Three men charged with assaulting a transgender woman in Lowell in June 2007 pled guilty this week to charges of assault and battery for purpose of intimidation due to sexual orientation and civil rights violations. Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone’s office had urged Superior Court Judge James Lemire to sentence each of the men to one year in prison, but the judge instead sentenced each of the men, Jonathan Artis, Jules Ruggs, and Jeffrey Buchanan, all 20 years old and all from Lowell, to two years probation, 50 hours of community service, and diversity training.- Bay Windows.
The three men attacked the victim, Jenine Nickola, in the early morning hours of June 2, 2007, as she walked home on Bridge Street. They followed her, shouting and calling her "faggot." Nickola headed towards the nearby Centerville police precinct, but when she was 200 feet from the building the three men hit her in the head from behind and repeatedly assaulted her, continuing to shout slurs and telling her, "We don't like your kind in our neighborhood." The attack left her with severe lacerations to her lip and strained back muscles. Once the men left Nickola went to the police, who caught the three men about 20 minutes later.
Massachusetts hate crimes laws do not cover crimes motivated by gender identity or expression... Scott said Leone’s office was likely able to bring charges based on sexual orientation since the attackers shouted anti-gay slurs during the assault.
Now if they'd just said "filthy tranny" instead of "faggot", then they would have gotten a lesser sentence. Perhaps a light tap on the wrist or a stern talking-to, instead of 50 hours of community service.
Although she was initially described in press statements by Leone’s office and in the press as a gay man targeted for his sexual orientation, Nickola appeared at a June 7 vigil in Lowell in response to the attacks, and she told her story to the press and identified herself as a transwoman. Despite her public identification as transgender Leoneís office has continued to describe her as a man targeted for his sexual orientation. Gunner Scott, executive director of Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), said it was disappointing that Leone's office is not acknowledging her gender identity.Perhaps not even a tap on the wrist then.
"As far as the DA’s office goes it sounds like they need training. ... I can only imagine how difficult it must be to work with the DA’s office when you’re not being respected with how you identify," said Scott.
I can't help wondering what would have happened if an African student had been targeted the same way, not even 100 yards from a police station. And if the attackers had shouted "Nigger!". I think that maybe we wouldn't have to read about it in a minority news outlet, and maybe the sentence might have been a little more severe. Just a bit. Mind you, it's only a hunch.
And in other news...
This death is now described as "suspicious", and Homicide detectives have been assigned to the case.
Murders of Transgendered people in the USA are still running at about once a fortnight. The majority are Black or Latina transwomen.