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James Dixon Pleads Guilty In Murder of Islan Nettles

islan nettles

Dixon's 2013 admission that his manhood was threatened, which led to his attack on Nettles, played a part in his plea deal. 

James Dixon, 25, took a plea deal on the eve of his manslaughter trial in the death of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old trans woman Dixon viciously attacked on the evening of August 17, 2013.

Nettles was hospitalized as the result of the attack, and was taken off life support less than a week later.

Related | Who Cares About Islan Nettles?

Dixon had originally rejected the plea deal, offered by the Manhattan Supreme Court on March 17, but last week Judge Daniel Convsier informed Dixon that a confession he made to police in 2013 would be admissible in court.

In the taped statement, Dixon claims his manhood was threatened when he realized Nettles, with whom he was flirting, was not a cisgender woman, following a streak of similar encounters.

From the New York Daily News:

Dixon finally admitted that "yes" he was trying to seduce Nettles until one of pals called out, "That's a man!"

Dixon said he had just been tricked days before by other women and had been "clowned" by his pals as a result. He agreed that he felt his "manhood" was threatened by his streak of unknowingly hitting on gals who were born men.

"I just didn't want to be fooled," he said, during the hour-long recording in which he was at times evasive but spoke matter-of-factly.

Dixon told cops he lost his cool and beat Nettles in a "blind fury" but he didn't know the extent of Nettles's injuries until he heard gossip about the attack around his neighborhood. Dixon faced five to 25 years in prison for manslaughter, but with the plea deal he's expected to serve 12 years.

Related | Justice for Mark Carson: Elliot Morales Convicted of Hate Crime Murder

The death of Islan Nettles perfectly illustrates the danger faced by transgender women of color, a particularly vulnerable population disproportionately targeted by violence. Nettles was one of 22 trans women murdered in 2015 the largest number on record. The majority of these women (19) were trans women of color. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, trans women of color made up 67% of all hate violence homicides. Trans women of color are also six times more likely to experience physical violence from the police.

That Dixon was not automatically charged with a hate crime--which carries a harsher penalty--despite citing Nettles's gender identity as the motive for his attack, is indicative of the way our justice system treats trans victims of violence. Most states don't have hate crime laws that cover gender identity, and even with a federal hate crime law, anti-trans violence rarely gets reported as a hate crime. And of the 53 trans murders reported between 2013 and 2015, not one was prosecuted as a hate crime.

So for Islan Nettles, Keisha Jenkins, India Clarke, and the far-too-many other transgender women of color who paid the ultimate price for someone else's ignorance, there can be no justice until our legal system recognizes their deaths, and others, as the hate crimes they are.

For more info, check out HRC's report on anti-trans violence.

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