AG Sessions Sends Lawyer to Prosecute Transgender Murder Case in Iowa

  • AG Sessions Sends Lawyer to Prosecute Transgender Murder Case in Iowa

AG Sessions Sends Lawyer to Prosecute Transgender Murder Case in Iowa

A top Justice Department civil rights attorney, Christopher J. Perras, has been dispatched to Iowa to help prosecute a man charged with killing a gender-fluid teen in Burlington previous year.

The Iowa case involves a 16-year-old student in Burlington, Kedarie Johnson, who was shot to death in March 2016. Sessions has sent Christopher Perras, a prominent and experienced hate crimes prosecutor, to work with the county prosecutor in the trial of Jorge "Lumni" Sanders-Galvez.

Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers told the Des Moines Register that federal authorities are investigating the case as a hate crime and "would like to be part of the state case for seamless prosecution, should an indictment in federal court be handed down". People close to Johnson told the Des Moines Register that Johnson identified as both male and female and sometimes went by the name Kandicee.

"This spring the attorney general directed Civil Rights Division attorneys to dedicate themselves to proactively investigate a certain set of cases of individuals who were murdered because they were transgender", said Justice Department spokesperson Devin O'Malley in a statement this week.

"Nothing in this memorandum should be construed to. remove or reduce the protections against discrimination on the basis of sex that Congress has provided all individuals, including transgender individuals, under Title VII", it read.

The New York Times reported Sunday that Sessions "personally initiated" the dispatch of a prominent federal attorney to Burlington. He publicly supported a case brought in the final weeks of the Obama administration in which a MS man was sentenced to 49 years in prison for killing a transgender woman, the first US federal prosecution of a hate crime based on gender identity.

The move does not necessarily signal a shift in Sessions's Justice Department. Sessions has specifically limited the protection of transgender people from workplace discrimination, and has reversed the Obama-era policy encouraging schools to let transgender students use bathrooms that fit their gender identities.

"Despite the protestations of liberal groups dubious of Mr. Sessions' commitment to federal hate crimes statutes, the attorney general has proven himself to be a man of his word, dedicated to enforcing the laws of the land - including anti-LGBT hate crimes legislation", said Log Cabin Republicans President Gregory T. Angelo. He has also prosecuted several cases against law enforcement officers accused of civil rights violations.

Of course it is important and right that the Department of Justice assist in bringing to justice the murderer of Kedarie/Kandicee Johnson, one of the far too many transgender people, and especially transgender people of color, targeted in the ongoing lethal epidemic of hate violence.

- Lou Chibbaro Jr., Washington Blade courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association.