Plea Deal Offered in Transgender Shooting Case

Preliminary hearing is rescheduled while defendant considers pleading to aggravated assault

by John Riley
Published on September 16, 2011, 3:36pm | Comments

A man accused of shooting and trying to rob a transgender woman in Southeast D.C.'s Shipley Terrace neighborhood appeared in court for a preliminary status hearing this morning, but the hearing was rescheduled to allow him to consider a plea deal from the government.

Darryl Willard Jr., 20, of Northeast Washington, appeared with his attorney, Anthony Matthews, before Judge William M. Jackson Sept. 16. Willard faces a charge of assault with intent to kill while armed with a handgun.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Dillon informed the court that the government was offering Willard a plea bargain, in which he would plead guilty to one count of aggravated assault while armed, in exchange for the government agreeing not to indict him on more serious charges. The plea deal of aggravated assault carries a minimum five-year sentence.

Matthews asked the court to reschedule the preliminary hearing in order to discuss the offer with his client. Jackson, filling in for Judge Ann O'Regan Keary, agreed to reschedule the hearing for Sept. 23.

However, Jackson warned Matthews and Willard that if they did not accept the plea deal by that time, the case would return to Judge Keary and the government would be allowed to move forward with its case.

According to charging documents, the shooting victim had picked up Willard by car on the night of the shooting. The charging documents further detail an existing relationship between the two, in which Willard had paid for sexual relations. In the course of a 15-minute car ride that night, the early hours of Sept. 12, Willard allegedly asked the woman for oral sex, which she declined and then dropped Willard off at the intersection of 23rd and Savannah Streets SE.

After exiting the car, the charging documents detail Willard pointing a revolver at the woman and telling her, ''Give me what you got, where's your money at?'' When the woman refused to give Willard her money, Willard allegedly shot her. The woman sped away and, after realizing she had been shot in the neck, drove to the Metropolitan Police Department's Seventh District Station to report the incident.

The woman was then transported to George Washington Hospital and treated for a gunshot wound to the neck. She later provided police with a phone number belonging to Willard and identified him as the man who shot her.

Although charging documents say the victim was a ''transgender male,'' the initial police incident report correctly describes her as a ''transgender female.'' Calls to people who have had interactions with the victim confirmed she identifies as a woman.

''This is just another reason why we need sensitivity training for all officers in MPD, not just the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit,'' said Jeffrey Light, an attorney who volunteers with the DC Trans Coalition, in response to the error in the charging documents. ''Perhaps the U.S. Attorney's Office needs training as well.''

Light said he thought the inclusion of prior sex encounters between the victim and Willard was unnecessary to gain an affidavit and did not support probable cause because evidence of past encounters was not related to the commission of the crime. He also said that the inclusion of such information could discourage transgender sex workers from coming forward for fear that their history could be accessed by the public via court documents.