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FBI investigates ‘suspicious’ envelope mailed to HRC building

Mark Glaze, Rabin Group, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Glaze received a threatening letter at his office located in the HRC building.

D.C. police, Fire Department investigators and FBI agents rushed to the Human Rights Campaign headquarters in downtown Washington shortly after 5 p.m. on Memorial Day to investigate a threatening letter containing a suspicious powdery substance, according to police and a Fire Department spokesperson.

Fire Department investigators determined from tests that the substance found on the letter was not hazardous and posed no threat to those who may have come into contact with it, said Fire Department spokesperson Lon Walls.

The letter, which had no return address or name on it, was mailed to nationally recognized gun control advocate Mark Glaze, who had been working for the Raben Group, a lobbying and political consulting firm that rents space in the HRC building, a police report and people familiar with the incident said.

Although Robert Raben, founder and owner of the Raben Group, and Glaze are gay, the threatening letter addressed the subject of gun control and had nothing to do with LGBT rights, said Erika Soto Lamb, communications director for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, for which Glaze serves as director.

Glaze reported that “he arrived [at] his office and retrieved his mail and then went outside into the park area to open his mail,” the police report says. “One of the envelopes opened by [Glaze] contained a threatening message which had a whitish orange substance on the note,” the police report says.

Glaze “left the envelope on the park bench, which was located on the side of the building. The letter was addressed to Complainant 1 [Glaze] but there was no return address or sender’s name,” the report says.

Glaze then called police, triggering the arrival of police and Fire Department members.

“I’ll be working with the FBI and MPD to learn more,” Raben told the Blade in a statement. “I’m grateful no one is physically injured, and sad that hard working professionals have to be concerned about this, but regrettably we do,” he said.

A witness at the scene sent a text message to a friend reporting that police blocked the street near the intersection of 17th Street and Rhode Island Avenue, N.W., where the HRC building is located, shortly after Fire Department and police vehicles arrived on the scene.

The witness also reported that police put yellow crime scene tape around the HRC building as law enforcement officials conferred among each other.

Walls of the Fire Department said the FBI routinely joins D.C. police to investigate incidents in which threatening communications are sent, including those sent with a powdery substance.  He said the substance almost always turns out to be harmless.

“We get about two or three of these calls each day, mostly on work days,” he said. “But we always test it and investigate. We take this very seriously.”

The threatening note sent to Glaze at the HRC building came just over a year after a bomb threat prompted D.C. police to evacuate the HRC building and another D.C. office building in which other national LGBT organizations are located.

For unknown reasons, an unidentified person telephoned the bomb threat to police in Los Angeles, saying a bomb had been placed in the “LGBT building” in Washington, Los Angeles police reported.

As a precaution, D.C. police, when contacted by the LAPD, ordered the evacuation of at least two buildings known to be home to as many as 11 national LGBT organizations – the HRC building and a nearby building on Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

The latter building is home to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and other national LGBT groups.

Both Raben and Glaze have worked on LGBT-related issues and national politics for many years. Raben, an attorney, served as a legislative assistant to gay former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Raben later served as an assistant U.S. Attorney General during the Clinton administration before founding the Raben Group in 2001.

Glaze, 42, has worked on a number of issues for Raben Group clients, including campaign finance reform, government ethics, and LGBT-related issues.

Under the auspices of the Raben Group, Glaze recently became a highly visible figure in advocating for federal gun control legislation in his role as director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, of which more than 950 U.S. mayors are members.

The Washington Blade reported on Glaze’s gun control activities in a profile on him in January, noting that he had been widely featured in mainstream news media outlets, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Politico and the Associated Press as well as in TV news programs.

Lamb, spokesperson for the mayor’s group, said Glaze recently decided to leave the Raben Group to become a full-time staff member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. She noted that Glaze coincidently had been packing his personal items and moving out of the Raben Group offices at the HRC building at the time the threatening letter arrived.

Glaze “stated…that he was at the location cleaning out his office and is no longer an employee at this location,” the police report says.

28
May
2013

Family Research Council shooter sentenced to 25 years

FBI unit at Family Research Council headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

A lone gunman opened fire inside the Family Research Council headquarters last year. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia man who pleaded guilty to shooting a security guard in the arm at the Family Research Council headquarters in Washington last year in a foiled attempt to commit a mass killing of FRC employees was sentenced on Thursday to 25 years in prison.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, 29, told the FBI shortly after his arrest that he targeted the FRC because of its positions opposing gay rights and same-sex marriage. He pleaded guilty in February to committing an act of terrorism while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed and interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition.

Corkins worked for several months in 2012 as a volunteer at the D.C. LGBT Community Center, but neither law enforcement authorities nor D.C. Center officials have disclosed whether Corkins is gay.

D.C. police and the FBI, which investigated the case, have credited security guard and FRC building manager Leonardo Johnson with preventing Corkins from carrying out his stated plan to kill as many people as possible at the FRC building.

In what authorities have called an act of heroism, Johnson, 47, wrestled Corkins to the floor in the lobby of the FRC building at 801 G St., N.W., and disarmed him after Corkins fired three shots, one of which struck Johnson in the arm. Authorities said Johnson’s action prevented Corkins from gaining access to the upper floors of the building where about 80 employees were working.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office called for a sentence of 45 years while Corkins’ attorney, citing Corkins’ history of mental illness, asked for a sentence of 11 and a half years.

Floyd Lee Corkins II, Family Research Council, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins II (Photo courtesy the U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Chief Judge Richard W. Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said his sentence of 25 years took into consideration Corkins’ “horrific” action as well as mitigating factors such as his mental illness and his decision to take responsibility for his behavior.

Roberts told Corkins his stated intent to kill people to advance his political beliefs in support of gay rights would have the opposite effect. He praised others seeking to advance a political cause, including gay rights, who use peaceful means to promote such a cause.

“When the president spoke up it changed minds,” he said in referring to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage.

“Killing human beings is not political activism. It’s criminal behavior,” Roberts said.

Just before Roberts handed down his sentence Johnson and FRC president Tony Perkins addressed the court to give their recommendations on the sentencing.

Johnson turned toward Corkins and said he forgave him for what he did but said he would never forget the harm Corkins inflicted on him and the negative impact it has had on his family.

After the sentencing hearing Johnson told reporters outside the courthouse that once he wrestled the gun from Corkins and feared that Corkins might still attempt to attack him he chose not to shoot Corkins “because God told me not to do it.”

Within minutes, D.C. police arrived on the scene and took Corkins into custody. He has remained in jail since the time of his arrest at the scene of the incident on Aug. 15, 2012.

At the time of his arrest, police and FBI agents found a stash of ammunition in Corkins’ backpack along with about 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches. Corkins later told FBI agents he planned to smear the sandwiches in the faces of the FRC employees he planned to kill as a form of retaliation against the statements by the Chick-fil-A company’s owner opposing same-sex marriage.

Perkins told the court that Corkins and his plan to kill as many FRC staff members as possible put the staff “in the crosshairs of a political assassin” and has kept the organization and its employees in a state of fear.

“Life for all of us has changed,” he said.

Leo Johnson, Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, Values Voter Summit

Leonardo Johnson with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Perkins reiterated statements he has made in the past that Corkins was instigated, at least in part, to target FRC by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He cited the Center’s decision to identify FRC as a hate group because of its anti-gay advocacy work.

Officials with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, have said their classification of FRC as a hate group is based on its attempt to disparage and demean gay people by linking them and homosexuality to pedophilia. The officials have said the ‘hate’ label is not based on FRC’s opposition to gay rights legislation or its political beliefs.

In his own statement at the sentencing hearing, Corkins apologized to Johnson and FRC, saying he still disagrees with the organization’s positions.

“I realize violence for political reasons is wrong,” he said.

In a 20-minute multi-media presentation in the courtroom, which included the showing of slides and video footage of Corkins, prosecutors argued that Corkins carried out a clearly orchestrated plan to commit mass murder in the days before the FRC shooting.

Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Patrick Martin, one of the two prosecutors working on the case, disputed defense attorney David Bos’s assertion that Corkins was not in full control of his behavior based on his diagnoses of having “major depressive disorder with psychotic features.”

Bos argued that Corkins was being treated with prescription drugs that effectively eliminated symptoms of his mental illness but Corkins failed to take his medication on the day before the FRC shooting incident.

Martin argued that in the week or so before the shooting, Corkins purchased a pistol and ammunition at a Virginia gun store, returned to the store to practice his shooting technique, purchased the sandwiches at a Chick-fil-A restaurant, and even traveled to the FRC building a few days before the incident to see if he could gain entrance as part of a “rehearsal” of his plans.

Martin pointed to one of the slides projected on a large screen in the courtroom that stated, “He knows what he was doing…The treatment he received was working. And it helped him execute his plan.”

National and local LGBT rights organizations, including the D.C. LGBT Center, issued statements at the time of the shooting condemning Corkins’ actions and wishing Johnson a speedy recovery from his injury.

19
Sep
2013

Gov’t seeks 45-year prison term for FRC shooter

FBI unit at Family Research Council headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins — who pled guilty to three felony charges in February — volunteered at D.C.’s LGBT community center. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

UPDATE:

At a court status hearing on Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Roberts rescheduled Corkins’ sentencing hearing for July 15. He also reaffirmed his denial of bail for Corkins, who has been in jail since the time of his arrest last August.

 

Hours before his arrest last August for shooting a security guard in the arm in the lobby of the anti-gay Family Research Council (FRC) headquarters in downtown Washington, Herndon, Va., resident Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, says he told his parents he needed to use their car to drive to the D.C. LGBT Community Center, where he said he worked as a volunteer.

According to a 22-page transcript of an FBI interview of Corkins on the day of his arrest on Aug. 15, 2012 — which prosecutors released in a court filing last week — Corkins told FBI agents that instead of going to the LGBT Center he drove the family car to the East Falls Church Metro station.

From there he said he took the Metro to the Gallery Place station and walked to the FRC building at 801 G St., N.W., with the intention of killing as many people as possible.

“I wanted to kill the people in the building and smear a Chicken-fil-A sandwich on their face,” the FBI transcript quotes Corkins as saying.

Police and prosecutors said the heroic action by the unarmed security guard, who wrestled Corkins to the floor and took away the gun after being shot in the arm, prevented Corkins from reaching the upper floors of the FRC building where at least 50 employees were working at their desks.

Corkins pleaded guilty in February to three felony charges, including committing an act of terrorism while armed, assault with intent to kill while armed, and interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition. He faces a possible maximum sentence of 70 years in prison.

He had been scheduled to be sentenced Monday, April 29. But U.S. District Court Judge Richard W. Roberts agreed on April 22 to a request by Corkins’ attorney to postpone the sentencing to give the attorney, David W. Bos, more time to review the status of Corkins’ mental health.

Citing information not previously disclosed, Bos stated in a motion seeking the postponement that Corkins had been the subject of a “72-hour civil commitment in February 2012, which led to the mental health treatment the defendant was receiving at the time he committed the instant offense.”

In his interview with the FBI agents, Corkins hedged about whether he was committed or entered a treatment facility voluntarily, but said the treatment took place during a time when he was living in San Francisco.

“… I went to seek help and I got charged with a 51-50,” he said.

“What’s a 51-50?” one of the FBI agents asked him.

“It’s if they think you are a danger to yourself or to others,” Corkins replied.

Corkins said he left San Francisco and moved back to his parents’ home in Herndon around April of 2012.

The fact that he purchased a handgun and large quantities of ammunition from a Virginia gun store in August just six months after being committed for a mental health condition linked to possible danger to others comes at a time when President Obama and gun control opponents continue to argue over legislation aimed at requiring stricter background checks for gun purchasers.

In what appears to be a calm, matter-of-fact discussion, Corkins told two FBI agents who conducted the interview that he disagreed with the FRC’s anti-gay positions, including its statement of support for the Chick-fil-A restaurant president, who said he opposes same-sex marriage.

Corkins said in the interview that he bought 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches one day earlier, the same day he practiced shooting his recently purchased revolver at a gun range in Chantilly, Va. He said he carried the gun, three magazines with 15 rounds of ammunition each, and the sandwiches in the backpack he brought to the FRC building.

“I consider myself a political activist,” he told the FBI agents. “[S]o I was going to use that as kind of a statement,” he said of his plans to smear the sandwiches in the faces of the people he planned to shoot.

Corkins mentioned his affiliation with the LGBT Center at the beginning of his FBI interrogation.

“Were you home when you got up in the morning today?” one of the agents asked Corkins.

“Yeah, I was at home,” he replied.

“Just walk us through when you got up,” the transcript quotes the agent as saying.

“Uh, let’s see. I got up in the morning,” Corkins replied. “I told my parents, I volunteer at the D.C. Center, the LGBT center. So I told my parents I was going down there today and that I needed the car,” he told the FBI agents.

“The night before I had loaded three magazines full of bullets, I planned on going down to the [FRC] building … ,” Corkins told the agents.

At the time of the FRC shooting, officials with the D.C. LGBT Center said Corkins volunteered there as a front desk clerk in 2011. Center officials joined local and national LGBT leaders in condemning Corkins’ actions, saying they support his prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.

Center officials said at the time that Corkins showed no signs that he could be capable of committing an act of violence but gave no further details of Corkins’ relationship with the Center other than that he was a part-time volunteer.

D.C. Center Executive Director David Mariner told the Blade early Monday that the Center would have no further comment on the matter other than the statement Mariner issued last August at the time of the FRC shooting incident.

“I was shocked to hear that someone who has volunteered with the D.C. Center could be the cause of such a tragic act of violence,” Mariner said in that statement. “No matter the circumstances, we condemn such violence in the strongest terms possible. We hope for a full and speedy recovery for the victim and our thoughts are with him and his family.”

The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which is prosecuting the case, submitted the FBI interview transcript as one of several exhibits attached to a 32-page sentencing memorandum filed in court on April 19.

The U.S. Attorney’s office also submitted as an exhibit a full video of the FBI interview with Corkins. The video became part of the public court record and is available for viewing and copying on the federal court system’s website.

The Family Research Council promptly posted an excerpt of the video on its own website that shows Corkins telling the FBI agents he selected the FRC as a target after seeing it listed as a “hate group” on the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a national civil rights organization.

In an April 25 press release, FRC President Tony Perkins called the SPLC’s decision to list FRC as a hate group a “reckless labeling [that] has led to devastating consequences.”

Added Perkins, “Because of its ‘hate group’ labeling, a deadly terrorist had a guide map to FRC and other organizations. Our team is still dealing with the fallout of the attack that was intended to have a chilling effect on organizations that are simply fighting for their values.”

SPLC has said it lists FRC as a hate group based, among other things, on what it says are FRC’s false and defamatory claims linking homosexuality and LGBT people to pedophilia. SPLC officials have criticized Perkins for misrepresenting their position, saying they never label an organization as a hate group based on its political views or public policy positions.

The sentencing memorandum outlines the government’s reasons for asking Judge Roberts to sentence Corkins to 45 years in prison.

“The defendant, the lone gunman and perpetrator of this attempted massacre, had the malicious intent and engaged in the requisite planning and effort necessary to achieve his purpose,” the memo says. “Fortunately, he was thwarted by the heroic intervening actions of Leonardo Johnson, a building manager/security guard who was seriously injured as a result.”

Johnson, who was unarmed, is credited with tackling Corkins seconds after Corkins pulled out a 9mm handgun from a backpack he was carrying and pointing it at Johnson. Johnson sustained a gunshot wound to the arm as he wrestled Corkins to the floor of the lobby of the FRC building and took possession of the gun.

D.C. police arrived on the scene minutes later and arrested Corkins. The FBI also became involved in the case.

D.C. police and the FBI said Corkins told authorities that had he gotten past Johnson, he would have taken the elevator to the building’s upper floors and opened fire on the 50 or more FRC employees working that day.

“The defendant’s crimes are serious and warrant severe sentences – not only to punish the defendant for his actions, but to keep the community safe from him and deter other would-be mass murderers and domestic terrorists from following suit,” the sentencing memo says.

“Accordingly, the government respectfully requests that the Court sentence the defendant to a combined term of imprisonment of 45 years,” the memo says.

A new sentencing date was expected to be announced at the status hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday.

In his motion seeking the postponement of the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Bos said the state of Corkins’ mental health should be taken into consideration in the sentencing process.

“While counsel believes the defendant’s mental health history does not bear on the defendant’s competency to proceed in this matter, counsel believes the defendant’s mental health history is relevant to the appropriate sentence in this case.”

29
Apr
2013

Year in review: LGBT Center volunteer charged in shooting

FBI unit at Family Research Council headquarters, gay news, Washington Blade

Floyd Lee Corkins II was accused of shooting a security guard inside the Family Research Council’s headquarters building in August. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. police and the FBI have yet to disclose whether they uncovered a motive in the Aug. 15 non-fatal shooting of a security guard in the lobby of the anti-gay Family Research Council’s headquarters in downtown Washington.

Herndon, Va., resident Floyd Lee Corkins II, 28, a former part-time volunteer for D.C.’s LGBT community center, has pleaded not guilty to a 10-count grand jury indictment in connection with the shooting, including the charge of committing an act of terrorism while armed.

According to the indictment and other charging documents, Corkins allegedly shot the security guard in the arm seconds after he entered the FRC building at 801 G Street, N.W., and told the guard, Leo Johnson, “I don’t like your politics.”

D.C. police and officials with the FBI said they discovered 50 rounds of ammunition and 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches in a backpack Corkins brought to the FRC building. They said the finding led them to believe Corkins may have planned a mass killing if Johnson had not prevented him from gaining access to the FRC offices on the building’s upper floors.

Some have speculated that Corkins targeted the FRC because of its anti-gay positions and its statements denouncing gay activists for organizing a boycott of the Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant chain because its owner has contributed money to anti-gay groups opposed to same-sex marriage.

But authorities have yet to disclose whether Corkins is gay or whether they determined his motive for the shooting.

Officials with the D.C. Center said they knew little about Corkins other than he volunteered to staff the Center’s front desk on weekends for a period of a few months. They said there were no signs of any problems associated with his work.

Center officials joined local and national LGBT leaders in condemning the shooting. Corkins has been held in jail since the time of his arrest on the day of the shooting. A pre-trial status conference in U.S. District Court is scheduled for Jan. 8.

26
Dec
2012