Wayne Co. expands effort to protect LGBTQ community

Oralander Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — A partnership between the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Fair Michigan Justice Project aimed at solving murders and other crimes against members of the local LGBTQ community has been so successful the program is expanding, officials announced Wednesday.

"Our work has been so fruitful that we are seeking funding for another prosecutor and investigator," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said.

The partnership is nearly a year old. It was formed last July to focus on homicides and other capital offenses against those who identify as LGBTQ. The project is funded at no cost to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, and according to the prosecutor' office, is the first of its kind in the country.

Fair Michigan officials say the program is especially helpful in getting members of the LGBTQ to come forward to give information and tips in solving crimes they may have been reluctant in coming forward because of distrust of law enforcement agencies.

"I am very proud of our work here,” Worthy said. “This collaboration has been even more successful that imagined. The cases that we have processed would most likely have been ignored and certainly justice is now slowly being afforded. Clearly, members of the LGBTQ community are safer and more engaged since the (Wayne County Prosecutor's Office and Fair Michigan Justice Project) created this partnership."

The partnership has yielded successful prosecutions against several defendants who attacked men or women who are LGBTQ in the past year.

■Last week, Anthony Dorian Thornton, a Port Huron man, was sentenced 15-30 years behind bars for raping a 19-year-old transgender male in 2010. Thornton met his victim at a homeless shelter. Thornton has another pending criminal case against him on charges of criminal sexual conduct.

■Another defendant, Byron Wade, received a year in the Wayne County Jail and will be on probation for three years for threatening a gay man with a knife "for no other reason than being gay," according to prosecutors.

■A Wayne County mother, Iyesha Porter, who discovered her teenaged daughter was dating another girl in November, was charged and convicted for an assault on her child. The mom, prosecutors say, picked the teen up from school and beat her while hurling anti-gay slurs.

Porter was put on two years of probation and ordered to take parenting anger management classes.

"During a time when we commemorate the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, and when hate crimes against the LGBTQ community have risen exponentially across the nation, I am comforted to know that the Wayne County Prosecutor' Office and the law enforcement agencies in Wayne County have made such extraordinary efforts to partner with Fair Michigan in finding new and innovative ways to combat these brutal offenses," said attorney Dana Nessel, president of Fair Michigan.

Nessel added she is especially grateful to Worthy "who recognized the need to take action to combat vicious acts against a class of people who were falling through the cracks of the criminal justice system."