introduced at trial,” Stein said.

McNeal said her trans son, who went by the nickname Pinky, was a loving member of his family and was studying to be a medical technician. She said he had an associate degree from Prince George’s Community College and was attending the University of the District of Columbia at the time of his death.

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District of Columbia

Anacostia group honors LGBTQ advocate Pannell for 30 years of service

Oct. 5 celebration set for Ward 8 Sycamore & Oak retail village

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Phillip Pannell (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC), an advocacy organization for D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood and surrounding areas east of the Anacostia River, is holding a celebration honoring LGBTQ rights and Anacostia community activist Phillip Pannell for his 30 years of service with the ACC.

The event was scheduled to take place from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 5, at the recently opened Sycamore & Oak retail village mall on the St. Elizabeth’s East Campus in Southeast D.C.

Pannell, 73, serves as the ACC executive director, a position he has held since 1995. He has been a member of the Anacostia-based nonprofit organization’s staff since 1993.
A longtime advocate for LGBTQ rights, Pannell has been credited with persuading many of D.C.’s LGBTQ organizations to reach out to LGBTQ residents who live in Wards 7 and 8 east of the Anacostia River.

He has also been credited with persuading African-American organizations, including organizers of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. memorial celebrations, to include and welcome LGBTQ people to their events.

“Join us for an evening of food, fun, and surprises,” an announcement of the event released by the ACC says.

ACC spokesperson Lamont Mitchell told the Washington Blade several community leaders and public officials who have known Pannell during his many years of D.C. community involvement were expected to speak at the Oct. 5 celebration. Among the expected speakers, Mitchell said, was former D.C. Mayor Sharon Pratt.

According to the announcement, the event is free and open to the public, but organizers requested that people register in advance at tinyurl.com/Pannell35.

The ACC event honoring Pannell was to take place about a month after the D.C. newspaper Washington Informer published a detailed article profiling Pannell’s career as a community activist and advocate for several important local causes and issues, including D.C. statehood.

“D.C. statehood is not just a political issue, it is also a civil and human rights issue because if D.C. were a state, we would be a state with the highest percentage of African Americans, basically a majority, minority state,” the Informer quoted Pannell as saying. “That’s one of the reasons a lot of right-wing Republicans don’t want to see D.C. become a state because we are going to elect progressive, Black Democratic senators,” Pannell told the Informer.

A statement on the ACC’s website says Pannell has received more than 100 awards during his nearly four decades of work in D.C., including the 2011 U.S. President’s Call to Service Award and the 2012 D.C. Federation of Civic Associations award for Outstanding President of a Member Association.

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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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