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Beloved NBC 4 Washington anchor & LGBTQ+ ally Wendy Rieger dies

“I still feel like I have a community simply because my gay friends are just so warm- y’all are still the most fun people around ever…”

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Wendy Rieger Screenshot/WRC NBC4 Washington

WASHINGTON — NBC owned flagship Washington station, WRC-TV 4’s recently retired beloved anchor Wendy Rieger died on Saturday after a fight with brain cancer. She was 65.

“We lost our smart, vibrant, wonderful Wendy Rieger today,” said NBC4 in a statement it posted to its website. “Wendy loved life as much as it loved her. She had so many passions and lived life sharing them with everyone she could. For more than 30 years, NBC4 Washington viewers benefitted from her unique style that blended humor, intelligence and compassion, and we are all better for knowing her.”

Rieger was born in Norfolk, Va., on April 18, 1956.

She was an actress before she graduated from American University in 1980 with a degree in broadcast journalism.

Rieger worked for WAMU, WTOP and CNN before she joined NBC4 in 1988 as a general assignment reporter. Rieger began to anchor NBC4’s weekend evening newscasts in 1996 and the 5 p.m. broadcasts in 2001. She retired last December.

Rieger throughout her career championed the LGBTQ community.

She participated in a number of D.C. AIDS Rides and emceed several SMYAL Fall Brunches.

The Washington Blade in 2015 named Rieger “Best Local TV Personality” for that year’s “Best of Gay D.C.” issue, which featured a cover photo of Rieger straddling a drag queen as she applied lipstick. Rieger in 2017 made a cameo in the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s adaptation of the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

Rieger during an interview with the Blade after she announced her retirement from NBC4 credited Patrick Bruyere, a longtime volunteer for LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS service organizations who passed away from cancer in 2017, with introducing her to the LGBTQ community in D.C.

She said that Bruyere in 1999 asked her to host a fundraiser for One in Ten, a group that once ran the Reel Affirmations LGBTQ film festival, at the Lincoln Theater.

“I said, ‘I’d be glad to do that,’” said Rieger, recalling the conversation she had with Bruyere. “But you know, I’m just Wendy Rieger, I just anchor the news, you know. Don’t you have someone bigger? And he said, he actually said this, ‘I need a straight person because no one’s going to listen to us.’ And I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’” 

“I saw so many people in the gay community moving into neighborhoods and using this vast creative spirit to renovate. And this renaissance that was happening all throughout our city, it was because of gay creativity,” Rieger told the Blade, referring to her reaction to the lack of support that the One in Ten fundraiser had received. “I was stunned that this was still going on. This bullshit was still going on. This crap is still going on.”

Rieger throughout that interview stressed discrimination cannot “occur anywhere.”

“Enough with this shit,” she said. “I’m so tired of bigotry and ignorance. It is exhausting. It is just exhausting. I’m just sick of it.”

Rieger also expressed her gratitude to her LGBTQ viewers who “let me into your family.”

“That meant so much to me because now I had a tribe,” she said. “My ancestors, when they came over from various parts of Europe, we just didn’t do anything, but become sort of, you know, WASPs in suburbia, What the fuck is that? I’m sorry. What the fuck is that? It’s just like something my mother would say; we were just colorless, odorless and sexless.”

“You guys really gave me something to attach to and a kind of family to belong to,” added Rieger. “I still feel like I have a community simply because my gay friends are just so warm. And I’m sorry, y’all are still the most fun people around ever, ever, ever.”

‘I have lived my life big and loud’

Rieger had open heart surgery in October 2020. She announced last May that doctors had diagnosed her with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

“As you know, I have lived my life big and loud. It is my nature. And I’ve had a blast. But a stillness has come over me that is profound and potent,” said Rieger in a letter she sent to her former NBC4 colleagues last May. “I didn’t know I could be this quiet. Life is not always a test. It is a teaching. I must learn this lesson with grace. And I will.”

Rieger discussed her diagnosis with the Blade.

She said a friend referred Rieger to the Hillman Cancer Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Her doctor, Pascal Zinn, removed the tumor within 10 days of having the MRI that found it.

Rieger underwent radiation for six weeks and was participating in a cancer vaccine trial at Duke University when she spoke with the Blade.

“It says on my file, life expectancy 14 months,” she said. “Odds are meant to be defied and she said the people who survive this the most are the ones that say fuck you to this cancer and they go live their lives and there’s nothing wrong with them.”

Rieger died a day after NBC4 announced she had begun hospice care. She was holding the hand of her husband, Dan Buckley, a retired NBC4 cameraman, when she passed away.

Rieger was beloved LGBTQ ally

NBC4 reporter Pat Collins after Rieger passed away described her as the station’s “poet laureate” who “would grab a story by the collar, and she wouldn’t stop until she had every little detail.” The Blade joined LGBTQ organizations across D.C. who also mourned Rieger.

“Wendy was one of a kind and a fierce ally to the LGBTQ+ community,” said the Blade after NBC4 announced Rieger’s death. “Thank you, Wendy, for all you did. You will never be forgotten.”

The Capital Pride Alliance in a statement to the Blade said Rieger “touched so many lives, and she will be terribly missed by all who knew and loved her.”

“I’ve known Wendy for many years, and she lit up every room that she entered,” said former Capital Pride Alliance President Bernie Delia. “She had a way of connecting with everyone she encountered. It was always a joy to meet up with her and she will be missed by the countless friends she had across the DMV.”

Capital Pride Alliance President Ashley Smith echoed Delia.

“I will miss seeing her radiant face lighting up the spaces in which she served as MC or guest speaker and more,” Smith told the Blade. “[She was] an amazing spirit we all got to share and [we] will miss her, but know she is always with us.”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington described Rieger as “incomparable.”

“She was our beloved Spring Affair emcee, and, in 2019, a recipient of the GMCW Harmony Award, which recognized her contributions to the LGBTQ community,” it said in a statement. “Rest in peace, dear Wendy.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also mourned Rieger.

“Wendy delivered the news honestly — with humor, heart and expertise and she will be missed dearly,” said Bowser. “Our hearts are with Dan, her @nbcwashington family and the many, many people who loved Wendy.”

Plans for a memorial service have not been announced.

District of Columbia

Portrait of Matthew Shepard dedicated at National Cathedral

“It’s amazing how similar & what a great job [the artist] has done to make it look like and showing the essence of Matt,” said Dennis Shepard

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Judy and Dennis Shepard stand in front of a portrait of their son, Matthew. Matthew Shepard was honored at a ceremony on Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

WASHINGTON – Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in a 1998 anti-gay hate crime while tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyo., will be honored at a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 1, at Washington National Cathedral dedicating a newly commissioned portrait of Shepard.

Officials at the cathedral said the portrait by artist Kelly Latimore and commissioned by LGBTQ members of the Cathedral staff, is the only artistic image of Matthew Shepard created in collaboration with Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who were present during the ceremony.

Matthew Shepard’s ashes were interred at the Washington National Cathedral in 2018, 20 years after his death. The Cathedral announced in a statement this week that the Dec. 1 dedication of the Shepard portrait would also take place on what would have been Shepard’s 46th birthday.

A Thanksgiving and Celebration of Matthew Shepard service was held on October 26, 2018 at the Washington National Cathedral. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

“The horrific murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs are a tragic reminder that our LGBTQ friends and family continue to be targeted for who they love, and Matthew Shepard’s legacy reminds us of the urgency to confront bigotry and embrace people of all backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations,” said The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, in a statement.

Events surrounding the portrait dedication began with a 7 a.m. online prayer service “to celebrate and recall Matthew Shepard’s life,” the statement released by the Cathedral says. The service was led by Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

The Cathedral next hosted a preview of the portrait for the news media at 10:30 a.m., where Dennis and Judy Shepard talked about the portrait and their son’s life and the impact his death had on the nation’s understanding of hate crimes.

“It’s amazing how similar and what a great job that Kelly [Latimore] has done to make it look like Matt and showing the essence of Matt,” Dennis Shepard told the Washington Blade while viewing the portrait in the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where the portrait was on display.

Artist Latimore, who also spoke to reporters during the morning briefing at the chapel, said he was moved in his discussions with Judy and Dennis Shepard while getting ready to begin work on the painting by copies of dozens of letters they sent him that had been sent to the Shepards by people across the country after their son’s death.

Latimore included written excerpts from dozens of those letters as the background to his portrait of Matthew Shepard, which can be seen and read when standing close to the portrait.

Artist Kelly Latimore (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

“Matthew will not be forgotten,” an excerpt from one of the letters on the portrait says.
Dennis and Judy Shepard created the Matthew Shepard Foundation shortly after Matthew’s death, which has been credited with playing a lead role in advocating for the passage by Congress in 2009 of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The measure was the first federal hate crime statute that expanded the coverage of the federal hate crimes law to include a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class.

President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act on Oct. 22, 2009. (Washington Blade archive photo by Michael Key)

The Cathedral was to open its St. Joseph’s Chapel from 2-5 p.m. on Thursday to visitors where the Matthew Shepard portrait was on display. Dennis and Judy Shepard were scheduled to be present to greet visitors.

According to the statement released by the Cathedral, later in the evening at 7 p.m., the portrait was to be officially dedicated in a private service in the Cathedral’s crypt near the site where Shepard’s ashes were interred.

“A longtime supporter of the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the church, the Cathedral considers LGBTQ equality one of the great civil rights issues of the 21st century,” the statement released by the Cathedral says.

One of the two men charged with Matthew Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to a murder charge in exchange for an agreement by prosecutors not to seek a death sentence. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The other man charged in the murder, Aaron McKinney, pleaded not guilty and went to trial, where he was convicted of murder by a jury. In a dramatic statement before the judge at the conclusion of the trial, Dennis Shepard announced and he and his wife had asked prosecutors and the judge to spare McKinney from being sentenced to death, something he said McKinney did not do while fatally striking his son in the head multiple times with the barrel of a gun after the two men tied him to a fence post in a remote field outside Laramie.

The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive life terms in prison without the possibility of parole.

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‘Smoke-in’ at Russia’s D.C. embassy protests Griner incarceration

Brittney Griner is now going to be sitting in a Russian slave labor camp for the next nine years after this appeal was denied

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Activists inflated a giant 'joint' outside the Russian Embassy in D.C. calling for Brittney Griner's release & freedom for the Russian people. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – A small group of activists staged a protest in front of the Russian Embassy in D.C. on Thursday to protest the imprisonment of WNBA star Brittney Griner. The protest included a giant inflated “joint” and activists smoking marijuana at the gate along Wisconsin Avenue.

A Russian appellate court on Tuesday upheld Griner’s 9 1/2 year sentence to a penal colony following her conviction for smuggling drugs into the country. The vaping cartridge for which she was convicted is well within the legal limit of cannabis products to carry in D.C.

“I am outraged that Brittney Griner is now going to be sitting in a Russian slave labor camp for the next nine years after this appeal was denied,” activist Adam Eidinger told reporters.

“I know I’m not the only one that’s outraged,” Eidinger said as he raised a handful of cannabis plant material into the air. “I’m holding cannabis plants that grow in the District of Columbia lawfully in our backyards.”

Eidinger continued, “Brittney Griner is not a drug smuggler. She is not someone who is trying to corrupt the Russian children. It is simply her fate as a political pawn in this horrific war on Ukraine.”

Eidinger pointed to the Cyrillic writing on the inflated joint, “this message right here says it all: Free Brittney Griner and the Russians from Putin. He’s kidnapped this country and now he’s kidnapped a beloved American citizen and I think Americans need to start speaking out. We need to stop holding our tongues. The Russians have kidnapped a beloved American hero!”

A number of Secret Service officers ensured the activists remained on the sidewalk, but Eidinger insisted that their actions were legal.

Following the statement to the press, activists smoked marijuana at the gates of the Russian Embassy.

Activists Adam Eidinger and Pamela Wexler smoke marijuana in front of the Russian Embassy on Thursday, Oct. 28 to protest the imprisonment of U.S. WNBA star Brittney Griner.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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D.C.’s Children’s Hospital targeted by Libs of TikTok over trans care

Anti-LGBTQ+ right-wing Twitter account cited incorrect claims by hospital employee about female to male trans surgery

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D.C.’s Children’s National Hospital (Screenshot/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – D.C.’s Children’s National Hospital has become the target of threatening phone calls, email messages and social media postings after a widely read far-right Twitter account known as Libs of Tiktok posted an incorrect report claiming the hospital routinely performs hysterectomies on transgender patients under the age of 18.

Libs of TikTok founder Chaya Raichik included in her Aug. 25 posting audio recordings of two Children’s National Hospital telephone operators who the hospital says incorrectly stated that a transgender boy as young as 16 would be eligible for a hysterectomy.

“We do not and have never provided gender-affirming surgery for anyone under the age of 18,” according to an emailed statement the hospital media office sent to the Blade.  “In fact, in D.C. you cannot perform a hysterectomy in a minor without a court order,” the statement says.

“We do not provide hormone therapy to children before puberty begins,” the statement continues. “Care is individualized for each patent and always involves families making decisions in coordination with a team of highly trained pediatric specialists,” it says.

“None of the people who were secretly recorded by this activist group deliver care to our patients,” says the statement. “The information in the recording is not accurate. To reiterate, we do not and have never performed gender affirming hysterectomies on minors,” it says.

The statement added, “Since the spreading of misinformation on Twitter, we have been the target of a large volume of hostile phone calls, social media messages and emails.”

The Washington Post has reported that the harassment encountered by the hospital has included social media posts suggesting that it be bombed, and its doctors placed in a woodchipper.

According to the Children’s National Hospital’s statement; “Children’s National Hospital is committed to fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for all and to serving our LGBTQ+ patients and families in the full spectrum of their care.”

Threats and harassing calls and email messages were directed at Boston’s Children’s Hospital earlier this month over what the hospital says were similar false claims on social media that it was performing hysterectomies on transgender youth under the age of 18.

Libs of TikTok, which has often promoted “groomer” discourse that falsely linked LGBTQ teachers and parents to pedophilia, began to make a variety of false claims regarding Boston Children’s. One allegation included the lie about Children’s offering gender-affirming hysterectomies to children under 18 years old.

Journalist Martha Bebinger with WBUR,  Boston’s NPR news station, noted the campaign started last week with criticism of a video posted on the hospital’s website about hysterectomies. Several conservative social media accounts shared posts about the video on Twitter. The hospital performs hysterectomies on patients 18 and older, but not on children as some of the posts claimed.

“We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms, and we reject the false narratives upon which they are based,” Boston Children’s said in a statement. “We are working with law enforcement to protect our clinicians, staff, patients, families and the broader Boston Children’s Hospital community and hold the offenders accountable,” the statement added.

For over two years, a Brooklyn real estate agent and fanatical adherent of far-right extremist ideology, Chaya Raichik, has wreaked havoc via her social media accounts ‘Libs of Tik Tok’, attacking LGBTQ+ people with special emphasis on spreading lies and propaganda about transgender people.

When Raichik attacked Boston Children’s Hospital, spreading lies and falsehoods about the healthcare facility’s treatment of transgender youth. Her ‘call to arms’ was then joined by conservative journalist and anti-LGBTQ+ activist Christopher Rufo and The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh, a vehement anti-Trans pundit.

The resulting chaos including death threats against Children’s clinicians and staff was acknowledged by a spokesperson for the Boston Police who told the Blade that officials had stepped up security to augment the efforts by the hospital to protect its staff and that an investigation had been launched.

The United States Department of Justice has also launched an investigation into the threats according to an announcement by the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Rachael Rollins.

In a lengthy statement issued by GLAAD, the organization wrote:

“Libs of TikTok is synonymous with maliciously targeting LGBTQ organizations, people, and allies by posting lies, misinformation, and blatant hate,” said a GLAAD spokesperson. “Meta and Twitter continue to profit from accounts like Libs of TikTok as doctors and staff members of Boston Children’s Hospital, and other providers of healthcare to transgender people, receive death threats and hate.

“These companies are complicit in hosting content which expresses malicious falsehoods and which incite anti-LGBTQ hate. This is the latest in a long pattern of blatant inaction from the platforms to content that directly leads to the recent rise in real world violence and harassment facing LGBTQ people.” 

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Tennessee man utters threats against DC hotel workers with a gun

He made the threats that the workers were from “the faggot part of D.C. and that his gun is only for “faggots and pussies”

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Photo Credit: Washington Metropolitan Police Department, District of Columbia

WASHINGTON – A 21-year-old man arrested by D.C. police on Aug. 24 at the Lyle Hotel near Dupont Circle for allegedly threatening two hotel workers with a handgun stated at the time he made the threats that the workers were from “the faggot part of D.C. and that his gun is only for faggots and pussies,” according to an arrest affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court.

Court charging documents show that Dylan Nation, a resident of Ooltewah, Tenn., and who was a guest at the hotel at the time of the incident, was charged with Assault With A Dangerous Weapon, Possession of A Firearm During a Crime of Violence, and Carrying a Pistol Without a License.

The arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police says the incident began about 1:20 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 24, when a hotel security worker observed Nation, who is identified in the affidavit as the suspect, engaged in a verbal altercation with a woman identified as his girlfriend outside the hotel, which is located at 1731 New Hampshire Ave., N.W. The affidavit says the security worker “stepped in” to deescalate the altercation and escorted Nation and the girlfriend back into the hotel lobby.

Lyle Hotel (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Once inside Nation told the security worker, who is listed in the affidavit as Complainant 1, and another person the affidavit identifies as Complainant 2, that he needed to go to his car in the hotel parking lot to get some face wash. According to the affidavit, Complainant 2 escorted Nation to the parking lot where Nation allegedly removed a handgun from the glove compartment of his car.

The affidavit says the girlfriend, meanwhile, told Complainant 1, the security worker, that Nation had a gun in his car, prompting Complainant 1 to go to the parking lot, where he observed Complainant 2 attempting to persuade Nation to put the gun back in the car.

“Complainant 1 sees a black handgun in the Suspect’s left hand and tells the Suspect that guns are not allowed in the hotel and that he must leave it in his car,” the affidavit states. “Complainant 1 stated that while in the back parking lot the Suspect points the gun at him and tells him he will blow his skull off,” the affidavit continues.

“Complainant 1 then reaches for the gun and takes it out of the Suspect’s hand,” the affidavit says, after which it says Complainant 1 walked back to the hotel lobby, removed the bullets from the gun, and asked someone to call police. The affidavit does not say whether Nation struggled to resist giving up his gun or passively allowed the hotel worker to take it from him.

The gun is identified in the affidavit as a Glock 23 .40 caliber handgun.

The affidavit next describes both Nation and Complainant 1 standing in front of the hotel, with Nation demanding that he get his gun back. It says Complainant 1 refused to return the gun and told Nation that police had been called. Minutes later, when sirens from arriving police cars were heard, Nation attempted to flee the scene, running north on New Hampshire Avenue.

“Complainant 1 ran after him and tackled him in front of 1806 New Hampshire Avenue Northwest,” the affidavit says. “While holding the Suspect down a marked MPD cruiser stopped and an officer ran over and placed the suspect in handcuffs. Complainant 1 immediately told the officer that the suspect had pointed a gun at him,” the affidavit says.

It says D.C. police obtained a security camera video from the hotel that also included an audio recording in which the voices of the hotel workers and Nation could be heard during part of the altercation.

“In the video you can hear the Defendant’s voice arguing with the Complainants about having a gun and that he should put it in the car for everyone’s safety,” the affidavit states. “The Defendant refuses, then starts to talk about not being safe around the Complainants and that the Complainants are not tough because they are from the faggot part of D.C. and that his gun is only for faggots and pussies,” says the affidavit.

It concludes by saying Nation waived his right not to talk to police detectives following his arrest and that he denied he ever took a gun from his car and pointed it at anyone in a threatening way.

Court records show that at a presentment hearing on the day of Nation’s arrest on Aug. 24, Superior Court Judge Dorsey Jones ordered Nation held without bond pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Friday, Aug. 26.

The initial D.C. police incident report does not list the incident as a suspected hate crime.

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Gay couple assaulted in D.C. by teens shouting ‘monkeypox faggots’

The men were treated and released at Howard University Hospital for head and facial bruises, with one receiving stitches for a deep cut

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Photo credit: Washington Metropolitan Police Dept/Facebook

WASHINGTON – Two young men appearing in their late teens shouted the words “monkeypox faggots” at a gay male couple walking along 7th Street, N.W. in the city’s Shaw neighborhood on Sunday, Aug. 7, before punching the two men in the face and head in an incident that D.C. police have called a suspected hate crime.

The gay men were treated and released at Howard University Hospital for head and facial bruises, with one of the two receiving stitches for a deep cut on his upper lip, according to one of the victims who spoke to the Washington Blade.

The victim, an Alexandria resident who asked that he and his partner, a D.C. resident, not be identified by name, said the attackers were part of a group of four or five young men appearing to be between 17 and 19 years old and two young women accompanying them. He said the group crossed paths with the gay couple around 5:40 p.m. in front of a store on the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W., as the couple was walking to a nearby bus stop on Rhode Island Avenue.

The victim who spoke to the Blade said a nearby witness called D.C. police, who arrived within a few minutes as the two attackers and the other young men with them fled the scene. He said although an ambulance arrived on the scene, one of the police officers drove the couple to nearby Howard University Hospital, where they spent about six hours in the emergency room.

The couple had spent part of that 90+ degree day at the city’s Banneker Pool and later stopped at the Kiki gay bar on U Street, N.W. before taking what the victim who spoke to the Blade said was a leisurely walk from Kiki via 7th Street on their way to the bus stop, where they planned to take the bus to his boyfriend’s Northeast D.C. house.

As the couple walked south on 7th Street about a block from their destination on Rhode Island Avenue they crossed paths with the group of teenagers in front of a store that a D.C. police report says was at 1731 7th St., N.W.

“They were about 17 to 19 years old,” the victim who spoke to the Blade said. “And one of them started saying stuff like, hey, look at these monkeypox faggots and some not so nice stuff like that,” he said.

Two persons of interest considered possible suspects in the Sunday, Aug. 7 assault of a gay couple on the 1700 block of 7th Street, N.W. Police ask anyone who recognizes one or both individuals to contact police at 202-727-9099.
(Image courtesy of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department)

“We turned around to walk away and one of them came up behind me and got my attention and then sucker punched me and then hit me again and then hit my boyfriend in the face,” the victim said. “And another person hit him in the face as well,” he said. “And then someone across the street called the cops. And then the cops came, and they scattered off.”

To the couple’s surprise, the two young women remained on the scene and apologized for the actions by the guys they were with.

“So, I said something like thanks for the apology, but this is the kind of people you hang out with,” the victim recounted. “And one of them said their dad was gay, and they kind of walked away before the cops got there,” he said. “It was nice of them to apologize I guess for the other people.”

The D.C. police report lists the incident as having two offenses, a simple assault against the two men and a misdemeanor destruction of property related to the destruction of a pair of sunglasses worn by one of the two men that were damaged in the assault against him.

The report also lists the incident as a suspected “Sexual orientation – Anti-Gay” hate crime.

As in all incidents of violent crime, D.C. police call on members of the public to contact the police with information about an incident like this to call police at 202-727-9099 or text a tip to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411.

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D.C. LGBTQ+ community services center closes after finances collapse

Earlier this year the entire Board of Directors had resigned, raising the question of whether Casa Ruby could legally operate without a board

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Ruby Corado (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Casa Ruby, the D.C. LGBTQ community services center that provided transitional housing services for homeless LGBTQ youth and adults and support for LGBTQ immigrants, has shut down all of its programs after it lost most of its city funding, one of its few remaining employees told the Washington Blade.

Tania Cordova, a Casa Ruby official who has coordinated the group’s LGBTQ immigrant services program, said a failure to pay the rent for Casa Ruby’s offices and rental homes for its transitional housing program made it impossible for the remaining staff of about 10 employees to continue any of the group’s programs.

The Casa Ruby shutdown this week took place nine months after Ruby Corado, the group’s founder and longtime executive director, resigned last October. She announced her resignation less than a week after the D.C. Department of Human Services disclosed it would not renew an annual Casa Ruby grant of what was said to be $850,000 to operate a low-barrier shelter for LGBTQ people.

At the time of her resignation, Corado said Casa Ruby’s then-Government Affairs Director Alexis Blackmon would assume the position of interim executive director while a search took place for a permanent director. But Blackmon resigned from the interim position a short time later and Casa Ruby announced that Jackie Franco, one of its managers, would serve as interim leader for the group with the title of Chief of Staff.

According to Cordova and others familiar with Casa Ruby, who spoke on condition of not being identified, Corado retained full control of Casa Ruby’s finances and made all key decisions despite her claim to have resigned. Cordova and other Casa Ruby staffers have also pointed out that Corado since the time of her announced resignation has spent most of her time in El Salvador operating, among other things, a Casa Ruby she opened in the capital city of San Salvador.

Corado told the Blade in an interview in May that the Casa Ruby board approved the creation of the Casa Ruby in El Salvador. Among its objectives, Corado said, was to provide services for LGBTQ Salvadorans so that they would not be forced to immigrate to the U.S.

Neither Corado nor Franco could immediately be reached this week for comment on the claim by the Casa Ruby staff that they had shut down the D.C. Casa Ruby’s operations.

One source familiar with the D.C. Casa Ruby said there were only about 10 staff members left as of June of this year. Cordova said that as of earlier this year, the entire Casa Ruby Board of Directors had resigned, raising the question of whether Casa Ruby could legally operate without a board.  

The Washington Post reported this week that Casa Ruby employed as many as 100 people as of 2020, eight years after Corado founded the group in 2012.

In its 2020 IRS 990 finance report, which all nonprofit organizations are required to file each year, Casa Ruby reported its total revenue for the year was $4,161,905, with most of the funds coming from D.C. government grants. The 2020 report, the latest one the IRS has released, also shows that Corado’s salary and total compensation for that year was $260,416.

Casa Ruby sources said the group filed a request for an extension of the deadline for filing 2021 IRS 990 report because Corado had not provided the needed financial information. The sources said that while the D.C. government has withheld several hundred thousand dollars in grants for Casa Ruby in the past year or two due to “noncompliance” with the terms of the grants, Casa Ruby has continued to receive funds from private donors. And the staff has not been informed by Corado, according to the sources, on how the private donor funds have been used.

In her interview with the Blade in May, Corado said she believes the Department of Human Services, which has provided much of Casa Ruby’s D.C. government funding, as well as the mayor’s office, was retaliating against her for her outspoken criticism of the city’s handling of programs for the homeless and other programs.

The Department of Human Services has not responded to repeated requests by the Blade for its specific reasons for determining that Casa Ruby was not in compliance with the DHS grants, which prompted DHS to cut off its funds for those grants.

The Menkiti Group, the company that owns the building at 7325 Georgia Ave., N.W., which Casa Ruby used as its headquarters and for the low barrier shelter, claims in a Landlord Tenant Court filing that Casa Ruby owes the company over $1 million in unpaid rent and late fees, among other expenses. Corado told the Blade last year that she withheld some of the rent in a dispute over what she said was the owner’s failure to maintain the building that led to multiple violations in the city’s fire and building code.

A spokesperson for the company told the Blade last year that Corado agreed to a lease that holds the tenant responsible for all needed repairs for the building. Casa Ruby has since moved out of that building.

The landlord for two smaller buildings in the Dupont Circle area in which Casa Ruby rented space have also filed eviction notices for failure to pay the rent.

Cordova said that the Union Temple Baptist Church, which rented four small townhouses to Casa Ruby where Cordova helped to operate the group’s LGBTQ immigrant services program, filed for eviction in court over failure by Casa Ruby to pay the rent. The church owns the buildings. Cordova said the immigrant occupants of the buildings as well as she, who lived in one of them, were forced to move out.

“Everything is closed,” Cordova said. “Nobody is going there to get services because there is nobody to provide the services,” she said. “We don’t have an office, we don’t have office supplies, we don’t have an internet. How are we going to provide services?”

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District of Columbia

D.C.’s Duke Ellington arts school theater not renamed after Chappelle

The renaming was postponed after anti-transgender jokes in Chappelle’s Netflix special “The Closer” sparked controversy

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The Duke Ellington School for the Arts in Washington D.C. (Photo Credit: The Duke Ellington School for the Arts )

WASHINGTON – The Duke Ellington School for the Arts on Monday officially renamed its theater, but not after Dave Chappelle, the school’s most famous alumni, as had been expected.

The renaming was initially scheduled for Nov. 23, 2021, it was postponed after anti-transgender jokes in Chappelle’s Netflix special “The Closer” sparked controversy. Chappelle himself eventually helped choose a different name for the theater, saying that he did not want students to feel upset with his name being on it, since “the idea that my name will be turned into an instrument of someone else’s perceived oppression is untenable to me.”

The theater is now called the Theater for Artistic Freedom and Expression, and in an interview with NBC4, Chappelle said that he chose to highlight artistic freedom because “that’s what I would want for myself, and that’s what I want for every student that goes to this school.”

“And I do feel like if that’s threatened, then the society at large is threatened,” Chappelle said. “If artists feel stifled, then everyone’s stifled. And I feel like artists have a responsibility to really be true to their art right now.”

Dave Chappelle (Photo by Mathieu Bitton)

Chappelle has previously included anti-trans jokes in his comedic repertoire.

He has previously made jokes about former President Trump’s decision to ban trans service members from the military and the possibility of Caitlyn Jenner posing nude on the cover of Sports Illustrated. However, in a one-on-one interview with the Washington Blade in August 2017, Chappelle denied being transphobic. 

“I wouldn’t consider myself that because I’m not even sure what the term means,” Chappelle said. “I’m not an obstructionist of anybody’s lifestyle, as long as it doesn’t hurt me or people I love and I don’t believe that lifestyle does.” 

Chappelle also called North Carolina’s House Bill 2, which prohibited trans people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity as “fucking absurd” and “clearly a mean-spirited law” designed to deny trans people their basic humanity. 

While Chappelle has at times defended the LGBTQ community and has denied being transphobic, trans activists and students at the Ellington School alike have expressed discomfort with his apparent lack of understanding and empathy about the ways his jokes harm trans people. 

“I appreciate a good joke as much as anyone. But when jokes lead to dehumanization, violence and death aimed at trans people, that’s when a line has been crossed and it has to be called out,” the late-Monica Roberts, a trans activist of color from Houston, said in response to Chappelle’s comments to the Blade.

In light of this controversy, which has only gained more airtime since “The Closer” premiered in 2021, Chappelle chose to take the focus off of himself by supporting an alternate name for the Ellington School’s theater. Currently, students at Duke Ellington — many of whom are LGBTQ — have access to “listening sessions” planned by the administration in which they can air their thoughts about the theater’s renaming.

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District of Columbia

Vice-President Kamala Harris addresses Capital Pride in D.C.

“We should not have to be dealing with 300 laws in states around our country that are attacking our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters”

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the 2022 Capital Pride Festival. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – In a surprise appearance, Vice President Kamala Harris spoke from the main stage of D.C.’s Capital Pride Festival late Sunday afternoon before a crowd of as many as a thousand people who had been watching the Capital Pride concert that had been taking place prior to Harris’ unannounced appearance.

To the delight of the crowd, Ryan Bos, executive director of the Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C. Pride events, introduced Harris and her husband, second gentleman Doug Emhoff, on the stage, drawing thunderous applause.

“Happy Pride everyone!” Harris told the crowd. “Oh, what a glorious day. Listen, we have so much to celebrate, and we celebrate each other every day,” she said.

“We celebrate the progress we have made,” she continued. “And we celebrate the fact that we are in this to stand for what we stand for and fight for what we stand for,” she said.

Also making an unannounced appearance on the festival stage about an hour before Harris’ appearance was D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who expressed her strong support for LGBTQ Pride.

Harris’ appearance at the Capital Pride Festival on Sunday came exactly one year after she and Emhoff joined hundreds of LGBTQ participants in D.C.’s Capital Pride Walk as it reached 13th Street, N.W., near Freedom Plaza, becoming the first U.S. vice president to participate in an LGBTQ Pride event. 

Her unannounced appearance in last year’s Pride Walk came as a surprise to the Capital Pride organizers as well as to the delighted onlookers who saw Harris and her husband join the walk, which was an abridged version of the Capital Pride Parade that had been cancelled in 2021 as it had in 2020 due to the pandemic.

In her short speech on Sunday, Harris referred to the Pulse nightclub shooting exactly six years ago in Orlando, Fla., which took the lives of 49 mostly LGBTQ people, saying, “no one should fear going to a nightclub for fear that a terrorist might try to take them down.”

She also referred to the nearly 300 anti-LGBTQ laws under consideration or that have passed in states around the country.

“We will always be fueled by knowing we have so much more in common than what separates us,” she told the cheering crowd. “We will be fueled by saying no one will be made to fight alone. We will be fueled by knowing we are all in this together,” she said. “And we will fight with pride. Happy Pride everyone!”

Observers familiar with D.C.’s Capital Pride Festival, which was held this year for the first time since 2019 due to pandemic restrictions, said it appeared to have attracted one of the largest turnouts ever, with several hundred thousand people in attendance throughout the day. Like past years, the festival took place on a four-block section of Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., between Third and Seventh Streets. 

More than 270 organizations or businesses registered to set up a booth at the festival, according to a list released by Capital Pride Alliance. Many of the organizations and businesses participating in the festival had also marched or road in vehicles or on floats in the Capital Pride Parade one day earlier.

Bos said there were about 245 contingents in the parade on Saturday, about the same number that participated in the 2019 Capital Pride Parade, the last one held since this year. But those familiar with the 2019 parade and those held in earlier years said they believed this year’s parade attracted more spectators than in past years, most likely because LGBTQ people, like so many others, wanted to join the celebration after the two-year hiatus brought about by COVID.

Vice President Kamala Harris addresses the crowd at the 2022 Capital Pride Festival.
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Full text of Harris’s remarks:

“Happy Pride everyone! Oh, what a glorious day. Listen, we have so much to celebrate, and we celebrate each other every day. We celebrate the progress we have made. And we celebrate the fact that we are in this to stand for what we stand for and fight for what we stand for.

Because no one should fear going to a nightclub for fear that a terrorist might try to take them down. No one should fear going to a Pride celebration because of a white supremacist. No one should fear loving who they love. Our children in Texas and Florida should not fear who they are. Black and brown and women of color, transgender women cannot fear for their lives.

We should not have to be dealing with 300 laws in states around our country that are attacking our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. For we know what we stand for and therefore we know what we will fight for. And we will do what we have always done in this movement, in this community, which is collectively, we will continue to build unity. We will continue to build coalitions.

We will always be fueled by knowing we have so much more in common than what separates us. We will be fueled by saying no one will be made to fight alone. We will be fueled by knowing we are all in this together. And we will fight with pride. Happy Pride everyone.”

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District of Columbia

Six years after Pulse shooting, calls for change grow around the nation

Thousands gathered on the National Mall as March For Our Lives held a rally calling for solutions to escalating gun violence

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March For Our Lives held a rally calling for solutions to escalating gun violence Saturday (Photo by Josh Alburtus/The Washington Blade)

WASHINGTON – On the night of June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed and 53 were injured in a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The shooting has since remained one of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history.

Six years later, efforts to curb gun violence in America and halt the country’s epidemic of mass shootings have reignited in the wake of more recent mass shootings.

Just before noon on Saturday, June 11, thousands of people carrying signs and clad in anti-gun-violence clothing flooded the north lawn of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. across from the White House. 

March for Our Lives Rally attendees walk along 15th Street NW, Washington D.C. on June 11, 2022
(Photo by Josh Alburtus/The Washington Blade)

One of those in the crowd was Jessica Mahoney, a young activist with ties to a national past littered with gun violence.

“My close family is from Sandy Hook and, as the sign references, I used this sign four years ago,” Mahoney said. “This has been a very personal issue for me since 2012 when I had to spend over an hour wondering if my cousins were alive or not. I just feel like it’s so important that people are out here that haven’t been personally touched by the issue because I just think that shows that there’s a real movement behind what’s going on.”

Mahoney and her fellow protesters in the crowd were some of the hundreds of thousands more protestors who marched in different cities across the country on that day calling on state and federal lawmakers to pass legislation reforming the nation’s gun laws.

The marches, organized in large part by the youth-led gun violence prevention organization March for Our Lives, were triggered by a sustained national outcry for action following the latest mass shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and a Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo, New York, both in late May. The organization held similar nationwide rallies in 2018 following the Parkland school shooting that led to the group’s inception.

Mahoney described her feelings about having to return to another rally four years later in an effort to address the same issue.

“It’s frustrating and a bit maddening at times to be honest that we still have to do this,” Mahoney said. “But it just seems like there’s more energy every time and so I think that I’m also hopeful about it.”

Anti-gun violence protestors (Photo by Josh Alburtus/The Washington Blade)

The issue has been one plaguing Americans in various settings and from various walks of life and has affected those across a spectrum of identities, including the LGBTQ community.

Marking the six-year anniversary of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released a statement the day before the March for Our Lives rally.

“Gun violence remains an LGBTQ+ issue, with three-fourths of homicides against transgender people – including nearly eight in ten homicides of Black trans women – involving a gun,” HRC Interim President Joni Madison said in the statement. “Compounding this tragedy is the fact that in the six years since Pulse, we have been unable to advance meaningful federal gun reform legislation.”

But in an effort to prevent future mass killings like those in Parkland, Uvalde, Buffalo, and Orlando, prominent activists have since brought a spotlight to the issue of gun violence in America. Many such activists descended on the grounds of the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital on Saturday to speak to those gathered and amplify their message.

David Hogg, a survivor of the mass shooting on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and a founder and board member of March for Our Lives, spoke to the crowd.

“We need to stop these shooters before they get on campus and stop endangering the lives of our first responders, our students, our teachers because people on Capitol Hill don’t want to do their job and protect us,” Hogg said.

March For Our Lives Co-Founder David Hogg speaking to the crowd.
(Photo by Josh Alburtus/The Washington Blade)

Alongside Hogg were a number of other activists and politicians who shared the goal of reducing gun violence in America, including Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush, D-MO 1st District.

Bush described her own proximity to gun violence in calling for action, sharing with the crowd her past escape from such as she ran from an abusive partner who kept firearms in their home.

“When I turned back for a moment, because, ‘Why isn’t he chasing me?’” Bush said. “I turned back, and I saw him standing still, ‘Why is he standing still?’ Next thing I knew, I heard shots.”

Bush believed the near-death experience to be “completely preventable.”

“Closing the boyfriend loophole could’ve saved me from a near-lethal encounter with gun violence,” Bush said. “A red flag law could’ve saved me from a nearly lethal encounter with gun violence.”

Hogg and others took aim at counterarguments from pro-gun entities that have advocated for mental health support rather than gun reform to solve the problem.

“We also must address the fact that mental health does have a role to play in stopping gun violence, but that racism is not a mental illness,” Hogg said. “Hatred, racism, radicalization, xenophobia are not mental illnesses.”

But even at an event meant to highlight what gatherers felt was a need to curb the nation’s scourge of gun violence, the specter of fear and violence remained ubiquitous.

During a moment of silence for the victims of America’s gun violence, a man toward the front of the crowd began to shout and attempted to breach the event’s main stage. A source close to the stage told the Blade that the man threw a megaphone into the crowd while shouting, “I am God.”

Those assembled feared the worst. Due to the size of the crowd that had assembled, rallygoers across the lawn perceived the disturbance to be an active gun threat. Hundreds dropped flat to the ground while others ran from the stage in an attempt to escape the potential violence.

U.S. Park Police Officers (Photo by Josh Alburtus/The Washington Blade)

After organizers and police were able to apprehend the disruptor, rally organizers attempted to reconvene the frightened crowd and push forward.

“Do not run, freeze, do not run,” an organizer said over the sounds of emerging police sirens. “There is no issue here, do not run.”

But the moment of fear clung to many who were present.

Rallygoer Kirsten Hiera witnessed the moment of mass confusion but was unable to flee the scene despite her own fear.

“I was scared but I didn’t want to run away because I’m with someone who’s elderly and I didn’t want to have her be abandoned,” Hiera said. “I felt scared and confused but I didn’t want to abandon my friend.”

As those gathered began to tepidly rise and return to the stage, the organizer proceeded to draw attention back to the focus of the rally, leading a chant exclaiming peace to be a lifestyle.

(Photo by Josh Alburtus/The Washington Blade)

Exiting the stage toward the end of the rally after the crowd had reconvened, the organizer left them with advice that touched to the core of the movement’s mission – one that, in the wake of tens of thousands of gun deaths in shootings like Orlando, organizers like Hogg have described as not pro-gun or anti-gun, but pro-peace.

“The other thing that I want to say is let’s not give into the hate,” she said. “Let’s not give into the hate. There’s more people who are about love than there is that is about hate.”

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District of Columbia

Plea bargain: 7 month sentence in homophobic attack in Washington D.C.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office thoroughly investigated and analyzed the facts and provided what we determined to be an appropriate plea offer”

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Mike Silverstein, left, and Sean Lai are joined outside D.C. Superior Court by members of Lai's legal team: Blair Decker, Molly Pallman and Katie Colura (Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro Jr.)

WASHINGTON – A D.C. Superior Court judge on Thursday sentenced District resident Patrick Trebat, 39, to seven months in jail following a dramatic court hearing in which a gay Asian man, Sean Lai, described how Trebat assaulted him and his parents while shouting homophobic and anti-Asian slurs in an unprovoked attack last August on a Northwest D.C. street.

The sentencing came after Trebat pleaded guilty during the same hearing to three counts of misdemeanor simple assault, with one of the counts designated as a hate crime based on the victim’s ethnicity. The guilty plea was part of a plea bargain offer by prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C.

In exchange for Trebat accepting the plea deal, prosecutors agreed to drop two earlier felony charges of bias-related assault with significant bodily injury brought against Trebat in connection with the attack on Lai and his parents.

Judge Michael O’Keefe officially sentenced Trebat to 21 months of incarceration for the three charges, but suspended all but seven months of the sentence. O’Keefe also sentenced Trebat to three years of supervised probation upon his release, with the stipulation that he will be required to serve the full 21 months if he violates the terms of his probation.

Trebat, who had been released on a partial home detention order shortly after his arrest just under 10 months ago, was placed in immediate custody and escorted out of the courtroom by U.S. marshals after the conclusion of the sentencing part of the hearing to begin serving his sentence.

In delivering a victim’s impact statement in the courtroom, Lai told O’Keefe that in addition to inflicting physical injuries on him and his parents that required emergency treatment at a hospital, Trebat’s attack on his family caused deep emotional scars that continues to haunt all three of them.

He said he objects to the plea bargain deal on grounds, among other things, that it does not designate Trebat’s violent attack as a hate crime based on Lai’s sexual orientation, only on his and his parents’ ethnicity.

Court records show that Trebat attacked Lai and his elderly parents, who are of Chinese ancestry, as they were walking on a street in the city’s Observatory Circle neighborhood near where they were living and within sight of the Washington National Cathedral.

Police charging documents filed in court state that Trebat called the three victims “faggots” and shouted, “You are not Americans” as he approached them while they were walking along the 3700 block of Fulton Street, N.W. at about 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 7, 2021. One of the documents says Trebat punched and shoved the three victims, knocking each of them to the ground, after initially punching Lai’s father in the head from behind while shouting, “Get out of my country.”

“As painful as it is to relive this moment when this atrocious attack took place, I choose to be here today because I wanted you to hear my own voice and perspective, as well as the perspective from my parents,” Lai told the judge. “The defendant attacked me and my elderly parents without provocation, motivated simply by his hatred toward our race and my sexual orientation,” Lai continued.

“But what breaks my heart the most is what was done to my parents,” he said. “I had to take them each to several orthopedics appointments over the following months. I secretly cried in my bed each night after seeing the pain that was inflicted on them and the psychological trauma that they experienced.”

Gay D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Mike Silverstein followed Lai by delivering an LGBTQ community impact statement before the court on behalf of the city’s ANC LGBTQ Rainbow Caucus, the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, and what Silverstein said was Lai’s request that he speak on behalf of the Asian and Pacific Islander community.

“Thank you, Your Honor, for the opportunity to give this victim’s impact statement,” Silverstein said. “And please forgive me for the next 13 words, which were not mine,” he said.

“’Fuck you bitch!’ ‘Faggot!’ ‘You are not Americans! Get out of this country!’”

“Those were the 13 words Patrick Trebat shouted at Sean Lai and his elderly mother and father just before Mr. Trebat physically attacked them without provocation,” said Silverstein as courtroom spectators listened intently.

“As members of the LGBT+ community, we feel this was an attack on every one of us,” Silverstein continued. “It was a direct attack on our right to exist and to live openly in the District of Columbia. We respectfully ask the court to issue the maximum jail sentence so that our community can feel that we are protected, and that we need not live in fear that those who would do us harm will get off easy,” he said.

After asking Trebat to confirm that he fully understands and agrees to the terms of the plea offer, O’Keefe invited Trebat to give his own statement just prior to the sentencing.

Trebat, who was dressed in a suit and tie, offered his “deepest apologies” to Lai and Lai’s parents, who were not present in the courtroom. Trebat said he was intoxicated on alcohol and drugs at the time of the incident and had no recollection of what happened.

“I was legitimately out of my mind that night,” the told the judge. He said alcohol and prescription drugs caused him to engage in “stupid” acts. “I am sorry for the shame I brought to my parents, to American University, and to the victims,” he added.

He was referring to his status as a graduate student at American University at the time of his arrest. The university later expelled him from his enrollment there after American University students protested that he had initially been allowed to continue his studies following a hate crime arrest.

“This event was not personal. I ’m not a racist,” he said. “I take full accountability for what happened. I’m a changed person.”

Trebat’s attorney, Brandi Harden, asked O’Keefe to sentence Trebat to only a suspended jail term and a stringent term of probation rather than incarceration, saying that he suffers from and has long been treated for mental health issues, which would be worsened if he were to be sent to jail.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Platt, the lead prosecutor in the case, expressed opposition to Harden’s request, telling the judge that Trebat was already receiving a “significant benefit” from the plea offer.

“We don’t dispute that the defendant was intoxicated,” Platt said. But he added that the plea deal includes a provision for mental health and substance abuse treatment and that Trebat needs to be held responsible for his actions.

“This was part of hate crimes against Asians across the country,” Platt told O’Keefe before providing statistics of the violent hate crime attacks against Asian Americans nationwide. “This type of attack will not be tolerated,” he said.

Although Platt acknowledged that Trebat also hurled homophobic slurs at Lai and his parents during the attack, he did not explain why prosecutors chose not to include a hate crime designation pertaining to sexual orientation in the plea bargain offer.

“I believe he is remorseful,” O’Keefe said in handing down his sentence. “But there has to be some punishment,” he said. “You have been shamed, and that is part of the penalty,” O’Keefe added. “It was your own actions that brought this on … I think this sentence strikes a good balance.”

In response to a request by the Washington Blade for comment on why prosecutors decided to reduce the severity of the charges against Trebat through the plea agreement and did not include sexual orientation in the hate crime designation, U.S. Attorney spokesperson William Miller sent a brief statement to the Blade.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office thoroughly investigated and analyzed the facts and circumstances of this case and provided what we determined to be an appropriate plea offer,” the statement says. “We extend a plea offer in almost every case charged in Superior Court,” it says.

 “The plea offer extended in this case included a bias enhancement,” the statement continues. “Our office is committed to fully prosecuting bias-related crimes and held this defendant accountable for his appalling conduct.”

The texts of the victim’s impact statement delivered in court by Lai and the community impact statement given by Silverstein can be viewed below:

U.S. v. Trebat

Victim Impact Statement

By: Sean Xiangwen Lai

Your Honor,

Thank you for the opportunity to give my victim impact statement. I have gathered the courage to stand before you today at this hearing, to tell the court and my community about the defendant’s assault on me and my elderly parents, and the suffering we have endured as a result of his horrific actions. As painful as it is to relive the moment when this atrocious attack took place, I choose to be here today because I wanted you to hear my own voice and perspective, as well as the perspective from my parents. 

The defendant attacked me and my elderly parents without provocation, motivated simply by his hatred toward our race and my sexual orientation. We were walking on the streets of our neighborhood, enjoying our time outdoors during this unprecedented time when being outside of our home was a small joy of which we could take advantage. We were defenseless, feeling what we thought was secure so close to our home, when he assaulted us, beating up my parents and me. I am here today to tell the court in person that a man who would do this to an innocent family deserves the maximum prison sentence and does not deserve the leniency he has already received from the plea bargain offered by the prosecutors, which my family and I have expressed is very disappointing.

Last August, my parents and I were taking a walk in our neighborhood, very near our home. It was a beautiful Saturday night, but little did we know that our lives would be changed forever that night. “Fuck you bitch! Faggot! You are not Americans! Get out of this country!” were the words the defendant yelled at us before he punched my dad in his head with a closed fist from behind causing him to fall to the ground. When my mom and I hurried over to help my dad, the defendant attacked us as well. As a result of the fall my dad took when the defendant attacked him, my dad suffered a fracture to the bone of his left wrist and both of his knees were injured; my right pinky finger was fractured; and my mom’s right shoulder muscle was torn. All of us had bruises and cuts on all over our bodies. He appeared to get scared as I started yelling loudly for help on our quiet neighborhood street. He stopped attacking us and attempted to leave. As he was trying to flee the scene, I yelled at him: “This is a hate crime. You are not getting away with this.” He stopped, turned around and smirked at me saying “Oh, I will!”

This frightening image of his maliciousness and remorselessness has played repeatedly in my worst nightmares ever since. And he remained unrepentant, even after he was arrested. With blood dripping from my mouth, I tried to explain what happened to the responding police officer at the scene. Handcuffed and detained, this man was still yelling at me saying “Shut the fuck up. Drama queen!” right in front of the police officer.

Not a day goes by that what my parents and I suffered does not interfere with our lives. I had to take several weeks away from work and lost countless nights of sleep. I spoke to a therapist for several months and I am still working through the trauma inflicted on me. Even now I can feel the pain in my right pinky finger, which serves an enduring reminder I cannot ignore. I continue to live in fear for being who I am: An openly gay Asian man.

But, what breaks my heart the most is what was done to my parents. I had to take them each to several orthopedics appointments over the following months. I secretly cried in my bed each night after seeing the pain that was inflicted on them and the psychological trauma that they experienced. For a long time, my mom was afraid to even walk on the street in the middle of the day, still afraid an attack could happen at any time. My dad still has pain in his wrist and both his knees.

I strongly believe that the attacker thought that he could easily get away with what he did, avoiding any severe punishment, based on his unrepentant words and behaviors following the attack and his arrest. And the plea deal proves that it was just a slap on the wrist for the hate crime he committed against me and my elderly parents. We have repeatedly expressed the frustration on the plea deal to the prosecutors. Three counts of simple assault with only one hate crime enhancement on national origin are simply unacceptable.

Therefore, I respectfully request that the court serve justice and issue the maximum jail sentence, which I believe is the right thing to do and will show the community that unprovoked violence against defenseless members of the community will not be tolerated, and that no one in the District of Columbia should live in fear of being targeted simply because of who they are. 

Thank you.

U.S. v. Trebat

Community Impact Statement

By: Mike Silverstein, ANC Commissioner

I am offering this on behalf of 16 other openly LGBT+ elected D.C. Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, and on behalf of the DC Center for LGBT. Sean Lai has asked me to speak for our community, and the AAPI community. As someone who was Bar Mitzvah at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, this takes on a special urgency to me. 

Thank you, Your Honor, for the opportunity to give this victim impact statement. And please forgive me for the next 13 words, for they were not mine….

“Fuck you bitch!” 

 “Faggot!”

 “You are not Americans! Get out of this country!”

Those were the 13 words Patrick Trebat shouted at Sean Lai and his elderly mother and father just before Mr. Trebat physically attacked them without provocation.

As they were out for a walk, the Lai family was beaten for no reason other than their race and Sean’s sexual orientation. 

As members of the LGBT+ community, we feel this was an attack on every one of us. It was a direct attack on our right to exist and to live openly in the District of Columbia. 

We respectfully ask the court to issue the maximum jail sentence so that our community can feel that we are protected, and that we need not live in fear that those who would do us harm will get off easy.  The maximum sentence will deter others from committing this brutal crime on our community and it will show the community that it is never open season on Asian Americans or LGBT+ people or anyone.

What happened to Sean and his parents reminds our community that violence against us — for being ourselves — can happen anywhere at any time: San Francisco City Hall, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Atlanta shooting targeting Asians, an arson fire at a queer nightclub in New York City a month ago and all those unprovoked attacks on streets and subways against Asian Americans in the past two years. 

Violent hate crimes are a plague upon our nation. What’s next? The defendants’ assault on Sean and his family is part of this ongoing horror. 

Despite the progress we have made as a community, the LGBT+ community is still at risk, especially minorities. Murders of trans people have reached epic proportions. And here, this unspeakable attack on an Asian American and his family began with homophobic slurs. 

Sean Lai is openly and proudly gay. He is proud of his Asian heritage. 

He was attacked because of who he is — and that is who we are: Members of a minority, supposedly protected by law against discrimination and violence.

This brutal attack has deeply impacted and harmed us in many ways:  

What happened to Sean brought back bad memories to nearly all of us, and fear and nightmares to some of us. So many of us spent years hiding who we are for fear of rejection and out of fear for our safety. Those of us who were in the closet kept silent as members of our community were bullied or attacked.

Those who have been bullied or attacked will always remember what happened to us. It becomes a part of us. Some in our community — especially our trans siblings — often do not walk alone in parts of D.C. or at certain times of the day because they don’t feel safe unless they are with someone else. Each of us must deal with the emotional harm individually — and attacks like this one — out of the blue, on a pleasant summer evening — in the shadow of the National Cathedral — triggers us in so many ways.

We are sickened and angered by the incidents of physical violence against our community and we are tired of being overlooked or silenced. We are especially angered by the process of the criminal justice system.  

To begin, this was an irrational, unprovoked attack on Sean and his family – and the community is extremely disappointed that the defendant was not detained pending the outcome of this case.  

Sean and the LGBT+ community have waited months for closure in this criminal case, only to be here today to listen to a plea deal on misdemeanor charges. A victim of another hate crime in DC several years ago may have put it best, when she said, “when you bargain away the hate crime enhancement, you bargain away part of my soul.”

I also want to address the fact that, with respect to the crimes against Sean, the defendant was never charged with a hate crime enhancement with respect to sexual orientation; and, the crime that the defendant pled guilty to did not include any hate crime enhancement at all – just simple assault. Sean has repeatedly expressed to the prosecutors how important it is that the hate crime enhancements be included for both national origin and sexual orientation. Our community is disappointed that the defendant was not charged with a hate crime based on sexual orientation because a gay person was called “bitch” and “faggot,” physically assaulted, injured. If that’s not a hate crime based on sexual orientation, what is?

A sentence without significant jail time will leave members of the LGBT+ and Asian American community even more victimized, vulnerable and distrustful of the criminal justice system.  

We are here today to implore the court to impose a sentence that will send a clear message that violence against people for who they are will not be tolerated.

We must stop Asian hate. We must stop violence against the LGBT+ community. We must stop violence against all people who are attacked because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or whatever. This epidemic of hatred and madness and violence is tearing our nation and our community apart. We must not live in fear, one of another. 

We request a long jail sentence that shows that this court affirms the right of every person in the District of Columbia to live honestly, openly, and without fear.

We ask that the court provide justice for Sean and his family, the Asian-Pacific community, and the LGBT+ community. Thank you.  

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