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D.C. woman gets 6 ½ years for shooting gay man at IHOP

IHOP, gay news, Washington Blade

An altercation led to a shooting at the IHOP restaurant in Columbia Heights on March 11, 2012. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Thursday sentenced a 29-year-old woman to six-and-a-half years in prison for the March 2012 non-fatal shooting of a gay man inside an International House of Pancakes restaurant in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood.

The sentencing by Judge Michael Ryan came three months after a jury found Lashawn Yvonne Carson, a D.C. resident, guilty of aggravated assault while armed and six additional firearms-related charges.

During the four-day trial prosecutors played for the jury a video obtained from the restaurant’s security cameras that they said showed Carson, then 28, pull out a handgun and shoot Dante Thomas in the chest.

Thomas has since recovered from a gunshot wound to his liver that the lead prosecutor said could have been fatal if he had not received immediate medical treatment at a nearby hospital.

Police and prosecutors said an altercation leading to the shooting began when two groups of friends were eating at separate tables near one another at the IHOP restaurant about 5:30 a.m. on March 11, 2012.

According to a police affidavit and testimony by witnesses, one of Carson’s friends while sitting at her table used the word “faggot” to describe one or more of the men sitting at Thomas’s table. A short time later a physical altercation erupted between the two groups when Thomas attempted to walk to the cash register to pay his bill.

“Carson and a male friend inadvertently stood directly in his way,” a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s office says. “The victim attempted to squeeze by and accidently bumped into Carson. Words were exchanged and the defendant’s male friend used a homophobic slur,” the statement says.

Government witnesses at the trial said a fight then broke out between the opposing groups of friends and an off-duty D.C. police detective who was seated nearby stepped in to break it up.

“At that point, according to the government’s evidence, Carson walked over, adjusted her hair, pulled out a firearm and shot the victim once in the chest,” the U.S. Attorney’s statement says.

A police charging document says Carson and her male friend fled the restaurant.

Prior to her arrest about two weeks later, hundreds of LGBT activists and their supporters assembled outside the IHOP restaurant to begin a march through the streets from Columbia Heights to Dupont Circle to protest the IHOP shooting and other incidents of violence targeting LGBT people in the city.

Although police initially listed the shooting incident as an anti-gay hate crime, the U.S. Attorney’s office dropped that designation. Sources familiar with the case said the U.S. Attorney’s office believed there was insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction for a hate- or bias-related shooting.

During closing arguments, Carson’s lawyer argued that Carson testified at the trial that she is bisexual and expressed disapproval at the table where she and her friends were sitting when one of the friends used the anti-gay slur to describe the men sitting at the victim’s table.

Silent March for Victims of GLBT Violence, Columbia Heights, hate crimes, gay news, Washington Blade

Hundreds joined a hastily assembled March, 2012 demonstration organized after several instances of anti-gay violence in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Carson denied she shot Thomas and testified she was drunk when police questioned her about the incident. She said detectives questioning her talked her into falsely admitting she shot Thomas. A video of her admission was played for the jury in which she told detectives she shot Thomas because he hit her and she became angry.

According to court records, Ryan sentenced Carson to additional time for several of the other charges on which she was convicted, including possession of a firearm during a crime of violence and carrying a pistol without a license. But he ordered that most of the additional time be served concurrently, resulting in a sentence to a total of 6-and-a-half years in prison.

The judge ordered that she be placed on three years of supervised release upon completion of her prison term.

17
Jan
2014

Md. man charged in stabbing outside D.C. gay bar

police, stabbing, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department

A Maryland man is charged in a stabbing that reportedly occurred outside Bachelor’s Mill. (Photo by Cliff; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

D.C. police on Tuesday charged a 22-year-old man with assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly stabbing another man on the street outside the Bachelor’s Mill, a gay bar at 1104 8th St., S.E. near the Washington Navy Yard.

A police statement says officers arrested Terrill Terry Jr. of La Plata, Md., on Tuesday, Feb. 4 after obtaining a D.C. Superior Court warrant that identified the weapon as a knife.

The statement says the incident began about 2:15 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, when officers responded to a call for help and discovered an adult male had been struck with a bottle at an establishment on the 1100 block of 8th St., S.E.

Although the statement doesn’t identify the establishment, a source familiar with the incident said the initial altercation took place inside the Bachelor’s Mill.

“The suspect fled the scene and engaged in a second altercation in the 1100 block of 7th St., S.E., where he assaulted a second adult male with a sharp item,” the statement says. “The suspect then fled the scene. Both victims received treatment at local hospitals for their injuries.”

Court records show Terry was being held without bond pending a preliminary hearing scheduled or 10:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7.

05
Feb
2014

Defense calls for new trial in Marine murder case

Marine Barracks, gay news, Washington Blade

Witnesses said Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong was stabbed in the upper chest with a pocketknife on 8th Street, S.E., across the street from the Marine Barracks. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge has postponed the sentencing of a former U.S. Marine convicted in December of voluntary manslaughter for the April 2012 stabbing death of a fellow Marine following an altercation in which he reportedly called the victim an anti-gay name.

The postponement of the sentencing set for Feb. 7 came after Judge Russell Canan agreed to a request by defense attorney Bernard Grimm for more time to prepare a motion to request a new trial for his client, 22-year-old former Pfc. Michael Poth.

According to court records, Canan gave Grimm until March 24 to file his motion, known as a Rule 33 Motion, for a new trial. Canan directed prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office to file a response to the defense motion by April 21.

It couldn’t immediately be determined whether Grimm, who represented Poth during the trial, cited a reason for seeking a new trial rather than appealing the conviction before the D.C. Court of Appeals.

A Superior Court jury found Poth guilty of voluntary manslaughter on Dec. 2 following a 9-day trial. The jury found him not guilty of a more serious charge of second-degree murder while armed.

Poth has been held in jail since his arrest on April 21, 2012, minutes after witnesses said he stabbed Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong, 23, in the upper chest with a pocketknife on 8th Street, S.E., across the street from the Marine Barracks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman, the lead prosecutor in the case, stated at a pre-trial hearing last year that the stabbing appeared to be a hate crime. But the government never formally classified the case as a hate crime. Had it done so, the judge would have had an option of handing down a more severe sentence.

Liebman argued during the trial that Poth called Bushong a faggot when the two crossed paths on the street outside a bar on 8th Street near the barracks with the intent of provoking Bushong into a confrontation to give Poth an excuse to stab him.

He said the hurling of the anti-gay slur took place a short time after Bushong called Poth a “boot,” a term used by Marines to describe a new recruit that’s considered an insult. Liebman argued that the “boot” remark angered Poth to such a degree that he made plans to track down Bushong after the two initially went their separate ways with the intent to stab him and kill him.

Grimm argued that Poth stabbed Bushong in self-defense after Bushong, who was taller and heavier than Poth, walked toward him with a friend and pulled back his arm with a clinched fist in an attempt to assault him.

The D.C. group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence planned to submit a victims impact statement to the judge at the time of the sentencing describing how Poth’s use of an anti-gay slur immediately prior to the fatal stabbing had a negative impact on the LGBT community, according to GLOV co-chair Hassan Naveed.

06
Feb
2014

Judge finds probable cause in Bachelor’s Mill stabbing

police, stabbing, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department

A Maryland man is charged in a stabbing that reportedly occurred outside Bachelor’s Mill. (Photo by Cliff; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled on Feb. 7 that prosecutors established probable cause that Terrill Terry Jr., 22, of La Plata, Md., committed an assault with intent to kill while armed outside the Capitol Hill gay bar Bachelor’s Mill five days earlier.

D.C. police arrested Terry on Feb. 4 for allegedly slashing a Bachelor’s Mill customer multiple times on the street one block from the bar following an altercation he allegedly started in the bar minutes earlier.

Judge John R. Johnson ordered Terry held without bond while he awaits trial during a Feb. 7 court hearing in which a D.C. police detective testified that jealousy may have been the motive behind Terry’s action.

An arrest affidavit prepared by Det. David Gargac says the incident began inside the Bachelor’s Mill at 1104 8th St., S.E., about 2:15 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, when Terry struck an acquaintance in the head with a beer bottle while the two men were on the dance floor.

Gargac testified that witnesses told police that Terry believed the acquaintance was making advances toward someone he described as his “husband” at a private party earlier that evening. The detective said several of the people at the party – including Terry and the acquaintance – went to the Bachelor’s Mill after leaving the party.

The affidavit says that when Terry struck the acquaintance with the bottle a scuffle broke out on the dance floor and bar employees escorted the acquaintance and Terry out of the club. According to the affidavit, bar security personnel and police officers out front did not respond to the acquaintance’s assertion that Terry assaulted him with the bottle, and the acquaintance and a friend walked away in one direction and Terry walked in the opposite direction.

But minutes later, according to the affidavit, Terry approached the acquaintance and charged toward him, prompting the acquaintance’s friend to block Terry’s path and urged him to back off. It was at that point that Terry slashed the friend at least six times with a sharp object that Det. Gargac said witnesses think may have been a box cutter, the affidavit says. The weapon has not been found.

Gargac testified that the friend suffered slash wounds to the neck, face, shoulder and wrist, among other places, and was bleeding “profusely” before an ambulance took him to Washington Hospital Center’s Med Start Unit, where he underwent emergency surgery.

He has since been released and is recovering from injuries that could have been fatal had they landed in a slightly different place, said Assistant U.S. Attorney James Petkun at the Feb. 7 court hearing.

The acquaintance spoke to the Blade on condition that he not be identified by name. He said the person Terry called his “husband” came on to him at the party and he politely declined that person’s overtures.

He said Terry expressed annoyance that he and Terry’s friend had a brief conversation at the party, but he never thought that interaction would prompt Terry to become violent when group left the party and arrived at the Bachelor’s Mill.

Webster Knight, Terry’s attorney, argued during the court hearing that the government presented insufficient evidence to show probable cause that Terry committed an assault with intent to kill. Knight did not disclose what, if any, explanation his client has for how the altercation started or whether or not Terry acknowledges hitting the acquaintance and slashing the acquaintance’s friend.

12
Feb
2014

D.C. restaurant accused of anti-gay discrimination

Bidwell, discrimination, gay news, Washington Blade

A former waiter at the newly opened Bidwell in Union Market says his manager fired him for being gay. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. man has filed a lawsuit and a separate complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights accusing a manager at the newly opened restaurant Bidwell of firing him from his job as a waiter because he’s gay.

Jacques Chevalier, 22, says in the lawsuit filed Jan. 14 in D.C. Superior Court that manager Scott Wood fired him the day before the restaurant’s grand opening on Jan. 9, telling him he was not a “good fit” for the company.

Bidwell is the newest food-related business to open at the Union Market in Northeast D.C. near Gallaudet University. Nationally acclaimed chef John Mooney, who specializes in preparing dishes made from fresh, organic produce, is a principal owner of the restaurant.

When approached by the Blade at the restaurant on Tuesday, Wood said he would have no comment on Chevalier’s allegations.

Chevalier filed his lawsuit jointly with Cherokee Harris, who charges in the lawsuit that Wood fired her from her job as a server assistant because she’s black.

Court records show that Chevalier and Harris are representing themselves without an attorney. Chevalier said he has contacted the gay litigation group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund for legal help. He said a Lambda representative told him the group was considering taking his case and would inform him of its decision soon.

According to Chevalier, Wood hired him in late December after he responded to a help-wanted ad that the restaurant posted online. He said he never discussed his sexual orientation with Wood and Wood never raised the issue with him.

“Scott Wood most likely found out I was gay because of the handbags I brought to work,” Chevalier told the Blade. “That would be the way I would think he came to that conclusion. Heterosexual men don’t carry the bags that I carry.”

But he said it’s also possible that Wood learned of his sexual orientation in some other way.

Although the restaurant didn’t open officially until Jan. 9, Chevalier said the kitchen staff and servers were assigned to work as if it had opened during a trial period of about two weeks prior to the official opening when they waited on guests who ordered food.

He said he suspected something was wrong when he wasn’t chosen to attend special events the restaurant held “and when special guests came I was ignored or not introduced,” the said in the lawsuit.

“Scott Wood gave me funny looks. We were not trained properly like the other employees,” he said of himself and Harris. “The day after our firing we were replaced by Caucasians.”

Chevalier told the Blade that Wood told him that Wood, Chef Mooney and another restaurant manager thought “I was not a good fit for the company.”

“These three men could not have assessed me within that short period of time and determined that ‘I was not a good fit’ other than for the reason of me being gay,” he said.

Records filed with the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration show that Bidwell restaurant is owned by Darien DC LLC and its three principal officials are Mooney, Michael O’Sullivan and Michael Laurent, according to ABRA spokesperson Jessie Cornelius.

In a Jan. 14 order, Judge Maurice Ross, among other things, called on defendant Wood to respond to the complaint by filing an answer within 20 days of when he was served papers notifying him of the lawsuit. Court records show he was served papers for the case on Feb. 5 and a notice of acknowledgement he was served was filed in court on Feb. 10.

19
Feb
2014

Gay man gets 4 years in hit-and-run death

National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

Gay restaurant manager Joel Bromwell was sentenced to four years in jail for the March 21 hit and run accident in which the vehicle he was driving struck and killed a 71-year-old. (Photo via Wikimedia)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Aug. 30 sentenced gay restaurant manager Joel Bromwell to four years in jail for the March 21 hit and run accident in which the vehicle he was driving struck and killed a 71-year-old woman on a street in Northeast D.C.

Bromwell, 32, pled guilty in May to the charges of involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence of alcohol in connection with the incident. He has been held in jail since the time he was arrested on the night of the accident. The maximum sentence for the two offenses is 30 years incarceration.

Many among his wide circle of friends in the D.C. gay community described Bromwell as a kind and gentle person who would never intentionally hurt anyone, and expressed shock upon learning of the incident.

A statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office on the day of the sentencing says eyewitnesses saw Bromwell’s sport utility vehicle strike Ruby Whitfield as she was walking across the 1100 block of Florida Avenue, N.E. in a clearly marked crosswalk.  The statement says Whitfield, who had just left a church ushers meeting, became lodged beneath the SUV and was dragged about 86 feet as Bromwell continued driving.

One of the witnesses in a nearby car drove up to Bromwell’s SUV a block from the scene of the accident, told Bromwell he had hit someone, and urged him to return to the scene, the statement says. It says Bromwell ignored the witness and drove away.

D.C. police a short time later located Bromwell’s SUV and Bromwell and arrested him. When taken to a police station breath tests showed that his blood alcohol was above the legal limit for driving, the U.S. Attorney’s statement says.

The Washington Post reported Bromwell submitted a written statement to the court saying that “from the morning when I wake up to the every night when I go to sleep, I feel the pain and anguish I’ve caused other people…Because of my choices, I’ve hurt people in ways that is not fathomable.”

According to the Post, the victim’s daughter, Tasyha Whitfield, told the court in a written statement that the incident that took her mother’s life was a “heartless and senseless crime” and that she doesn’t accept Bromwell’s expression of remorse.

04
Sep
2013

D.C. court expands staff after increase in gay weddings

David Kero-Mentz, Ken Kero-Mentz, gay marriage, same-sex marriage, marriage equality, District of Columbia, gay news, Washington Blade

David Kero-Mentz and his new husband Ken Kero-Mentz waited two hours for their marriage license to be processed in July. (Photo courtesy of the couple)

The D.C. Superior Court announced on Friday that it has increased the staff and added two additional rooms for its Marriage Bureau to meet a sudden increase in demand for marriage licenses and courthouse weddings from same-sex couples.

Among other things, a court official said one of the additional rooms would be used to interview applicants seeking a marriage license and the other would be used to perform wedding ceremonies.

Court observers, including gay and lesbian couples applying for marriage licenses, told the Blade last week that applicants often had to wait between two and three hours in a single packed waiting room to have their applications processed. Others said couples requesting to get married at the courthouse had to wait at least two months for their ceremony to be scheduled.

“When we realized that our current staffing and space did not accommodate the recent demand for our services, we added staff and converted space to meet the need,” said Duane Delaney, the Clerk of the Superior Court.

In a statement released on Friday, Delaney said in the last two months the court saw the number of people applying for a marriage license more than double.

Court spokesperson Leah Gurowitz told the Blade that the budget sequestration imposed by Congress resulted in a hiring freeze on the federally funded D.C. courts since April 1. She said the additional staff members assigned to the Marriage Bureau have been transferred to the bureau on a temporary basis from other branches of the court.

“It is unclear if the increased workload is temporary or will be sustained,” Gurowitz said. “We will adjust staffing levels as necessary.”

The statement released by the court said the second ceremony room was scheduled to open Monday, Sept. 16, “potentially doubling the number of courthouse marriage ceremonies each day.”

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the case of U.S. v. Windsor struck down the provision of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited legally married same-sex couples from obtaining federal rights and benefits of marriage. Now that married same-sex couples are eligible for most of those benefits, large numbers of same-sex couples that had not married in the past are choosing to tie the knot, according to experts monitoring the situation.

Since D.C. does not have a residency requirement, many same-sex couples from other states, especially Virginia, are descending on D.C. to get married, according to local gay rights attorney Michele Zavos.

Gurowitz said prior to the Supreme Court decision, the court received an average of between 300 and 400 applications for marriage licenses each month. But since the decision was handed down on June 26, the number of couples applying for licenses jumped to 977 in July and totaled 908 in August.

Those applying for the licenses said the overwhelming majority of the additional people coming to the Superior Court’s Marriage Bureau since the increase began appear to be same-sex couples.

16
Sep
2013

Gay Hill staffer testifies at Marine murder trial

Marine Barracks, gay news, Washington Blade

A Marine is charged with fatally stabbing a fellow service member outside the Marine Barracks on Capital Hill last year. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A 29-year-old gay congressional staff member emerged as the star witness this week in a murder trial in D.C. Superior Court of a former U.S. Marine charged with stabbing a fellow Marine to death in April 2012 outside the Marine Barracks on Capitol Hill.

Police and prosecutors charged Pfc. Michael Poth, 21, with second-degree murder while armed for allegedly using a pocketknife to fatally stab Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong, 23, following an altercation on 8th Street, S.E., in which Poth called Bushong an anti-gay name.

Bernard Grimm, Poth’s defense attorney, has argued during the trial, which began on Nov. 14, that his client acted in self-defense after Bushong and Bushong’s friend, gay congressional staffer Nishith Pandya, 29, appeared ready to assault him during the altercation, according to an account by the Washington Post.

The Post reported that Pandya testified that Poth hurled an anti-gay slur at him and Bushong as Poth walked past them while Bushong and Pandya were standing on the sidewalk outside a bar on 8th Street across the street from the Marine Barracks.

Pandya told the jury he was gay and had no idea how Poth knew his sexual orientation when he made the anti-gay slur, the Post reported. Bushong’s family members have said he was not gay. Pandya testified that he and Bushong were “platonic friends,” according to the Post.

Before the trial began, a Marine Barracks spokesperson said Poth was in the process of being discharged under less than honorable circumstances prior to the stabbing incident on grounds that he initiated “verbal altercations” with other Marines and was found to be in possession of a chemical derivative of marijuana.

Other witnesses told police prior to the trial that they saw Poth acting erratically and appeared to be in a heightened state of anger as he walked along 8th Street just before the stabbing incident. A police arrest affidavit said surveillance cameras captured part of the altercation on video, which the Post said was shown to the jury.

In an unusual development, one of the jurors sent a note to Superior Court Judge Russell Canan, who is presiding over the trial, with several questions for Pandya, public records posted on the court’s website shows. It couldn’t immediately be determined if Canan agreed to call Pandya back to the witness stand to answer the juror’s questions.

The trial was expected to continue through most of this week.

Grimm, Poth’s lead defense attorney, served as one of the lead defense attorneys in the 2010 trial of three gay men charged with obstruction of justice and evidence tampering in the widely publicized murder of attorney Robert Wone inside their Dupont Circle area townhouse. A judge found the men not guilty following a non-jury trial.

20
Nov
2013

Gay couples join D.C. Adoption Day Celebration

Brook Rose, Gregg Busch, Nolan Reese Rose-Busch, gay families, gay adoption, gay news, Washington Blade, adoption day

Brook Rose and Gregg Busch with their newly-adopted son, Nolan Reese Rose-Busch, at last year’s adoption day proceeding. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Superior Court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield and Family Court Presiding Judge Zoe Bush signed the final adoption papers for more than 20 proud couples, including several same-sex couples, at the 27th Annual D.C. Adoption Day Celebration on Saturday, Nov. 23.

The event, held at the D.C. Superior Court’s Moultrie Courthouse, was organized to celebrate the joy of adoption and encourage area residents to consider adopting or fostering a child in the city’s public child welfare system, according to a statement released by the court.

The D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, which co-hosted the event, has encouraged same-sex couples to consider adopting children in the District. According to the statement released by the court, the CFSA is currently seeking “permanent, loving, adoptive homes for 123 children in foster care in D.C.”

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and CFSA Director Brenda Donald were among those participating in the Adoption Day celebration.

Charles DeSantis and his husband, David McDermott, were among the gay and lesbian couples whose adoption papers were signed by one of the judges at the courthouse celebration, according to a report by the Washington Post. DeSantis and McDermott are among a growing number of couples that apply for and are approved to adopt two children at the same time, court spokesperson Leah Gurowitz told the Blade.

The statement released by the court says those interested in learning more about becoming adoptive or foster parents are invited to call the CFSA hotline at 202-671-LOVE.

27
Nov
2013

Ex-Marine guilty of manslaughter while armed

Marine Barracks, gay news, Washington Blade

Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong was stabbed to death across the street from the Marine Barracks. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court jury on Monday found a 22-year-old former U.S. Marine guilty of manslaughter while armed for the April 2012 stabbing death of a fellow Marine following an altercation in which he allegedly shouted an anti-gay slur.

After four days of deliberations that began prior to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend the jury found then Pfc. Michael Poth not guilty of a more serious charge of second-degree murder while armed.

Judge Russell Canan, who presided over the trial that lasted nearly 10 days, scheduled a sentencing hearing for Poth on Feb. 7. A conviction on manslaughter while armed carries a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison, although voluntary sentencing guidelines allow judges to hand down a significantly lower sentence.

A second-degree murder while armed conviction could have resulted in a 70-year prison sentence.

Poth has been held in jail since the time D.C. police arrested him on April 21, 2012, minutes after witnesses said he stabbed Lance Corp. Phillip Bushong, 23, in the upper chest with a pocketknife on 8th Street, S.E., across the street from the Marine Barracks.

“Today a District of Columbia jury held Michael Poth accountable for stabbing a fellow Marine to death on a public street near their barracks,” said U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen under whose office the case was prosecuted.

“Their guilty verdict makes clear that our community will not tolerate the deadly violence that so often arises from petty disputes.”

The lead prosecutor in the case stated at a pre-trial hearing last year that the stabbing appeared to be a hate crime. But the government never formally classified the case as a hate crime, a designation that could have resulted in a more severe sentence.

Marine Corps officials discharged Poth from active-duty service on less than honorable circumstance shortly after his arrest. Poth had been stationed at the 8th and I Streets, S.E. barracks at the time of the incident. Bushong, who was stationed in North Carolina, was visiting friends in D.C. at the time of the altercation that led to his death just days before he was scheduled to be honorably discharged from the Marines.

Poth’s defense attorney argued that Poth, who admitted he stabbed Bushong, did so in self-defense following a verbal altercation that turned violent. The attorney, Bernard Grimm, told the jury that Bushong was the aggressor and that he followed Poth after the two got into a verbal exchange.

One witness, a friend of Bushong’s who testified that he’s gay, told the jury Poth called him and Bushong a faggot. The witness, congressional staffer Nishith Pandya, said Bushong was straight and the two were platonic friends. Pandya testified that he did not know how Poth could have known he’s gay, although at least one witness said Poth may have seen Bushong and Pandya hugging each other on the sidewalk as they left a bar.

Grim argued that Poth was smaller than Bushong. He cited testimony by a Marine guard who witnessed part of the altercation and who said he saw Bushong put one hand on Poth’s shoulder and pulled back his other hand as if he were about to throw a punch. It was at that point that Poth stabbed Bushong, according to witnesses.

Grimm also argued that at least one witness testified that Bushong was ordered to leave one of the bars along the street where the incident took place because he was intoxicated and was acting in a boisterous manor. Poth was also believed to have been intoxicated, witnesses said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Liebman, the lead prosecutor in the case, said Poth hurled the anti-gay slur with the intent of provoking Bushong into a confrontation to give Poth an excuse to stab Bushong. Liebman cited testimony by witnesses that Poth became angry over a remark that Bushong made to Poth when the two Marines first crossed paths on 8th Street sometime earlier in the evening.

He noted that a witness testified that she heard Poth say to himself that he planned to stab someone as he walked along 8th Street after the earlier exchange of words between Poth and Bushong. A D.C. police detective testified that Poth said shortly after his arrest that he hoped Bushong would die when he overheard someone say over a police radio that Bushong was being taken by ambulance to a hospital.

Prosecutors said Bushong was pronounced dead at the hospital about two hours after the stabbing. An autopsy showed he died of a single knife wound that punctured his heart.

“He announced his intention,” Liebman told the jury in disputing Poth’s claim of self-defense. “He is looking for Lance Corp. Bushong. He wants to do what he said he would do. He wants to stab him.”

In concluding his closing arguments, Liebman said, “You don’t get to proclaim self-defense when you proclaim intent to stab someone before you come into contact with them. The law doesn’t allow you to use deadly force before you have contact.”

Local attorney Dale Edwin Sanders, who practices criminal law in D.C. and Virginia, said the verdict appears fair in a case where the victim was shown through witness testimony to have decided to engage in an altercation rather than walk away from it, even though the stabbing was unjustified.

“I’m sure the prosecutors think this is a major victory,” Sanders said. “They didn’t get their second-degree murder conviction but in D.C. the penalty for manslaughter is nearly as great as it is for Murder II,” he said.

“This sounds like a well-reasoned verdict, a compromise verdict,” said Sanders. “The jury didn’t buy the self-defense claim because they would have acquitted him on both charges if they accepted self-defense.”

Sanders added, “This is not like the jury gave him a pass…He’s convicted of a deliberate homicide. They’re just saying it wasn’t pre-meditated. Manslaughter is a form of murder without pre-meditation.”

03
Dec
2013