Justice Served: Guilty Pleas in Assault of Transgender Woman in Puerto Rico

In a significant development, Jordany Rafael Laboy-Garcia and Christian Yamaurie Rivera-Otero pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to commit a hate crime and obstructing justice in connection with the assault of Alexa Negrón Luciano. Negrón Luciano, a homeless transgender woman, became a tragic focal point of hate crimes when her murdered body was discovered in Puerto Rico three years ago.

According to the Department of Justice, the two, alongside co-defendant Anthony Steven Lobos-Ruiz, encountered Negrón Luciano in Toa Baja in the early hours of February 24, 2020. A video was recorded, with Lobos-Ruiz shouting derogatory comments at her. Subsequently, the trio assaulted her with a paintball gun, recording and sharing the attack.

Hours after the assault, Lobos-Ruiz and Rivera-Otero coordinated to delete the video evidence. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke underscored the gravity of the crime, emphasizing that violence against LGBTQI+ individuals is intolerable.

The initial aggression was reportedly prompted after Laboy-Garcia and Rivera-Otero recognized Negrón Luciano from a social media incident at a McDonald’s the previous day. While accusations arose of Negrón Luciano using a mirror suspiciously in a restroom, a close associate clarified that she used it for personal safety, monitoring her surroundings.

Local Nandy Torres recalled the palpable hatred towards Negrón Luciano after the incident. He expressed distress at witnessing widespread online calls for harm against her.

While the assault garnered national attention, the mystery surrounding Negrón Luciano’s murder remains unsolved. Her body was found with multiple gunshot wounds, and although the FBI acknowledges the circulation of assault videos, no arrests regarding her murder have been made. In light of this, federal officials announced a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to an arrest.

U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow reiterated the department’s commitment to upholding the rights of all individuals irrespective of their gender identity. The department has set sentencing hearings for both defendants on November 10. Lobos-Ruiz had previously been sentenced to 33 months for his involvement in the hate crime.

Negrón Luciano’s demise was widely mourned in 2020. Notable figures like Sen. Elizabeth Warren expressed deep sorrow, emphasizing the need for systemic change to protect transgender individuals, especially women of color. Puerto Rican celebrity Bad Bunny showcased support on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” with a poignant message referencing the tragedy.

The broader issue of violence against transgender individuals remains a concerning reality in Puerto Rico. The Human Rights Campaign reported that six out of 44 transgender or gender non-conforming individuals killed in the U.S. in 2020 were in Puerto Rico, marking the highest percentage of such deaths compared to any state or territory.

Federal prosecutors in Puerto Rico filed their first-ever hate crime charges in 2020 following the brutal murder of two transgender women, marking a potential turning point in addressing such heinous acts.

Chris Morris
Author: Chris Morris

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