Terrain Dandridge, 21, whom a jury found guilty of second-degree gang assault, had her conviction reversed and indictment dismissed. Originally, she had been sentenced to 3 1/2 years. She cannot be re-tried on any charges and was expected to be released from prison yesterday. She is expected to meet with Angela Davis in the Bay Area today.
The court also overturned the charges against Renata Hill, 26, who was found guilty of second-degree gang assault and third-degree assault, but she can be re-tried. The court ruled that the judge's instructions to the jury on the gang assault charge in the original trial were incorrect, therefore her conviction on that charge could not be upheld. Hill was originally sentenced to eight years in prison, but hopefully she will be released from prison since she has already been incarcerated beyond the 1 year maximum penalty for the third-degree assault.
Following this case has been very important to the work of Irish Queers in New York City. First and foremost, because of our history as Irish/Irish American people, we understand the importance of self-defense and honor the bravery of those that dare to rise up against hatred. No woman, queer or otherwise, should EVER be incarcerated for defending herself against someone that is threatening their safety, but sadly this is an all to familiar story in our racist/sexist/classist/homophobic "criminal justice" system.
(And for those that might be unclear, street harassment (cat-calling), addressing people as "fucking dykes", spitting on them, choking them, pulling out chunks of their hair, and saying, "I'll fuck you straight", is threatening behavior. This behavior is even more triggering when you've already seen one of your friends, Sakia Gunn, murdered in 2003 for proclaiming her queerness and rejecting the advances of a straight man).
Secondly, we see the harsh sentences (and insulting comments) handed down by Judge Edward J. McLaughlin in the original trial within the context of the infamous homophobia of the NY Irish/Irish American community. Every year on March 17th at the St. Patrick's Day Parade, men like Judge McLaughlin are given our city streets to proudly celebrate their bigotry and assimilation under the guise of preserving and protecting "traditional" (?) Irish culture, as if homophobia/transphobia/misogyny/racism/classism are essentially Irish. While some in the queer community don't understand why we bother to continually challenge the St. Patrick's Day Parade, we see Judge McLaughlin's actions in the case of the NJ4 as a perfect example why our work is necessary…because Irish/Irish American bigotry has severe consequences in the LGBT community.
While we are happy that the convictions of Terrain Dandridge and Renata Hill have been overturned and that Judge McLaughlin's biases and incompetence have been called out, it doesn't make up for what these women have gone through. We will keep following this case and will post more information as it becomes available. Appeals for the remaining NJ4, Patreese Johnson and Venice Brown, are under way.