Statement by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office at the trial of Paris Wilson

Statement by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office at the trial of Paris Wilson, accused killer of Islan Nettles.
This was the complete statement read by the prosecutor in court yesterday:

“As the Court is aware, the defendant was originally arrested in this case on a charge of misdemeanor assault. Several days after the arrest, the victim died from her injuries. Since that time, we have been aggressively investigating the crime as a homicide.
For the reasons referenced in court on the prior two dates, however, the case has turned out to be a uniquely complex one, and we are not yet prepared to go to the grand jury. However we continue to actively investigate this case in the hopes of ultimately holding the person responsible for this crime accountable. Today, we concede that eh speedy trial time has run with only with regards to the misdemeanor with which the defendant is charged – and thus the case must be dismissed. It should be emphasized, however, that the crime we are investigating, homicide, has no statutory speedy-trial deadline. Therefore, should our ongoing investigation ultimately result in an indictment of Mr. Wilson for homicide, the case would be promptly restored to the calendar and would move forward, notwithstanding today’s dismissal of the misdemeanor charge.”

 

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Suspect in Islan Nettles Slaying Dismissed

Three months after Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old transgender woman, died as the result of a brutal beating in Harlem, the only person charged in the slaying saw his case dismissed.

Paris Wilson, 20, was arrested shortly after the August 17 attack –– which took place near 148th Street and Frederick Douglas Boulevard –– and charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment. The criminal complaint filed at that time said that the victim was left “unconscious on the ground with a swollen shut eye and blood on her face.” The defendant, the complaint read, struck Nettles in the head with a “closed fist,” knocking her to the ground, according to an eyewitness. Nettles, who remained in a coma until she was taken off life support on August 22, suffered blunt force trauma, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office.

Nettles’ slaying has been investigated as a possible hate crime –– Detective Cheryl Crispin, an NYPD spokeswoman, telling Gay City News that police determined that “derogatory language” was used in the attack. In the wake of her death, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office spoke of “possible grand jury action” and a homicide indictment in advance of an October 4 hearing.

Would-be confession by a second man keeps Manhattan DA from pressing misdemeanor prosecution, upgrading charges against Paris Wilson

But prosecutors have also consistently indicated they are hamstrung by the fact that another young man came forward shortly after the attack to say that he was the perpetrator.

Wilson’s October 4 hearing was adjourned with no additional charges brought against him, and in New York County criminal court on November 19, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Viorst told Judge Steven Statsinger that while prosecutors and police are “aggressively investigating” the case with an eye toward a homicide charge, he was not prepared to move forward on the existing charges against the defendant, who he said was apprehended several blocks from the scene of the crime. Viorst acknowledged that any homicide charge brought in the case could be made against “Mr. Wilson or someone else.”

In a misdemeanor prosecution, the state must be ready to go to trial within 90 days of arrest.

The dismissal came on the eve of the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, held in recognition to the lethal violence aimed at gender-nonconforming people.

The effort by a suspect other than Wilson to confess to the crime was first reported by the New York Post on August 26 in a story that had a law enforcement source saying Wilson’s mother put the man up to it. According to that account, the man told police he was too drunk to remember what happened. That report cast doubt on the veracity of the man’s account.

The Daily News has since reported, however, that a source familiar with the investigation said two “reliable” witnesses had corroborated the account of the man who came forward.

The man’s name has not been identified in court records.

Viorst’s pledge to press forward to win a homicide indictment in the case is predicated on sorting out the contradictions between the initial identification of Wilson as the perpetrator and the other man’s effort to confess.

After the hearing, Xavier Donaldson, Wilson’s attorney, said that his client and the other man are roughly the same height and weight and “may have been wearing similar clothes.” 

Nettles’ family and other advocates for the slain woman seized on the district attorney’s commitment to bring homicide charges as progress of sorts on a day when the effort to win justice appeared to have derailed.

“They will be upgraded,” Dolores Nettles, Islan’s mother, said of the charges dropped against Wilson. “I’m upset, but I’m dealing… Hopefully the charges will be upgraded so that the next time he comes to court, he won’t walk out.”

Asked if she had faith in prosecutors and the police, she said, “I have to have faith.”

In an email to Gay City News, Sharon Stapel, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said, “AVP, working with transgender leaders and activists, is paying close attention to this case, and we understand that the District Attorney’s Office is now pursuing homicide charges instead of the original misdemeanor charges. Homicide charges would be progress, but the LGBTQ communities need a clear and thorough explanation of what the NYPD and DA’s office is doing to investigate and respond to the tragic death of Islan Nettles.”

The group is calling on District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.’s office to convene a meeting with AVP and community members “to discuss the most recent developments in this case, and to assure that those most affected by this violence have the opportunity to talk directly to the DA’s office.” 

Paul Schindler at Gay City News

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Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013

This year the Transgender Day of Remembrance   (TDOR) is on Wednesday November 20th like it is ever year. TDOR serves as a day to memorialize those who have been killed as a result of anti-transgender violence, and acts to bring attention to continued violence against the trans* community.

TDOR over the past two years that this writer has personally been involved here in New York City its also been a coming out space for trans* and gender non-conforming people. It also becomes a place for us to discuss the transphobia we all experience but are lucky enough to survive. The Trans* sometimes uses this as a chance to sometimes teach the cisgendered community about us, who may have sadly not known their friend who was murdered was trans* or gender conforming.

This year events are happening all over New York City on the 20th and the day before. Tomorrow after I am part of a panel discussion at The College of Staten Island discussing my transition, the discrimination transmen face and whatever else the audience would like to ask me.

When did TDOR get started?

“ The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence that year and began an important memorial that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.” GLAAD Website

How can I participate in the Transgender Day of Remembrance?

Participate in the Transgender Day of Remembrance by attending or organizing a vigil on November 20 to honor all those whose lives were lost to anti-transgender violence that year.  Vigils are typically hosted by local transgender advocates or LGBT organizations, and held at community centers, parks, places of worship and other venues. The vigil often involves reading a list of the names of those who died that year.

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