LGBT Group Calls for Attorney's Apology After He Argues Transgender Murder Victim Wasn't a "Certain Class" of Person
On March 28, 2010, Rasheen Everett murdered Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar, a 29-year-old transgender woman he'd met online. After Everett strangled Gonzalez-Andujar in her Glendale, Queens, apartment, he poured bleach on her body and ransacked her home, stealing her camera, keys, laptop, coat, and cell phone, and, according to one report, destroying all of her Marilyn Monroe photos. The neighbors could hear screaming and banging, yet no one came to Gonzalez-Andujar's aid. Everett left the apartment 18 hours later, carrying Gonzalez-Andujar's stolen property, and hopped a bus to Las Vegas. Her family discovered her body three days later.
Image via Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar
Everett was arrested in Las Vegas a month later and brought back to New York to stand trial. Now 32, he was convicted last month of second-degree murder, second-degree burglary, and tampering with physical evidence. On December 5, before a Queens judge sentenced Everett to 29 years to life in prison, his attorney, John Scarpa, argued that his clients should escape serious prison time, given the low social status of the person he killed.
"Who is the victim in this case?" Scarpa asked the jury, according to the New York Post. "Is the victim a person in the higher end of the community?"
During the trial, Scarpa said that Gonzalez-Andujar was a prostitute, that she and Everett had met through an online ad she'd posted, and that, because of her line of work, she'd knowingly exposed Everett to HIV and other diseases (there was no testimony indicating that Gonzalez-Andujar was HIV positive). The defense seems to have argued that Everett killed Gonzalez-Andujar after discovering she had male genitalia. But the trial also revealed that Everett had a history of intimate partner violence; an ex-girlfriend's testimony revealed he had choked her, too. (He also doesn't seem to have taken the trial itself very seriously; according to the Post, Everett "chuckled" during testimony by Gonzalez-Andujar's brother Ruben, and "winked" at his family members in the courtroom.)
In his closing arguments, Scarpa also argued that it wasn't as though Everett had killed someone "in the higher end of the community," telling Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter, "A sentence of 25 years to life is an incredibly long period of time, judge. Shouldn't that be reserved for people who are guilty of killing certain classes of individuals?"
Buchter didn't agree; before he sentenced Everett, the Post says, he scolded the lawyer, telling Scarpa, "This court believes every life is sacred."
Now, the Anti-Violence Project, one of New York's oldest LGBT groups, is calling for Scarpa to be held accountable for his words. In a press release issued Friday, the Chelsea-based group said it was "outraged" by Scarpa's statements about the victim, calling it "tantamount to hate speech." The group is also asking for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown to "issue a public condemnation of Scarpa's dangerous and offensive remarks."
Scarpa has defended his remarks; in an interview with Gothamist, he said he was referring not to Gonzalez-Andujar's being transgender, but her alleged history as a prostitute and drug user. But he also insisted on referring to Gonzalez-Andujar as "he," telling the blog, "He himself was guilty of attempted murder. I thought it was loathsome for the judge to say this was a good person."
At a memorial service for Gonzalez-Andujar held a month after her death, Elizabeth Rivera-Valentine, a former project coordinator for LGBT group the Audre Lorde Project, denounced the way her friend had been depicted in the media.
"When I found out about the death of my friend Amanda, I could not sit by silently and watch as another girl, another sister from our community, is taken from us and nothing is done about the way she's being projected by media, as well as by the NYPD," Rivera-Valentine said, tearing up as she spoke. "She was very charismatic, very well-loved, and was known by many. We knew her by the name Amanda. We respected her as Amanda and loved her as Amanda, those of us that cared for her. Amanda was a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a niece, a friend, a community member."