Crime Victims, Survivors, Good Samaritans and Community Members Honored at Event Marking National Crime Victims’ Rights Week
U.S. Attorney Liu Lauds Courage and Strength of Those Who Come Forward
WASHINGTON - U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia paid tribute today to crime victims, their families, witnesses, community members, criminal justice partners, and Good Samaritans for their bravery, compassion, and dedication to the pursuit of justice.
More than two dozen honorees were recognized during an event at the Ceremonial Courtroom of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. The ceremony was timed with the annual observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This year’s national theme, “Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims,” emphasizes the importance of inclusion in victim services and addresses the need to ensure that every crime victim has access to services and support, and for professionals, organizations, and communities to work in tandem.
“We draw inspiration every day from the bravery, resilience and strength shown by victims, witnesses, and the many people in our community who stand up for justice,” said U.S. Attorney Liu. “The people being honored today remind us of the importance of thinking creatively and collaboratively to reach all those victims who need help.”
The featured speaker was Fainess Lipenga, a survivor of labor trafficking who now shares her experience to educate the community and raise awareness. Ms. Lipenga told of working 16 and 17-hour work days, seven days a week, as a domestic employee. She was able to flee from the ordeal and now is a consultant for the Human Trafficking Legal Center, training lawyers and other professionals nationwide. She also has been a member of the National Survivor Network, a program of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST). She spoke of the kindness of people who helped her start a new life.
In addition to Ms. Lipenga, the U.S. Attorney’s Office honored other individual victims, survivors, Good Samaritans, and partners whose efforts furthered the cause of justice.
For example, the honorees included a teenager who showed great strength and tenacity in testifying against a twice-convicted sex offender who sexually abused her in 2016 at the Potomac Avenue Metro Station; a woman who urged the Metropolitan Police Department to take another look at the 1999 murder of her father, leading to the solving of the case, and a Good Samaritan who aided a woman who was being sexually assaulted in 2017 in the back of a taxicab. The Good Samaritan, a motorist, saw the woman in the passenger seat of the cab in the 4900 block of 16th Street NW, waving for help and fighting the taxi driver. He made a U-turn and pulled in front of the taxi, forcing it to stop. The woman was able to escape. The Good Samaritan called police, waited for them to arrive and the taxi driver was caught and later convicted of his crimes.
The honorees also included a neighbor who did all that he could to aid a dying homicide victim who showed up at his doorstep in Southeast Washington. The victim, Darlene Bryant, was stabbed in the neck on May 13, 2015, inside the stairwell of a building on Wheeler Road SE. Ms. Bryant, 46, made her way down the stairs, stumbled to the street, and banged on the neighbor’s door. The neighbor tried to comfort her and cover the wound, in addition to calling 911 and diligently following instructions of the 911 operator. Despite these heroic efforts, Ms. Bryant died on his front steps. The neighbor did not see who killed Ms. Bryant, but described her final moments at the trial of the man later convicted of the murder.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also recognized the extraordinary efforts of partners who provided support to victims’ families during the three-week trial last year that ended with the convictions of two Mexican nationals for the killing of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the attempted murder of ICE HSI Special Agent Victor Avila on Feb. 15, 2011, in Mexico. More than 20 members of the Special Agents’ families attended the trial and were greeted and aided daily by the U.S. Marshals Service and the Court Security Officers at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Additionally, the Capital Area Law Enforcement Foundation (CALE) assisted the family members, including hosting a dinner for them and arranging a meeting with Peter Newsham, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) during their time in Washington. Finally, Aaron Adaway, Administrative Assistant to Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell, was honored for the special care he showed during the trial.
Today’s event was developed and organized by the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Members of the Unit provide essential services and support to victims and witnesses, such as making referrals for counseling and other services, addressing safety concerns, arranging travel, and accompanying victims to court proceedings. The Unit also notifies victims of their rights and provides information regarding significant case events, such as the filing of charges, plea hearings, trials and sentencing hearings.
Additional information about the Victim Witness Assistance Unit is available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-dc/victim-witness-assistance
Further information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is available at http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/
Each year in April, the Department of Justice and United States Attorney’s Offices nationwide observe National Crime Victims’ Rights Week by honoring victims of crime and those who advocate on their behalf. The Justice Department will host the Office for Victims of Crime’s annual National Crime Victims’ Service Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. on April 13, 2018, to honor outstanding individuals and programs that serve victims of crime.
“In law enforcement, we are sworn to serve and protect,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “We carry out this oath every day by protecting the rights of law abiding people from criminals and by achieving justice for crime victims. This week, we remember the millions of Americans who have been victimized by criminals and we thank those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in their service to those victims. As we do so, we recommit ourselves to fulfilling our oath and to reducing crime in America."