Eighteen months after 24-year-old James Dixon confessed to the fatal beating of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old transgender woman, in Harlem, he’s finally been charged for the crime. The August 2013 beating sparked an outcry over attacks on LGBT New Yorkers, but another man, Dixon’s friend Paris Wilson, was initially arrested for the crime. Both men were part of a group of seven people who attacked Nettles and her two transgender friends, and Dixon confessed after Wilson’s mother escorted him to a police station. Investigators still had to sort through conflicting witness statements about who killed Nettles by bashing her head against the sidewalk, but last week a grand jury voted to indict Dixon for manslaughter and assault.
Dixon, who pleaded not guilty, was not charged with murder, which would have required that prosecutors prove Dixon intended to kill Nettles. Though police initially said the altercation started when the group taunted Nettles and her friends with gay slurs, prosecutors did not seek hate crime charges. According to the New York Times, law enforcement officials said investigators were not able to determine exactly what was said before the attack, and thus could not say definitively that Nettles was killed because of her gender identity.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Delores Nettles, the victim’s mother, told DNAinfo. “I still want to know the facts, but it’s been a long time coming.”