Deoni Jones’s Legal Legacy
It’s been a year since transgender District resident Deoni Jones was fatally stabbed in the face at a Northeast D.C. bus stop. But the prosecution of her attacker has been slow, leading to calls for more action by the District government and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
Jones’s family, flanked by relatives, friends, city leaders and members of the LGBT community, held a vigil Feb. 2, the one-year anniversary of Jones’s death, near the bus stop where she was killed at the intersection of Sycamore Road and East Capitol Streets NE. Several members of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the District of Columbia Fire Department (DCFD) also attended the vigil to pay tribute to Jones’s memory.
Speaking first, Alvin Bethea, Jones’s father, thanked all those in attendance for coming, saying he was grateful for their support during this difficult time. But Bethea also said he was frustrated with the pace of the prosecution of the suspect charged with killing Jones.
A Northeast D.C. man, Gary Niles Montgomery, was arrested following a weeklong manhunt for Jones’s killer and eventually indicted on a charge of first-degree murder. Although Montgomery was found competent to stand trial last year, last month D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin vacated Montgomery’s trial date, set for June 10, in order to further evaluate Montgomery’s competency to stand trial. Montgomery remains held at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where he will have to undergo additional mental evaluation before a final determination is made to move forward with prosecution.
By name, Bethea specifically called out the prosecuting U.S. attorney, David Gorman, and criticized Gorman’s decision not to pursue an indictment with bias enhancements due to Jones’s status as a transgender woman. It is yet unknown whether Jones’s transgender status was a factor in her attack. Bethea further said that the family intended to file a complaint against the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (USAODC), which he described as ’’derelict’’ in prosecuting the homicide ’’to the fullest extent’’ of the law.
Bill Miller, a spokesman for the USAODC, issued a statement but declined to comment on an ongoing case.
’’The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to pursuing hate/bias enhancements when investigations warrant,’’ Miller said in the statement. ’’Because this matter is pending, we decline to discuss the specifics of this particular case.’’
Bethea’s announcement seemed to catch many of the local dignitaries at the vigil off guard. Speaking after Bethea, Mayor Vincent Gray (D) reiterated his commitment to the LGBT community and used the opportunity to announce a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to solicit community impact statements from members of the LGBT community.