- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2003

A recent shooting involving a transgender person in the District is calling into question the use of the District’s hate-crime statute.

Antoine Jacobs, 22, is being held without bail on first-degree murder charges in connection with the killing Aug. 16 of Elvys Augusto Perez, 25, a transgender performer who went by the name Bella Evangelista.

According to court records, Mr. Jacobs told police he thought Mr. Perez was a woman and paid him to perform a sex act. The records say Mr. Jacobs, who turned 22 the day before the shooting, later learned Mr. Perez was a man and killed him near Allison Street and Arkansas Avenue NW.

Mr. Jacobs was charged with first-degree murder while armed. Police flagged the case as a hate crime, but prosecutors have yet to invoke the city’s hate-crime statute, although they reserve the right to enhance the charges at a later date.

A spokeswoman for Roscoe C. Howard, U.S. attorney for the District, declined to comment on whether the hate-crime statute would be invoked.

“I cannot comment on that, as the case is under investigation,” said Julieanne Hinelstein.

The District’s hate-crimes statute, considered to be among the most comprehensive in the nation, was passed in 1989 and defines a hate crime as a “designated act that demonstrates an accused’s prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibility, physical handicap, matriculation, or political affiliation of a victim of the subject designated act.”

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, “transgender” is defined as “exhibiting the appearance and behavioral characteristics of the opposite sex.”

Under the D.C. Code, a person found guilty of committing a hate or bias crime “shall be fined not more than 11/2 times the maximum fine authorized for the designated act and imprisoned for not more than 11/2 times the maximum term authorized for the designated act.”

“The hate- or bias-crime statute is only dealing with the motivation of the attacker,” said Sgt. Brett Parson, the head of the D.C. Police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit. “That can be their complete motivation or just part of their motivation.”

Sgt. Parson said officers responding to the scene of a crime can mark a box on the police report indicating whether they think hate or bias was a motivating factor.

He said officers consult with investigating detectives and that their recommendation is forwarded to a supervisor and then to the department’s intelligence unit. Police present the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and prosecutors decide whether they will invoke the statute.

In general, police don’t flag cases based solely on comments used by an offender, whether made to a victim or to police. But language can play a part.

“Anything you say can be used against you in court and will,” said Sgt. Brett Parson.

Sgt. Parson said words can be used in conjunction with past demonstrated biased behavior, the actual or perceived status of the victim, or if the crime is committed on a significant day, such as during a festival.

According to a police report filed in the case, Mr. Jacobs waived his rights to an attorney and conducted a videotaped interview with officers. There is no indication in the report that Mr. Jacobs used any offensive language referring to Mr. Perez or the killing, or had a history of biased behavior.

Since August 2002, five transgender persons have been killed in the District and another seriously injured:

• On Aug. 20, 2002, Deon Davis, 18, who was known as Ukea, and Wilbur Thomas, 19, who was known as Stephanie, were found dead in a vehicle at 50th and C streets SE, each with at least 10 gunshot wounds.

• On April 9, Kevin Young, a transgender person who went by the names “Kim Young” and “Mimi,” was stabbed to death in Northeast.

• On Aug. 16, Elvys Augusto Perez was shot and killed.

• Police were also investigating the shooting of another transgender male about 10 p.m. Wednesday on the 800 block of Third Street NW. The 24-year-old victim remains hospitalized.

• The body of Aaron Marshall, 25, was discovered about 2:30 a.m. Thursday near the 2900 block of Second Street SE. He had been shot in the head.

Sgt. Parson said there are no political motivations behind flagging a case as a hate crime.

“We go with the evidence,” he said. “Whatever the evidence leads us to is what we charge.”

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