Willard Sentenced to Eight Years

LGBT groups slam plea deal for man who shot transgender woman

The man who pleaded guilty to shooting a transgender woman in the neck and trying to rob her after she refused his request for oral sex was sentenced Dec. 6 to eight years in prison, angering local LGBT groups who felt the sentence was too light.

Darryl Willard Jr., 21, pleaded guilty in September to one count of aggravated assault while armed – a charge carrying a minimum sentence of five years, and a maximum of 30 years and a $10,000 fine – for shooting 26-year-old Gima Brown at point-blank range in Southeast D.C.’s Shipley Terrace neighborhood. The bullet struck Brown in the neck, puncturing both her lungs and lodging in her chest near her heart, where it remains.

At sentencing, Judge Ann O’Regan Keary ordered that Willard be placed on five years of supervised release following the completion of his prison term.

As part of the plea deal, the government agreed not to seek indictment on any other charges potentially related to the crime, including assault with intent to kill, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to rob while armed, assault with significant bodily injury, carrying a pistol without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Keary had ordered that any community impact statements be submitted to the court by Dec. 2. In response to that request, the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) and Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) submitted such statements on behalf of members of the transgender community. In its statement, GLOV asked Keary to impose the maximum 30-year sentence.

According to court documents, the prosecution recommended the court sentence Willard to 10 years in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.

In response to the Dec. 6 sentencing, GLOV criticized the Department of Justice’s prosecution for ”critical missteps” in failing to consult the victim of the shooting before offering Willard a plea bargain, and called on the department to improve its work on hate crimes.

”The lax sentencing of Darryl Willard adds credence to the widespread view in D.C. that the life of a trans-person is not equal in value to other lives,” said GLOV’s Hassan Naveed in a prepared release. ”It sends a message to perpetrators of LGBT violence that committing crimes against a member of the LGBT community is acceptable in our society.”

Naveed’s statement continued: ”The maximum sentence in this case was 30 years – DOJ requested 10, and the court further lowered it to eight. It is important to keep in mind the perpetrator here pointed a gun directly into the neck of the victim and fired a bullet – clearly intending to kill her. She will have health problems for the rest of her life, and this would-be killer will be free to roam our streets in less than eight years. We are appalled at the value placed on our lives by the system, and we will not rest until these issues are resolved.”

Jason Terry, speaking for DCTC, also expressed disappointment with the sentence.

”While we believe people who commit crimes need to be held accountable for their actions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office needs to be held accountable to the victims and the D.C. community at large,” Terry said. ”In this case, the victim was not appropriately consulted, nor at the right time, before the plea agreement was reached.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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