TLDEF Responds to Guilty Plea in Killing of Islan Nettles

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) responded to news from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. that 25-year-old James Dixon has pleaded guilty to First Degree Manslaughter in the August 2013 killing of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old African American transgender woman from Harlem. Dixon faces 12 years in prison after accepting the plea deal.

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“Members of the transgender community are far too often the targets of violent crime. I hope that this conviction provides some comfort to Ms. Nettles’ family and friends, and affirms my Office’s commitment to protecting members of the LGBTQ community,” said District Attorney Vance.

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Dixon was charged last March with punching Islan Nettles in the head and knocking her to the ground where she hit her head on the pavement, causing a serious brain injury. The indictment said Dixon then struck her again repeatedly, causing further serious brain injury. Islan Nettles died days later in the hospital. Since the killing, TLDEF has joined transgender advocates in calling for justice for Islan. In August of 2014, TLDEF spoke out about this case in a Sunday New York Daily News op-ed.

Statement from TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman

“Countless transgender women of colour like Islan Nettles are lost to violence and brutality. Too often, their killers go unpunished. We thank District Attorney Vance for his office’s vigorous efforts to prosecute Islan’s killer. We also recognise that while James Dixon’s guilty plea finally brings an end to this trial, many will understandably feel that a 12-year sentence does not fully address the tremendous loss of Islan Nettles.

“It has been widely reported that at least seven men, including Dixon, taunted Islan and her transgender friends on the night of her killing, yelling homophobic and transphobic slurs during the brutal attack. This case highlights the need for expansion of New York’s hate crimes law, which currently does not include transgender people. Transgender people must be protected from hate crimes like all other New Yorkers.

“Our thoughts are with Islan’s family and friends. We continue to honour her life and call for an end to anti-transgender violence.”

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