Washington, DC – Police found the bleeding body of Tyli’a “NaNa Boo” Mack, a 21-year-old transwoman of color on the sidewalk at 209 Q Street, N.W. on the afternoon of Wednesday, August 26. She and a second transwoman had been stabbed after an apparent hate crime attack, according to the Washington Blade. 30 minutes later, Ms. Mack was pronounced dead at Howard University Hospital. The second victim’s identity has not been released for her own protection, pending the success of the investigation of the Gay and Lesbian Unit of the D.C. police force, who are handling the case. Sources in the G&L Unit report preliminarily that some homophobic and transphobic language may have been used by the attacker(s), and so the crime has been tentatively designated as bias motivated. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who carried out the fatal attack against Ms. Mack. The Mack family, led by her mother, Beverlyn Mack, are encouraging anyone with information about the crime to come forward. Both Ms. Mack and the surviving victim were clients of THE, Transgender Health Empowerment, a non-profit agency offering a range of programs and counseling to the transgender population of the District of Columbia. Brian Watson, an official of THE, related an account of what happened in the attack according to the report given him by the surviving victim on Thursday. According to the eye witness account as related by Watson, a man and a woman began an argument with Ms. Mack at the Giant Supermarket on Ninth and O Streets, N.W. They followed the two transgender women as they headed from the supermarket toward the offices of THE at North Capitol and P Streets N.W., and the argument continued off and on for the whole 10 block journey. As they reached the 200 block of Q Street N.W., the argument “escalated,” and the man stabbed both Ms. Mack and her friend. Anthony Hall, executive director of THE, issued the following statement to the press: “As members of the transgender community, we are too well aware of the mental and physical effects of threats and violence. The violent attack on Aug. 26 is one in a long string of violence against transgender people in the Metro D.C. area.”
Dallas, TX – The second man who nearly beat Jimmy Lee Dean to death in July 2008 has been sentenced to 75 years in prison. Bobby Jack Singleton, 30, faced his fate August 27 in Dallas County’s 194th District Court. The co-defendant in the case, Jonathan Russell Gunter, 33, received a 30-year sentence for the crime in March of this year. The Singleton sentence means that the jury understood the severity of the crime against Mr. Dean, who has been permanently disfigured and lost his entire sense of smell due to the attack. The earliest Singleton can be paroled is 37 1/2 years under Texas law. There is no penalty attached to an LGBT hate crime in Texas, though the Dallas Police who investigated the attack, which occurred just a block off the major LGBT entertainment strip in the city, treated the crime as anti-gay from the beginning. Had the Matthew Shepard Act been law at the time of the case, there would have been another recourse for law enforcement to take. Dean said that he was satisfied by the sentence. Testimony in the trial revealed that the co-defendants had drunk five pitchers of beer at a North Dallas bar before getting up the courage to travel to the Oaklawn/Cedar Springs area to rob gay people because the perpetrators were “low on cash” and believed gay men could be more easily robbed. Gunter took a gun with him and brandished it at Dean, a 17-year resident of the Oaklawn neighborhood, on a darkened section of Dickason Street. Singleton, however, did most of the severe damage to Dean as he lay unconscious on the sidewalk,
kneeing him, kicking him, and stomping on his face with his boots while yelling anti-gay slurs at his helpless victim. The jury heard taped phone conversations between Singleton and his half-sister while he was in jail awaiting trial, in which he laughed about Dean’s nose hanging on by a flap of skin, and claimed that he was going to pretend he was gay so that the punishment might be lighter on him. “All I got to do is fill out one of them homosexual cards and prove that I’m a faggot, too,” he said. He went on to his half-sister that if he were sentenced to prison, he could just tell the corrections officers that he was “not really a fucking faggot” so that he could skip being housed in protective custody. Dean said to Dallas Voice reporter John Wright, “This [sentence] sets a precedent for anything like this that happens. He also said that no one should be a target of violence for any reason, including one’s sexual orientation. What now remains to be done is support for Mr. Dean in the months and years that follow this trial. LGBT presence at both the Gunter trial and the Singleton trial was sparse. Dean and his longtime roommate, Thomas Bergh, are contemplating moving to Oklahoma, away from the scene of the attack. Dean told reporters that when he walks along Dickason Street these days, he has to walk down the middle of the street, and not on the sidewalk where the two Garland, TX men nearly killed him. Like so many victims before him, Dean will live with the nightmares and the physical consequences of the attack for the rest of his life. It is not enough for the LGBT community to shrug shoulders now that that last trial has been held, and assume Dean can just go from this point vindicated. Dallas has to face its hate-crime problems, as the Dean case, and the Richard Hernandez case have both shown in recent months. One way to do that is to get support for Jimmy Lee right from here on out.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, legendary liberal Lion of the United States Senate, has died of brain cancer at age 77 in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. The Kennedy family has issued this statement to the public: “Edward M. Kennedy – the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply – died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.” Kennedy was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in May 2008. The LGBT community has lost a great champion for human rights. A true ally of sexual minorities, Kennedy lobbied for rights and protections for all Americans. As recently as July 13, 2009, he made these remarks in favor of the Senate passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, of which he was a sponsor: “Violent attacks based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability deserve to be criminalized by federal law. Our nation must show that it will not permit these communities to be terrorized – one victim at a time. Over 10 years have passed since the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act was first introduced in the Senate. Over 10 years have passed since Matthew Shepard was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die because he was gay. I commend Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard, for her years of inspiring advocacy that have brought us to this moment. Now is the time for the Senate to vote and show that we will not allow domestic terrorism to tear apart the fabric of our nation and take the lives of innocent Americans. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to follow their hearts and minds and vote in favor of this legislation.” Perhaps Kennedy will be best remembered for his unstinting advocacy for universal healthcare, “the cause of his life,” that was on his mind as he fought a losing battle with cancer. He took responsibility for his personal appetites and flaws, showing the nation he loved that he deserved our respect and affection because imperfect people can do magnificent things. He was born to privilege, but instead chose to serve, becoming one of the few greats in the history of the Senate. When Webster, Clay, Calhoun and Taft are honored in years to come, Kennedy will be remembered among them. Teddy Kennedy, the passionate defender of women, LGBT people, the poor, and the infirm, fought the good fight. It would be only fitting to note on his epitaph that among his posthumous legislative achievements were the Matthew Shepard Act and the Universal Healthcare Act. To inscribe them there must now be our labor of love and respect for Teddy, the People’s Lion.
Syracuse, NY – Dwight DeLee, a 20-year-old construction worker from Upstate New York was sentenced Tuesday to the maximum of 25 years in prison for the hate killing of transgender woman, Lateisha Green. Green, 22, was a Male to Female transgender person, shot to death by DeLee last November as she and her brother sat in a car outside a house party. Since the age of 16, Green had lived as a woman, wearing women’s clothing, and taking her female name, Lateisha, in preference to her male birth name, Moses. In determining that DeLee’s crime was manslaughter rather than murder, the court found that he had not intended to kill Green in the attack, but only to terrorize and injure her. Two aspects of the sentence are of particular note for the LGBT community as it seeks justice for Lateisha and all at-risk transgender persons. First, the sentence was the maximum amount of time prescribed by New York law for the crime of manslaughter, indicating the seriousness with which the court took the case. Second, in sentencing DeLee for an anti-transgender hate crime, Judge William Walsh noted the deplorable bias-motivation of the crime. The jury found that Green was indeed selected for a violent attack based on her perceived gender presentation and gender identity, the hallmark of a transphobic hate crime. This verdict and sentence are believed to be only the second in the United States explicitly against the perpetrator of an anti-transgender violent crime, the first being the conviction and sentencing earlier this year of Allen Ray Andrade to life without parole for the hate crime murder of 18-year-old Greeley, Colorado transgender Latina, Angie Zapata.
Trinidad, CO – The Pueblo Chieftain and the Examiner.com report that on July 15, 2009 a transsexual person was attacked in a hate crime reminiscent of the murder of Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old transgender woman who was bludgeoned to death in Greeley, CO last year. The victim, a 25-year-old M to F person in transition was lodging in the Trinidad Motor Inn awaiting consultation on gender reassignment surgery when she was targeted by a suspect identified as Marcus Lee Watlington. No age or hometown of the suspect has been announced by the Trinidad police. Police have reported that Watlington denies any part in the crime. According to reports on the scene, the victim was pushed into her motel room by the attacker after answering her door. He verbally denigrated her because of her identity, and proceeded to force sex acts on her. He then raped her, using a wooden coat hanger to assault her sexually. To finish the job, the attacker then plunged the victim in a full tub of water in the bathroom, and attempted to execute her by tossing an electric hair dryer into tub with her. The breaker blew, preventing a fatality. Frustrated in his attempt to murder the victim, the assailant dragged her back to the bed, bound her with a phone cord, slapped her repeatedly, and warned her not to come back to Trinidad because her “kind” were not wanted there. The victim stayed bound in the bed until she was discovered late the next morning. Her description of the attacker was detailed, and according to police, fit Watlington “to a T.” Anti-trans hate crimes are notable for their brutality and for the abject disregard of the humanity of the victim, and transgender persons are particularly vulnerable to anti-gay as well as anti-trans bias, according to the Colorado Anti-Violence Program (CAVP). If charged with the crime, Watlington would face sexual assault, attempted murder, and “false imprisonment” charges. The Chieftain noted that Trinidad, which is a center for transsexual reassignment surgery, has a larger than usual population of transgender persons who are drawn to the town because of the famed practice of Dr. Stanley Biber. The surgical practice, now run by Dr. Marci Bowers, carries out as many as four sexual reassignment surgeries a day, making Trinidad known as “The Sex Change Capital of the World.” Local police report that crimes against transgender persons are rare in the town of 9,000. While it is still unclear about whether hate crimes charges will be filed in this case, Colorado does have a hate crime statute that covers anti-transgender crimes. Allen Ray Andrade, found guilty of the murder of Zapata earlier this year, was sentenced to life in prison by the Colorado hate crimes law, and is believed to be the first person to be successfully prosecuted under such a statute in the United States. The Unfinished Lives Project awaits further developments in this case.
Tel Aviv, Israel – In a massive show of support for LGBT citizens, an estimated 70,000 people rallied on Sunday in Tel Aviv’s Yitzak Rabin Square. President Shimon Peres was among the speakers who voiced their solidarity with the sexual minority in the State of Israel, following a brutal attack upon an LGBT youth center on August 1 in which two were shot down in cold blood, and many were injured. A masked gunman who has not yet been identified entered the center with an automatic weapon, and sprayed the area with bullets. According to AFP News, Peres said, “Everyone has the right to be different and proud. Noone has the right to interfere in other people’s lives so long as everyone respects law and order. I came to share your tears after the death of two young innocents. Be strong and courageous.” Numerous threats came in before the massive rally to discourage attendance. It had the opposite effect, with thousands of Rainbow Flags wafting in the evening breeze of Israel’s commercial capital, which until the attack had a reputation for liberality in a country where nearly half of the population considers LGBT people to be “deviants.” An ultra-Orthodox soldier who had been detained in conjunction with threats against rally-goers confessed in custody that he had indeed made such threats. His name has not been released as of yet. Two people at the LGBT Center have died of their wounds, Nir Katz, a 26-year-old counselor at the center, and Liz Trubeshi, a 17-year-old straight ally. At last report, nine others were still in hospital recovering from their wounds. In one of the more disturbing dimensions of this story, it was reported at the Dallas, Texas Candlelight Vigil in support of the Center last week that no parents of the wounded youth had yet visited them in hospital. The reason given was that these injured youth were not out before the shooting, and their families were trying to cope with the news. The same report noted, however, that many youth and other supporters had been visiting the injured regularly since the attack. Uri Gil, wounded on the night of the attack, spoke to the enormous crowd. “This past week I have been haunted by nightly fear, especially when I think that the murderer is walking around out there,” he added. “No murderer will keep us in the closet.” He was joined by Ched Langer, a youth counselor at the Center, who had to attend the rally in a wheel chair because of his injuries. “This is the day in which we cease to be silent, to hide, and to alter the appearance of reality,” he said with tears streaming down his face, according to Box Turtle Bulletin.