San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon today held a ceremony honoring victims and witnesses from several recent high-profile crimes in the city as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
The eighth annual Justice Awards handed out by the district attorney’s office included honors for a transgender woman who bounced back from a brutal beating to become an advocate for local LGBT issues and a woman who came forward as a witness in a grisly murder case.
Gascon said the awards are to honor “when victims and witnesses step up … and say we’re not going to let this happen in our community.”
He said, “Without that occurring, there is no community.”
The district attorney’s office honored Mia Tu Mutch, a transgender woman who was attacked by two men who knocked her to the ground, kicked her and stole her phone at the 16th Street Mission BART station on April 1, 2011.
The suspects, Lionel Jackson and Maurice Perry, were heard by witnesses saying “I hate men dressed up as women,” as well as homophobic slurs, prosecutors said.
The pair were arrested with the help of a witness, Francisco Rubio, who followed them when they fled after the attack, and eventually pleaded guilty to felony assault and misdemeanor hate crime charges.
Tu Mutch advocated for the pair to attend anger management and sensitivity classes as part of a rehabilitative rather than punitive sentence, according to Assistant District Attorney Victor Hwang, who prosecuted the case.
Hwang said at this afternoon’s ceremony that Tu Mutch “isn’t just a victim, she’s been an advocate and organizer for LGBT rights.”
He said she has since organized events such as a weekly meal for LGBT homeless and toured the country to discuss LGBT issues, and was recently appointed by Supervisor Jane Kim to be a member of the city’s Youth Commission.
Tu Mutch also spoke at today’s event, saying although she was “not very quick to trust the police,” she was “definitely pleasantly surprised” by how her case wrapped up.
She said although she got knocked down that day, “it’s about always getting up.”
Today’s ceremony also honored a woman who helped police arrest a man for fatally stabbing the mother of his daughter in 2007 and then testified in his murder trial that wrapped up late last year.
Umar Hudson was convicted on Nov. 30 for stabbing Jernell Scott, 32, on April 6, 2007, outside her home in the city’s Bernal Heights neighborhood.
Hudson tried to blend into the crowd that gathered around Scott’s body after the stabbing, but the neighbor, whose identity is being withheld because she is now part of a witness relocation program, told police that he was the killer.
Officers found bloody clothes in the backpack Hudson was carrying and took him into custody.
He was also convicted of sexually assaulting Scott’s two young daughters and was sentenced in January to 205 years to life in state prison.
Assistant District Attorney Diana Garcia, who prosecuted the case, lauded the neighbor’s courage in coming forward.
“She was the only person in a crowd of people who saw this poor woman being stabbed … who actually went to police and grabbed them and said ‘Hey the guy is right here,'” Garcia said.
Gascon today also honored victim advocates, including San Francisco General Hospital’s Wraparound Project, which supports crime victims, and the crisis response team for the city’s Department of Public Health, which goes to the scenes of shootings and other homicides to support victims and family members.
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week has been organized by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), part of the U.S. Department of Justice, since 1981.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News