A man who beat Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old black transgender woman, to death in Harlem after flirting with her and discovering she was trans, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday.
James Dixon, 25, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Manhattan, telling the court that he attacked Nettles in Harlem around midnight in August of 2013. Dixon delivered the blow to Nettles's face that caused her to fall and hit her head on the pavement, leading to a serious brain injury.
According to Dixon's idictment from last year, he struck Nettles in the head several more times after she fell, exacerbating her injury— a trauma that resulted in her being declared brain-dead and being taken off life support several days later.
In a police report examined in court in March, Detective Heriberto Vasquez recorded that, on the date of Nettles's killing three years ago, Dixon allegedly asked Nettles if she was female when meeting her in Harlem. At the time, Nettles was socializing with a transgender friend, according to the New York Daily News.
When Nettles answered that she was indeed female, Dixon allegedly told police that his “blind rage” made him strike Nettles repeatedly, beating her to the ground, continuing his assault even after she lay on the pavement when she hit her head on the curb.
Nettles family said the sentence of 12 years was too light, reports The New York Times. “He can go home after those 12 years and see his family,” her mother, Delores Nettles, told the court, in tears. “It’s not fair.”
Her mother directly addressed Mr. Dixon during the hearing, and said: “How can you sleep at night? How can you rest? I can’t rest.”
Dixon did not make a statement before Justice Daniel P. Conviser announced the sentence, reported the Times. His sentence had been negotiated with the judge in exchange for a guilty plea. Prosecutors opposed it. They wanted a sentence of at least 17 years.