Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE personally ordered a top Department of Justice (DOJ) hate crimes lawyer to help prosecute an Iowa man accused of murdering a transgender student, according to The New York Times.
Christopher Perras, the DOJ lawyer sent to Iowa, will serve as a county prosecutor on the case, according to the Times.
In January, the Des Moines county attorney filed first-degree murder charges against two men for allegedly shooting and killing 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson. People close to Johnson told the Des Moines Register that Johnson identified as both male and female and sometimes went by the name Kandicee.
The Burlington Hawk Eye reported in September that a trial for one of the suspects, Jorge Sanders-Galvez, was set to begin in late October. Local investigators said evidence obtained during the investigation did not meet the state law that would allow prosecutors to file hate crime charges against Sanders-Galvez, according to the Hawk Eye.
Sessions's decision to send Perras to help prosecute the case comes after a June speech in which the attorney general vowed to enforce federal hate crime laws.
“I know the responsibility that we have, and we have a responsibility to protect people’s freedom, their religious rights, their integrity, their ability to express themselves, to push back against violence and hate crimes that occur in our country,” Sessions said at a Justice Department summit in June. “So, we’re going to do that, I will assure you, in every way.”
He also said the DOJ would focus on hate crime cases involving transgender individuals.
“We have and will continue to enforce hate crime laws aggressively and appropriately where transgendered individuals are victims,” he said.
Earlier this month, Sessions faced criticism for reversing the DOJ’s policy that a 1964 civil rights law be extended to protect transgender individuals from discrimination.
“Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status,” Sessions wrote in a memo.