Sessions Sends Federal Lawyer to Prosecute Murder of Trans Person

Attorney General Jeff Sessions / Getty Images
• October 16, 2017 2:55 pm


An experienced federal hate crimes lawyer will cover the case of a murdered transgender teen, thanks to the instructions of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions "personally initiated" the sending of Christopher Perras to assist in the Burlington, Iowa, murder case, the New York Times reported.

16-year-old Kedarie Johnson was shot and killed in March of 2016. Johnson, according to friends and family, self-identified as gay, as well as both male and female, occasionally using the name Kandicee.

Perras will serve as a county prosecutor in the case, working to convict Jorge Sanders-Galvez, who was charged with Johnson's killing. According to the Des Moines County Attorney, Perras was added to the case because the federal government was considering bringing charges of its own.

"The federal authorities are investigating the case as a federal hate crime, and so they would like to be part of the state case for seamless prosecution, should an indictment in federal court be handed down," said Des Moines County Attorney Amy K. Beavers.

"This spring, the attorney general directed Civil Rights Division attorneys to dedicate themselves to proactively investigate a certain set of cases of individuals who were murdered because they were transgender,"  Devin O'Malley, a Justice Department spokesman, told the Free Beacon.

"This is just one example of the attorney general's commitment to enforcing the laws enacted by Congress and to protecting the civil rights of all individuals," he said.

Back in June, Sessions delivered a keynote address at the 2017 Hate Crimes Summit, organized by the Justice Department's Hate Crimes Subcommittee. Then, too, Sessions spoke about protecting transgender Americans from hate crimes, noting that his was the first Justice Department to prosecute the murder of a transgender individual under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

"We have and will continue to enforce hate crime laws aggressively and appropriately where transgendered individuals are victims. Last month, Joshua Brandon Vallum was sentenced to 49 years in prison for assaulting and murdering Mercedes Williamson. This is the first case prosecuted under the Hate Crimes Prevention Act involving the murder of a transgender person. I personally met with the department's senior leadership and the Civil Rights Division to discuss a spate of murders around the country of transgender individuals," he said.

A Bureau of Justice Statistics report, also released in June, found an average of 250,000 hate crimes per year between 2004 and 2015, based on a survey of households.