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washingtonblade.com - volume 42, issue 35 - september 2, 2011

washingtonblade.com - volume 42, issue 35 - september 2, 2011

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Published by: Washington Blade Newspaper on Sep 01, 2011
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SEPTEMBER 02 2011 VOLUME 42 ISSUE 35 •
OUR COMMUNITY, OUR STORIES SINCE 1969
WASHINGTONBLADE.COM
By LOU CHIBBARO JR.lchibbaro@washblade.com
 Joe Solmonese, who has served for more than six years
as president of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’slargest LGBT civil rights organization, will step down fromhis job when his contract ends on March 30, 2012, HRCofficials announced last week.In a statement released Aug. 27, co-chairs of the boardof directors of HRC and its sister organization, the HRCFoundation, said Solmonese will remain as head of bothorganizations “until the completion of his contract toensure a smooth leadership transition.”They also announced the formation of a searchcommittee for Solmonese’s replacement to be co-chairedby board members Joni Madison of North Carolina and
Cop charged in trans shooting
Affidavit says D.C. officer stood onhood of car, fired through windshield
By LOU CHIBBARO JR.lchibbaro@washblade.com
An off-duty D.C. police officer charged with firing a pistolat three transgender women and two male friends lastFriday was in handcuffs this week as marshals led him intocourt for a preliminary hearing.D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Lee F. Satterfield, whois presiding over the case, granted a request by an attorneyrepresenting Officer Kenneth Furr to postpone a Tuesdayhearing until Friday, adding to the suspense surrounding anincident that has outraged LGBT activists and city officials,including Mayor Vincent Gray. (Visit washingtonblade.comfor updates on this story.)Satterfield ordered Furr returned to jail pending Friday’shearing, where the judge will rule on whether the officershould remain in jail while he awaits trial.Furr has been on the force for more than 20 years. He wascharged last week with assault with a dangerous weaponand driving while intoxicated following allegations by thevictims and witnesses that he shot at least three of fivepeople sitting in a car about 5:25 a.m. on Aug. 29 at Firstand Pierce streets, N.W.Two of three transgender women sitting in the car were hitby bullets and suffered non-life threatening injures, policesaid. One of two males in the car was also struck, suffering
CONTINUES ON PAGE 14 CONTINUES ON PAGE 16
Solmonese to step down as head of HRC
Board announces nationalsearch for replacement
HRC President
JOE SOLMONESE
will step down in
March. There is a long list of rumored successors.
WASHINGTON BLADE FILE PHOTO BY MICHAEL KEY 
Obama’s gays
Meet some of thesenior players in the
campaign as 2012race gets underway.
PAGE 6
Erasure returns
We talk to Andy Bellas legendary pop duoreleases new album,prepares for D.C. shows.
PAGE 23
 
Preliminary evidenceshows ‘vindictiveprosecution’
By LOU CHIBBARO JR.lchibbaro@washblade.com
A federal judge on Wednesday suspendedthe trial of gay former Army Lt. Dan Choi afterthe prosecutor said she would challenge hispreliminary finding that sufficient evidenceexists that Choi was targeted for “vindictiveprosecution” in connection with a WhiteHouse protest last November.Choi and 12 other activists werearrested Nov. 15 for handcuffingthemselves to the White House fence toprotest the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.Choi faces a possible sentence of sixmonths in jail or a $5,000 fine if convictedon a misdemeanor charge of disobeyinga lawful order to disperse from the fence.In a tense exchange between U.S.District Court Magistrate Judge JohnFacciola, prosecutor Angela Georgeannounced she would file a request fora writ of mandamus or legal challengebefore the court’s chief judge tocontest Facciola’s decision to allowChoi’s attorneys to pursue a vindictiveprosecution defense.Facciola responded by saying he wouldsuspend the trial for 10 days to giveGeorge, an assistant U.S. Attorney, time toprepare a motion for a writ of mandamusand to provide Chief Judge RoyceLamberth time to consider it.William Miller, a spokesperson forthe U.S. Attorney’s office, confirmedthat George would seek the writ of mandamus from Lamberth. But hedeclined to comment further on thematter, saying his office never commentson pending cases.If Lamberth grants the request, legalobservers say Facciola would likely bedirected not to allow Choi’s attorneys topursue a vindictive prosecution defense.Should he turn down the request, Facciolawould be free to allow the vindictiveprosecution defense to move forward.Such a defense would allow Choi’sattorneys to pursue documents andsubpoena witnesses that Choi’s supporterssay could possibly link the alleged effortto go after Choi for a harsher prosecutionto higher-level government officials,including officials at the White House.Defense attorney Robert Feldman calledFacciola’s finding that the defense presenteda “prima facie case” that a vindictiveprosecution occurred a “vindication”of Choi’s longstanding contention thathis arrest and prosecution violated hisconstitutional right to free speech.The clash between George and Facciolacame on the third day of the trial and oneday after Choi testified for more thantwo hours as the lead witness for his owndefense, saying he was exercising his FirstAmendment right to free speech at theWhite House protest.In response to Feldman’s questions,Choi testified at length about his role as acivil rights activist for LGBT people and forgays in the military. He told how he modelshis actions on the black civil rights movementof the 1960s, including the famous lunchcounter sit-ins at a Woolworth’s departmentstore in Greensboro, N.C., that challengedsegregation laws.Choi testified that a series of three WhiteHouse protests against the “Don’t Ask,Don’t Tell” law on gays in the military, inwhich he and other activists were arrestedat the White House fence, were basedon the same principle used in the blackcivil rights movement for exercising aconstitutional right of free speech.“I believe that was a transformativemoment,” he said of the White Houseprotests.George objected repeatedly to Choi’sdialogue on civil rights, saying it wasnot relevant to the case at hand. To theamazement of some courtroom observers,Facciola overruled her objections almostevery time she raised them.In her cross-examination of Choi,George pressed the former Army officer,West Point graduate and combat veteranin the Iraq war to respond to the chargethat he disobeyed a lawful order todisperse from the White House fence.Choi responded by citing a provisionin U.S. military law pertaining to unlawfulorders.“If you are given an order that is unlawfulor immoral, it is your duty to disobey thatorder,” he said.Feldman and defense co-counselNorman Kent told reporters covering thetrial that Choi’s defense is based, in part,on the premise that prosecutors singledhim out for a harsher prosecution whenthey charged him with violating a federalregulation pertaining to White Houseprotests and demonstrations along theWhite House fence and sidewalk.The federal regulation carries a penaltyof six months in jail and a possible $5,000fine. The two attorneys said peoplearrested in virtually all other White Housedemonstrations in recent memory –including Choi and other activists in similarprotests in April and May of 2010 – werecharged under a D.C. municipal ordinancethey compare to a traffic violation thatcarries no prison sentence.In his testimony on Tuesday, Choi saidhe believes prosecutors decided to invokethe far more harsh federal regulationagainst him in the Nov. 15, 2010 case,which he now faces at trial, because of hisrole as a gay former military officer who is“standing up for my beliefs.”Choi stated in his testimony that thousandsof people appeared to have violated thesame regulation with which he was chargedwhen they gathered at the White Houseearlier this year to celebrate President BarackObama’s announcement that accusedterrorist Osama bin Laden had been killed ina U.S. military operation in Pakistan.Choi and his attorneys noted thatdozens of the revelers that evening clungto the White House fence and did notmove back and forth along the sidewalk,as required under the ordinance for ademonstration, when they cheered andexpressed support for the president’s rolein bin Laden’s capture and death.By not attempting to disperse or arrestthe throngs that congregated at the fenceon that occasion while they arrested Choiand other protesters for challengingObama on his handling of the “Don’tAsk, Don’t Tell” law shows that Choi wassingled out for “vindictive” prosecution,Choi’s attorneys argue.
CONTINUES AT WASHINGTONBLADE.COM
washingtonblade.com
02 • SEPTEMBER 02, 2011LOCAL NEWS
Former Army Lt.
DAN CHOI
and 12 others werearrested last year after protesting ‘Don’t Ask,Don’t Tell’ at the White House.
WASHINGTON BLADE FILE PHOTO BY MICHAEL KEY
Choi trial halted after challenge to judge’s ruling
O’Malley to headlineEquality Md. event
Equality Maryland has an event slated for Wednesday in which several local electedofficials will be honored including Gov. Martin O’Malley who said in July that getting asame-sex marriage law passed next year is among his legislative goals.Dubbed “Celebrate and Honor,” it will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. atChevy Chase Town Hall (4301 Willow Lane in Chevy Chase) with cocktails andpresentations. Aside from O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney GeneralDoug Gansler, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Howard County Executive KenUlman will be honored.Lisa Polyak, interim board chair for the organization, said the board decidedwhom to honor and was in agreement in its decisions. The organization hastypically held a gala-type event but scaled back this year as it attempts to stabilizethe organization after the departure of former director Morgan Meneses-Sheets,whom they fired in April after a disappointing 2011 legislative session that saw amarriage bill fail.O’Malley, criticized by some Maryland gays for previously supporting civilunions over marriage, changed his tune after a marriage bill passed with stronggubernatorial support this year in New York. Did the board fear some criticismwould emerge for their decision to honor O’Malley so quickly when for years hedid little to help their cause?Polyak said no.“I think it’s a good idea to honor people who come out publicly in their supportand pledge to put the strength of their office fully behind us,” she said.Tickets are $50. Sponsorship levels are available ranging from $1,000 to $5,000.Go to equalitymaryland.org and look under “events” for details.Polyak said Equality Maryland has stabilized in recent months. She said theorganization is operating in the black again after a shaky start to the year and afull board — bylaws say the C-4 arm can have 15 members — by month’s end.Many qualified candidates have applied for the executive director position,she said, which they hope to fill “no later than November.” She credits the fivecurrent board members for “working their fingers to the bone” to stabilize theorganization this summer.
JOEY DiGUGLIELMO
 
WASHINGTONBLADE.COM
SEPTEMBER 02, 2011 • 03
 
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