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Trans teacher’s discrimination lawsuit settled with P.G. County

“This settlement vindicates my pleas for help and sensitivity training on LGBTQ+ issues for students and staff”

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Jennifer Eller (Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal)

GREENBELT, Md. – The Prince George’s County, Md., Board of Education and transgender former teacher Jennifer Eller have reached a settlement agreement regarding a 2018 discrimination lawsuit that Eller filed against the P.G. school system, according to a statement released by Eller’s attorneys.

Eller’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, charged that Eller suffered years of abuse, harassment, and discrimination at the hands of students, fellow teachers, staff, and school administrators while working as an English teacher in P.G. County’s public schools because of her status as a transgender woman.

The statement released by the LGBTQ litigation group Lambda Legal and the law firm Arnold & Porter, which provided pro bono legal representation for Eller, calls the settlement a victory for her.

“The settlement agreement includes monetary compensation and incorporates policy and training changes to protect transgender students and staff within Prince George’s County Public Schools,” the statement says.

“I’m relieved to see this case finally come to a resolution and satisfied to see that our case led to the adoption of these policy changes and training protocols to improve the school environment for everyone, including LGBTQ+ students and teachers” Eller said in the statement. “This settlement vindicates my pleas for help and sensitivity training on LGBTQ+ issues for students and staff,” she said.

The statement does not provide specific details of the terms of the settlement and does not disclose the amount of monetary compensation provided by the P.G. County Schools to Eller.

The lawsuit, as originally filed, called for the court to grant Eller “declaratory injunctive relief” to legally confirm she was forced to resign due to adverse conditions imposed on her by school officials. It also called for the court to require the school system to provide her back pay, lost benefits, and a possible reinstatement as a teacher.

Lambda Legal spokesperson Samy Nemir told the Blade Eller’s attorneys were not at liberty to disclose the amount of the monetary compensation due to a confidentiality agreement that was part of the settlement.

Washington D.C.’s WTOP News reported that a spokesperson for the P.G. County Public Schools said the school system was committed to “promoting and maintaining learning and working environments that are safe, positive and affirming for all students and staff regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”

According to WTOP, the spokesperson said the lawsuit was “resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both parties.”

In court filings in response to the lawsuit, P.G. school officials denied Eller’s allegations of discrimination and harassment. In January of this year attorneys for the P.G. schools filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss the case on grounds that the lawsuit failed to provide sufficient evidence that Eller was subjected to discrimination and harassment that forced her to resign due to a hostile work environment.

But in a development that likely prompted P.G. school officials to settle the case, U.S. District Court Judge Theodore D. Chuang denied the motion to dismiss the case and ruled that Eller’s attorneys had introduced sufficient evidence to bring the case to trial.

“The court found that the alleged facts and the information as discovered throughout the case in the discovery process is sufficient to allow a jury to find whether Jennifer Eller was subjected to a hostile work environment and constructive discharge and retaliation unlawfully by the defendants,” Lambda Legal attorney Omar Gonzales-Pagan told the Blade at the time of the ruling in January.

“The settlement reached today is a meaningful result for our client, whose primary goal in bringing this suit was to ensure that no other individuals in the Prince George’s County Public Schools system endured the same treatment that she did,” said Arnold & Porter attorney Lori Leskin. “Our hope is that the policies and training protocols that have been and will be implemented will help foster a more inclusive and accepting environment for all LGBTQ+ individuals in the school system,” Leskin said.

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Maryland

Maryland poised to become trans sanctuary state

Maryland would become the 12th state to implement such a law to protect trans people if Democratic Governor Wes Moore signs it

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Maryland State House in Annapolis. (Photo by Michael Key/Washington Blade)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A bill that would make Maryland a sanctuary state for transgender people and their health care providers received final approval this week.

The Maryland House of Delegates on April 4 passed a version of Senate Bill 19, the Trans Shield Act, that state Del. David Moon (D-Montgomery County) introduced. The Maryland Senate earlier this year passed SB 19 that state Sen. Clarence Lam (D-Anne Arundel and Howard Counties), Shelly Hettleman (D-Baltimore County) and Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery County) introduced.

The Washington Blade previously reported Maryland would become the 12th state to implement such a law if Democratic Gov. Wes Moore signs it. D.C. has enacted a similar statute.

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Baltimore County police arrest suspect in rape of trans female

Baltimore County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is seeking information from anyone who may have been in contact with this subject

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Jalen Green, 22, has been charged with first-degree rape, first-degree assault, armed robbery, and firearm-related charges in addition to other offenses. (Booking photo via Baltimore County Police, Maryland)

PARKVILLE, Md. — Baltimore County Police announced Thursday they had arrested and charged a 22-year-old man with first-degree rape, first-degree assault, armed robbery, and firearm-related charges in addition to other offenses.

According to a statement released by police, Jalen Green was arrested in connection with a sexual assault that occurred in the 3000 block of Putty Hill Ave. in Parkville on Sunday, February 11, 2024, at approximately 3:30 p.m. 

Investigators say Green targeted a member of the transgender community utilizing a dating app.

WBAL 11 Baltimore reported:

According to the charging documents, the victim told officers that Green contacted her for sex in exchange for money. The victim told officers that Green pointed the gun at her and demanded money, the documents state.

Not having any cash, the victim said Green used her phone to send himself $100 in the Cash App and then stole two prescription bottles from the victim. According to police, Green then sexually assaulted the victim at gunpoint and recorded video on his cellphone.

The charging documents state that investigators recovered evidence from the scene, including DNA. A search warrant was being sought to recover potential evidence on Green’s cellphone, the documents state.

Investigators seek to hear from anyone who may have been in contact with Green.

The Baltimore County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is seeking information from anyone who may have been in contact with this subject. Detectives can be contacted at 410.887.2223.

If you are a survivor of a sexual assault, you can contact the Sexual Assault Hotline for crisis counseling by calling 410-828-6390. The Special Victims Unit also works with TurnAround who can be contacted by calling 410-377-8111.

Green is being held without bond at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

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Maryland could become next state to pass trans sanctuary law

Maryland Senate Finance Committee heard SB119 that would establish Maryland as a sanctuary state for trans people fleeing other states

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The City Of Annapolis, Maryland LGBTQ+ Pride June 2023. (Photo Credit: City Of Annapolis/Maryland, Government)

By Erin Reed | ANNAPOLIS, Md. – On Thursday, Maryland’s Senate Finance Committee heard Senate Bill 119, a bill that would make Maryland a sanctuary state for transgender individuals and providers fleeing other states.

The bill would add gender-affirming care to a law passed last year that shields abortion patients and providers from out-of-state prosecution and investigations. Many more individuals testified in favor of the bill than against it, including Maryland state government officials who remarked on its necessity.

If passed, the law would make Maryland the 12th state, not counting the District of Columbia, to do so.

The bill includes several protections for transgender individuals. It would block the enforcement of out-of-state subpoenas for medical records and information on transgender patients who seek care within Maryland’s jurisdiction.

It would also prevent foreign financial judgments from other states attempting to sue Maryland providers. It would prohibit liability insurers from taking adverse action against healthcare providers for providing gender affirming care.

Additionally, it would block the extradition of individuals who have received gender-affirming care in Maryland. Lastly, it specifies that the state cannot use state funds to provide “information, spend time or money, or use state facilities, state property, state equipment, state personnel, or other state resource” in aiding investigations around gender affirming care – a virtually total barring of any enforcement of anti-trans laws in the state.

The state joined several others in providing protections for patients and providers when Governor Wes Moore signed an executive order in June to enact many of these policies. Heather Forsyth spoke on behalf of the office of the Maryland Attorney General in favor of the bill at the hearing, stating that this bill would go farther than that executive order: “It’s both critical and urgent… The executive order provided some protections, but it couldn’t offer many of the protections this legislation would provide.”

Movement Advancement Project. “Equality Maps: Transgender Healthcare ‘Shield’ Laws.” 

Among the things she stated this bill would do beyond Governor Moore’s executive order:

  • It would prevent liability insurance from taking adverse action on providers for providing gender affirming care.
  • It would ensure license and regulatory boards could not take adverse actions for providing gender affirming care.
  • It would place limits on subpoenas, wire tapping, ex parte and foreign judgments that target care provided within the state of Maryland
  • It would go into law and protect transgender people regardless of who holds the Governor’s office.

Forsyth was not the only one to speak on behalf of the bill from the Maryland executive branch. Ryan Moran, representing the Maryland Department of Health, also testified to the importance of the bill, emphasizing that “Maryland remains a leader in supporting trans people’s rights to equitable healthcare and safety.” Moran highlighted the growing list of Republican states banning gender-affirming care as a reason for the bill’s necessity: “These list of states are growing… the states include criminal penalties against health officials providing gender-affirming care.”

The hearing also saw testimony from representatives of large hospitals and medical associations. Michael Huber, representing Johns Hopkins University and School of Medicine, asserted that gender-affirming care is “medically necessary, lifesaving, evidence-based, and age-appropriate healthcare.”

Pam Kasemeyer, testifying on behalf of the state medical society, the Academy of Pediatrics, the Mid-Atlantic Community Health Centers, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, stated that the bill was needed due to “legal challenges and fear” from out-of-state actors targeting care in the state.

These challenges and investigations are indeed unfolding. Recently, Attorney General Ken Paxton made national headlines by subpoenaing the medical records of patients who traveled from Texas to Seattle Children’s Hospital for gender-affirming care. Similar subpoenas have been issued to gender-affirming care clinics in other states.

Meanwhile, 19 Republican state attorneys general have signed a letter asserting their right to medical information from other states, indicating that this tactic may be employed against both transgender individuals and those seeking and providing abortions moving forward.

Only a three people testified against the bill – one concerned citizen, a representative from the Maryland Family Institute, a religious organization, and Health Choice Maryland, an anti-vax organization.

The bill will need to pass a committee vote before moving to the full senate floor in the coming days.

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Erin Reed is a transgender woman (she/her pronouns) and researcher who tracks anti-LGBTQ+ legislation around the world and helps people become better advocates for their queer family, friends, colleagues, and community. Reed also is a social media consultant and public speaker.

Follow her on Twitter (Link)

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The preceding article was first published at Erin In The Morning and is republished with permission.

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Maryland House committee kills anti-trans youth sports bill

State Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County) introduced House Bill 47.  More than a dozen other Republican lawmakers co-sponsored the measure

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The Maryland State House overlooking the Old Town section of Annapolis, Maryland. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – A Maryland House of Delegates committee on Thursday killed a Republican backed bill that would have barred transgender children from joining school sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

State Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County) introduced House Bill 47, which is also called the Fairness in Girls’ Sports Act. More than a dozen other Republican lawmakers co-sponsored the measure.

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The House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday held a hearing on HB 47. State Dels. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery County) and Kris Fair (D-Frederick County), who are both gay, are among the committee members who voted to kill the measure.

“Yesterday, my committee heard testimony on the Save Women’s Sports Act to ban transgender children from playing in high school sports,” said Vogel on his X account after the vote. 

“Just now I moved unfavorable on the bill and the majority of my colleagues joined me in voting it down,” he added. “The bill is dead.”

The Senate Education, Energy and the Environment Committee on Feb. 7 is scheduled to hold a hearing on an identical bill, Senate Bill 381, that state Sen. Mary Beth Carozza (R-Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico Counties) introduced in the Maryland Senate. 

The House Ways and Means Committee in 2022 killed the Save Women’s Sports Act that Szeliga introduced during that year’s legislative session.

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Man sentenced in murder of Maryland trans woman to 48 years

Prosecutors provided details about the case that had not been publicly disclosed at the time of Price’s arrest two and a half years ago

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Booking photo of DeAllen Price, convicted in the murder of Taya Ashton. (Photo Credit: Prince George's County, Maryland Police Department)

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – Prosecutors in Prince George’s County, Md., announced in a virtual press conference on Jan. 24 that the man charged with the July 17, 2021, murder of transgender woman Taya Ashton, 20, who was found shot to death in her Suitland, Md., apartment, was sentenced on Jan. 10 to 48 years in prison.

Assistant PG County State’s Attorney Sherrie Waldrup, the lead prosecutor in the case, said the sentence came after DeAllen Price, 29, pleaded guilty in October to Second-Degree Murder and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Crime of Violence. Price has been held since the time of his arrest less than a week after the murder.

Waldrup and PG County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, the county’s lead prosecutor, provided details about the case that had not been publicly disclosed at the time of Price’s arrest two and a half years ago.

“What we know in this case is that the victim in this case and the defendant knew each other,” Braveboy said at the press conference. “They had an intimate relationship with one another. And an argument ensued during one of their meetings in July of 2021,” Braveboy continued. “And from there, unfortunately, their argument led to this tragedy.”

Waldrup called the case highly complicated because up until the time of the sentencing the motive for the murder remained unclear, even though many in the community believed it was based on Taya Ashton’s status as a transgender woman.

“We didn’t have any definitive evidence to show that until sentencing,” Waldrup said, adding that there were no witnesses to the incident and initial evidence was mostly circumstantial. “And when it came time for the sentencing, the defendant did offer that clarity, if you will, as to why this happened,” she told news conference attendees.   

“He spoke at sentencing and told the court that he was engaged in an intimate relationship with Taya,” the prosecutor said. “And that evening was when he first learned that Taya was not born a female. And in response to that he reacted and shot her.” 

Added Waldrup, “That was just a chilling thing to hear. It’s horrifying, it’s unacceptable. It is certainly not an excuse or justification for what happened to Taya.” 

Taya Ashton was found shot to death in her apartment in Suitland, Md.
(Photo courtesy Stuart Anderson)

In response to a question from the Washington Blade asking if defendant Price might have been attempting to invoke the so-called trans panic defense, which defense attorneys have used in murder cases where the victims were transgender or gay or lesbian, Waldrup said neither Price nor his attorney used that defense.

She noted that in Maryland, like in many other states and D.C., the “panic” defense is prohibited by law when attempted to be used based on a victim’s gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, and other factors.

“Taya was somebody who was loved by her family,” Waldrup said. “She loved her family immensely. Taya was somebody who, although being part of what some may consider a marginalized community, was not marginalized in how she interacted with Prince George’s County,” Waldrup concluded.

“So, today, what we want to send is the message that regardless of how someone wants to live or chooses to live, because this is a free country,” Braveboy told the press conference.

“People can live how they want to live and that does not give an individual the right to commit violence against them or to take their life, period. End of story,” she said. “And when they choose violence, we will hold them accountable. And today, and now, Mr. Price has been held accountable.”

Braveboy said she and her team of prosecutors have and continue to be committed to aggressively prosecuting crimes targeting members of the LGBTQ community. She noted that her office created an LGBTQIA+ Task Force to provide support on matters impacting that community.

Others who spoke at the press conference included PG  County Council member Krystal Oriadha, PG County Deputy Police Chief Zachary O’Lare, and Renee Lau, an official with Baltimore Safe Haven, a transgender and LGBTQ services organization.

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Moms for Liberty chapter wins Maryland LGBTQ book ban fight

Sexually explicit content defined as describing, depicting, showing or writing about sex or sex acts in a detailed or graphic manner

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Kit Hart, Chair of Moms for Liberty Carroll County Maryland chapter, speaking to the audience at the Moms for Liberty held “Exposing Gender Ideology” rally March 25, 2023. (Photo Credit: Kit Hart)

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The Carroll County Board of Education voted unanimously to ban any book deemed to have sexually explicit content. The decision on Wednesday, January 10, came after 61 books were challenged by the group Moms for Liberty, including LGBTQ+ titles or themes.

The local chapter of the national group, deemed as an extremist anti-LGBTQ+ group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, led the fight to ban books in Carroll County Public Schools. Carroll County group chair, Ellicott City resident Kit Hart had previously told the board, “the material that 13yo’s have access to in schools should be very different that the content adults enjoy. We need to stop treating children like adults.”

According to NBC News affiliate WBAL 11 News Baltimore:

The rule defines sexually explicit content as “unambiguously describing, depicting, showing or writing about sex or sex acts in a detailed or graphic manner.”

“There is no academic value in providing children access to books with explicit sexual content that goes into graphic and textual detail of sexual activity,” school board member Stephen Whisler said.

Whisler said it’s a parent’s job to decide what is appropriate for their child He then added, “It merely provides our educators with guidance on what is not appropriate for our students. This policy does not ban books. Instead, it provides responsible standards that our superintendent should consider.” 

There were those in the minority, parents, who disagreed. Jessica Bronson a mother of two high schoolers told WBAL:

She thinks the wording of the policy is too broad and is concerned that it will cover classical books. She said she has already discussed the policy with her two children.

“Their first thought is, ‘Why are they treating us like we’re babies?’ They’re both high schoolers. They both know what sex is. They know about the things that are talked about in these books, and they think that it’s really silly and ludicrous to try to purge any materials from the libraries.”

Carroll County approves controversial book ban policy

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Suspect in shooting death of Maryland trans activist released

Police are asking for any witnesses to come forward with information or video of the confrontation by calling investigators at 410-638-4500

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Photo courtesy of the town of Bel Air, Maryland, Police Department

BEL AIR, MD. – Brian Michael Delen, 47, of Bel Air has been charged with second-degree murder, first-degree assault and a gun charge in the December 27 shooting death of local trans community activist Meghan Lewis.

Today, Harford County District Administrative Judge Susan Hazlett released Delen on his own recognizance with a GPS monitor.

Meghan Lewis via screenshot CBS Baltimore.

A spokesperson for Bel Air Police Town said officers were called around 6:30 p.m. to the English Country Manor condominiums in the 600 block of Churchill Road for a shooting. Upon arrival, officers were met by Delen, who had called 911 and had rendered first aid to Lewis.

NBC News affiliate WBAL 11 News reported that Chief Charles Moore told the station, “(Delen) immediately surrendered to them (officers). They took him into custody and found a semi-automatic pistol on his person. From that point, they also saw the victim lying on the ground.”

Police said Lewis was shot in the upper torso and was taken to the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, where she died.

In court documents filed in Harford County Circuit Court, police stated that the incident occurred over the victim’s gender identity. WBAL reported:

Harford County Detention Center:
Brian Michael Delen booking photo

The charging document states Delen was delivering food when he and Lewis got into a confrontation.

“Delen asked, ‘Are you waiting for a food delivery, sir?’ Lewis took offense to what she believed was Delen misgendering her and began yelling at him.”

The charging document states Delen began to drive away and Lewis followed on foot. Delen then stopped his car and got out, the dispute escalated, and, “during the altercation, Delen produced his firearm and fired one round, striking Lewis in the left abdomen.”

Police are asking for any witnesses to come forward with information or video of the confrontation by calling investigators at 410-638-4500.

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Bomb threat during drag show shuts down Maryland businesses

Drag artist Tara Hoot was delivering a holiday brunch performance at the MotorKat when the evacuation order came in

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Tara Hoot was performing at MotorKat in Takoma Park, Maryland on Dec. 9, 2023, when a bomb threat forced the business' evacuation. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

By  Philip van Slooten | TAKOMA PARK, Md. – Police cordoned off a popular strip in Takoma Park, Maryland on Saturday after a bomb threat shut down businesses, including a holiday performance by drag artist Tara Hoot.

MotorKat General Manager Mike Rothman told the Washington Blade that Takoma Park police notified them of a bomb threat to their business around noon.

Tara Hoot was delivering a holiday brunch performance at the MotorKat when the evacuation order came in. Rothman said they were notified “five minutes into her final performance.” Tara Hoot herself told the audience to leave for their safety.

Police proceeded to tape off the area and evacuated all businesses between Eastern and South Carroll Avenues, including TakomaBevCo, which is co-owned by MotorKat Wine Director Seth Cook.

Cook told the Blade that police brought in “bomb-sniffing dogs” to clear the area before allowing businesses to reopen around 2 p.m. “The timing is unfortunate as this is one of the busiest weekends before the holidays,” Cook said.

Rothman was also disappointed by the lost revenue due to what ultimately was a false threat, but he was firm that the Takoma Park LGBTQ community is resilient and would continue to thrive despite this setback.

“Takoma Park is a pretty proud and resilient community,” he said. “I don’t expect people to lay down and be scared by this.”

MotorKat and TakomaBevCo reopened for business around 3 p.m.

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Philip van Slooten is a frequent contributor to the Washington Blade and the Los Angeles Blade.

Van Slooten’s work has been featured at WJZ-TV (Baltimore, MD), Yahoo News, U.S. News & World Report, the Baltimore Sun, the Capital Gazette, Pride Source, Capital News Service, among other media outlets.

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Out former Maryland mayor sentenced to 30 years for child porn

The sentencing followed news that surfaced which shocked Wojahn’s friends and longtime political supporters that he had been arrested

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Former Mayor Patrick Wojahn was sentenced to 30 years of incarceration on Monday. (Mugshot via Prince George's County Police Department)

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. – A Prince George’s County Circuit Court judge on Monday, Nov. 20, sentenced gay former College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn to 30 years of incarceration at an emotional three-and-a-half-hour long sentencing hearing that took place more than three months after Wojahn pleaded guilty to 140 counts of child pornography-related charges as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

In agreeing to carry out the plea agreement, Judge Karen Mason sentenced Wojahn to 150 years in prison, with 120 years suspended, requiring that he serve 30 years. 

The judge and prosecutors pointed out that under Maryland’s sentencing rules Wojahn will be eligible to apply for release on parole after serving 25 percent of the 30-year sentence, which could result in his release after seven and a half years.

The sentencing followed news that surfaced in March of this year, which shocked Wojahn’s friends and longtime political supporters, that he had been arrested after police raided his College Park home and confiscated multiple cell phones, a tablet, computer, and a storage device containing video and still images, leading to two indictments alleging possession and distribution of child pornography.

The 140 counts to which he pleaded guilty include 60 counts of distribution of child porn, 40 counts of possession of child porn, and 40 counts of possession of child pornography with intent to distribute it.

He announced his resignation as mayor, a position he held since 2015, shortly before his arrest.

Wojahn’s husband, mother, sister, and 13 friends testified at the sentencing hearing. Most told the judge they understood the seriousness of the charges against their loved one and friend but called on the judge to take into consideration the good that Wojahn has done as a family member, friend, and elected official over his lifetime. Several of the friends said mental health issues and an addiction problem had played a role in Wojahn’s actions and urged the judge to arrange for him to receive mental health related services.

Among those who testified were Sister Jeannine Gramick, a Roman Catholic nun who co-founded the LGBT Catholic support organization New Ways Ministry, and Francis DeBernardo, the current executive director of New Ways Ministry. Also testifying was Thomas Bower, an official with the LGBT Catholic organization Dignity Washington, of which Wojahn has been a participant.  

Judge Mason said she would refer Wojahn, who has been held without bond since the time of his arrest in March of this year, to the Patuxent Institution, a maximum-security correctional facility located in Jessup, Md., that specializes in providing mental health services for its male and female inmates.

Mason also included in her sentencing a requirement that Wojahn serve five years of supervised probation upon his release from incarceration, register as a sex offender, and have no unsupervised contact with minors.

The testimony from family members and friends came after P.G. County Assistant State’s Attorneys Jessica Garth and Monica Meyers argued that those who possess and distribute child pornography are responsible for the suffering of victims of child sex abuse who are forced to take part in the production of child porn video and still images, even though, as in Wojahn’s case, the perpetrators do not produce the images and don’t directly come into contact with the children depicted in the images.

Police and prosecutors have alleged in charging documents that Wojahn had uploaded and/or shared dozens of videos or still images on the social media app Kik depicting explicit sexual acts between adult men and prepubescent boys, depicting prepubescent boys engaging in sex with each other, or engaging in masturbation.

In a development that surprised some attending the sentencing hearing, the two prosecutors disclosed that with the help of law enforcement officials and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, they identified 52 of the juveniles who were depicted in the video or still photo images that police had confiscated from Wojahn’s home. At a press conference following the sentencing hearing, prosecutor Meyers said the 52 then children who were identified, most of whom are now adults, were from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and several European countries, including Germany, Russia, Portugal, and the United Kingdom.

Through information obtained from law enforcement officials in the U.S. and internationally, the two P.G. County prosecutors said they obtained statements from or case reports for about 42 of the individuals listed as victims and presented those statements at the sentencing hearing by projecting them on two large screens in the courtroom. Meyers read each of the statements as they were projected, with most of the victims saying they suffered long-lasting harmful effects from being forced as children to take part in the production of pornographic images.

Meyers said while prosecutors presented victim impact statements for about 40 of the juveniles who were identified in the porn videos and still images, Wojahn had possession and helped to distribute images of “hundreds more on his devices” who were not identified.

In an effort to highlight the large numbers of sexually abused juveniles in the videos or still images in Wojahn’s possession, Meyers pointed to a photo that the prosecutors displayed on the large video screen in the courtroom during Monday’s sentencing hearing of a junior high school in College Park located near where Wojahn lived.

“That his own elementary school a half a mile from his house has less than 500 students who attended, he had more victims than that on his telephone,” Meyers said at the press conference. “And on his device, he had memorialized more than 500 victims who were sexually abused, raped, and tortured,” she said.  

“These are not victimless crimes, even though the victim is separated from the person who’s abusing them by a computer screen,” Assistant State’s Attorney Garth said at the press conference. “They are real people. They experience real damage, psychological and physical damage,” she said. “And they have to live with what happened to  them for the rest of their lives.”  

P.G. County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, who called the press conference, thanked the team of prosecutors and police investigators who worked on the Wojahn case.

“No child deserves to be sexually abused,” Braveboy said. “No child deserves their images to be displayed on the internet or any platform for hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of people to view,” she said. “And so, in accepting this plea agreement, we are satisfied that Mayor Wojahn understood the seriousness of his actions and wanted to take responsibility.”

Wojahn, who was dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, was the last to speak at the hearing before Mason issued her sentence. Due to the fact that Wojahn and many of the others who spoke at the hearing were not using microphones, much of what was said could not be heard clearly.

“I want to give an apology,” he could be heard saying. “I don’t know what happened. I can’t explain what changed me,” he continued, weeping while speaking. “I want to apologize to all my friends. I apologize to my family,” he said. He then turned to look at his husband, Dave Kolesar, and expressed his love for his husband. Both were crying as Wojahn spoke.

“I hope what I went through will help others who need help, get help,” he said. “I do hope I will be able to recover fully myself. I hope others will know recovery is possible.”

Wojahn’s attorney, David Moyse, pointed out that Wojahn had cooperated fully with the investigation into his actions as soon as P.G. County police entered his house with a search warrant in March. Much of what Moyse said couldn’t be heard due to the faulty sound system in the courtroom, but he urged the judge to take into consideration all the positive aspects of Wojahn’s life.

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Pride flag ripped down in suburban Washington D.C. at a church

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, at around 9:35 p.m. an unidentified suspect walked to the church’s property, damaged the flag, and left the scene

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A two-story Pride banner on the side of Bethesda United Methodist Church was damaged last week. (Photo Credit: Bethesda United Methodist Church)

BETHESDA, Md. – An unidentified suspect was captured on a video security camera on Nov. 7 tearing up and pulling down part of a two-story tall LGBTQ Pride banner from the outside wall of Bethesda United Methodist Church in Bethesda, Md., according to Montgomery County police.

WTOP News and the online news site MOCO 360 report that one of the church’s ministers, Dennis Williams, was the first to discover the damaged Pride banner as he was leaving the church on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

“I’m a member of the LGBTQIA+ community,” MOCO 360 quoted Williams as saying. “It was gut wrenching,” he told the news site. “It made me emotional, because we belong to a church that is so welcoming and has embraced us as a family so well. It was really sad to see.”

WTOP reports that police said a preliminary investigation found that on Tuesday, Nov. 7, at around 9:35 p.m. an unidentified suspect walked to the church’s property, damaged the flag, and left the scene.

Williams told WTOP the video shows a person in a white hoodie initially trying to pull the banner down before using something to cut it. WTOP reports police have not yet determined whether the incident was a hate crime.

MOCO 360 reports the suspect’s features are not distinguishable on the video recording. It reports the incident took place about an hour after the last parishioner left the church following an event.

Williams told WTOP the church will be putting up a new Pride banner to replace the damaged one. He told MOCO 360 the church put up the Pride banner in June in recognition of Pride Month.

“It is important for our church to put [the banner] up so the LGBTQ+ community knows we’re a supportive church,” he told the online news site.

The church is located at 8300 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda.

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