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Islan Nettles: A victim of systemic persecution of trans women of color in the United States.

Update: 

Despite the fact that Paris Wilson’s brutal assault of Islan Nettles on August 17, 2013 resulted in her death on August 22, he is still only being charged with misdemeanor assault as of today, September 4, 2013.

A killer is out on the loose on $2000 bail while the NYPD is “investigating.” Persecution indeed.

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End Update. 

On August 17, 2013, a 20-year-old man brutally beat Islan Nettles, leaving her in a coma.

According to the criminal complaint, “Wilson punched Nettles in the head ‘with a closed fist,’ WPTV reports. Even after Nettles fell to the ground, Wilson continued to hit her in the face, and the police found her “unconscious…with a swollen shut eye and blood on her face.”

Despite the fact that Ms. Nettles had clearly suffered a serious injury, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged Mr. Wilson with misdemeanor assault and harassment, a non-criminal violation.

On August 22, 2013 Islan Nettles died due to “blunt impact head injuries” suffered as a result of being assaulted by Mr. Wilson.

Now that Islan has died, the mainstream media has taken an interest. There is substantial evidence being reported that the assault (murder) of  Islan was motivated by anti-trans bias.

At the scene of the crime, there was likely already evidence that Islan was brutalized because of the fact that she was a trans women. Where was the media on August 17 when Islan was struck so hard that she was left in a coma?  They did not care then, and still do not care to delve into how exponentially more frequent hate crimes are committed against trans women of color than gays or lesbians.

According to one report, acts of violence against trans women of color are on the rise. 

According to a 2012 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, anti-trans violence rose 32.1% from 2011 to 2012, and trans women of color are most often the targets. This report only covers 18 states, though, so one can only imagine the disgraceful incidents that go unreported.

In order to try to minimize violent crimes, particularly against vulnerable populations, it is crucial that law enforcement authorities hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. That is the whole premise behind enhanced punishments for those who commit hate crimes.

In the case of Islan Nettles, the New York Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office laughed at Islan Nettles’ unconscious and bloodied body when they ignored the law and charged Mr. Wilson with third degree assault, a misdemeanor.

In New York, a person is guilty  of assault in the third degree when, with intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person.

A person is guilty of assault in the second degree when, with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person.

There is a huge difference between being charged with assault in the third or second degree. The former is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of one year of incarceration. The latter is a Class D Felony and can carry up to a 7 year sentence of incarceration.

As is fairly obvious, Mr. Wilson should at the very least have been charged with assault in the second degree when he was first arrested.

Punching someone in the face until they fall to the ground and then proceeding to repeatedly punch the fallen person in the face until they are unconscious clearly shows an intent to cause serious injury. He not only caused Islan serious injury at the scene by knocking her out cold, he actually ended up killing her.

As of today, the charges against Paris Wilson remain the same, even after Islan’s death:

Paris Wilson beat Islan Nettles to Death. He is still only being charged with misdemeanor assault.

Paris Wilson beat Islan Nettles to death. He is still only being charged with misdemeanor assault.

Hate crimes cannot be prevented if law enforcement is an accessory after the fact. There should be a thorough investigation into why the NYPD and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office laughed at the brutal beating of Islan Nettles until death forced them to act otherwise.

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