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New Orleans Man Who Kidnapped Trans Woman Granted 'Rare' Minimum Sentence

New Orleans Man Who Kidnapped Trans Woman Granted 'Rare' Minimum Sentence


After assault and attempted rape charges were dropped, a judge chose to be unusually lenient, citing the attacker's age.

A New Orleans man who kidnapped, robbed, and demanded sex at gunpoint from a transgender woman in December has been sentenced to 10 years for armed robbery after accepting a plea deal that dropped kidnapping, assault, and attempted rape charges, reports the city's Times-Picayune.

Joseph Pittman, 30, offered a local 46-year-old trans woman a ride home from French Quarter gay bar Le Roundup at 8:30 p.m. on December 14, but when he got to the intersection where she asked him to turn towards her Bywater home, he instead allegedly pulled out a handgun and ordered her to lay down in his pickup truck.

Authorities told the Times-Picayune that Pittman knew that the woman, whose name has not been released to the press, was transgender. The bar where he abducted her is also known locally to cater to trans clientele.

Pittman drove his victim to a secluded spot nearby and ordered her to perform oral sex, according to police. When she refused, Pittman took her purse, withdrew her phone and a wallet containing $180, and demanded she lay down again as he drove once more. He eventually let her go in eastern New Orleans, about 12 miles from where she was originally abducted.

The victim was able to remember Pittman's license plate number, which allowed police to track down his vehicle. Three days later, authorities issued a warrant for Pittman on December 17, who faced charges of second-degree kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault, and attempted rape, among other counts. Police finally apprehended him on January 15 and, after the victim was able to identify Pittman in a photo lineup, he was held on $125,000 bond, according to the Times-Picayune.

Pittman has been held for the last six months as his public defender, Sarah Chervinsky, and prosecutor Laruen Favret, crafted a plea deal allowing him to serve for only one count: armed robbery. Originally facing a sentence of up to 198 years -- a total compounded by previous drug-related charges -- Pittman will now serve 10 years.

While plea deals are a common legal practice, the presiding judge said his decisionmaking in Pittman's case was unusual, according to the Times-Picayune:

"'Mr. Pittman, this could have ended real bad,' said Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich. 'I, for one, very rarely authorize the minimum sentence of 10 years for an armed robbery. You'll still be a young man when you come home, sir. And I hope you'll make better choices in your life from now on.'"

Pittman thanked the judge in response.

Anti-transgender crime occurs often in New Orleans, as part of a national trend of violence that targets trans women, and especially trans women of color, say local trans advocates. In February, 21-year-old black New Orleans trans woman Penny Proud was fatally shot in an apparent attempted robbery, stirring national outcry. Proud's death was the fifth reported murder of a trans woman in the U.S. this year in an "epidemic" that has since seen four more known casualties.

Local activists and others, including The Advocate, drew attention to the Times-Picayune's decision to originally misgender Proud in their February reporting, contradictory to journalistic standards endorsed by the Associated Press and GLAAD. Although reporter Prescotte Stokes was unapologetic about his reporting practices, columnist Jarvis DeBerry did publish an op-ed addressing his own lack of knowledge of reporting standards around trans violence victims, saying he was unaware until reading The Advocate's reporting that women are targeted for being transgender.

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