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Man convicted in videotaped assault of transgender woman who was later found dead

Transgender woman's murder highlights trend

A man charged in an April gang beating on a Dallas transgender woman who was later found slain has been convicted of misdemeanor assault, reports the Dallas Morning News. Muhlaysia Booker's assault and her murder in May, which police said was unrelated, drew attention to what's been called an epidemic of violence against transgender women of color across the country. 

Police have said the man convicted, Edward Thomas, is not connected to Booker's slaying. 

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Muhlaysia Booker

Thomas had faced a charge of felony aggravated assault but was convicted on a lesser charge of misdemeanor assault Monday in the beating, which was captured on cell phone video and went viral, drawing national outrage. Although the assault was flagged as a hate crime, gender identity is not listed under Texas' hate crime statute. 

Police said Booker, 23, had accidentally backed her car into another vehicle and was then held at gunpoint by the driver of that vehicle, who wouldn't let her go until she paid for the damage. As a crowd gathered, someone offered Thomas $200 to beat Booker, according to police. The cell phone video that was posted on Facebook shows Thomas repeatedly punching Booker, and others stomping on her face as they use homophobic slurs. Booker suffered a concussion and a broken wrist.

Booker spoke out about the attack, saying, "this time it was me, the next time it could be someone else close to you." The next month, she was found shot dead on a Dallas street. Another man, Kendrell Lavar Lyles, is charged with her murder and awaits trial.

At Thomas' assault trial this month, according to the Dallas Morning News, prosecutors played the video and said Booker never had a chance to defend herself.

"He threw a punch, he threw 20 punches, he threw 26 punches," lead prosecutor Robert Withers said.

Defense attorney Andrew Wilkerson reportedly downplayed Booker's injuries as "scratches" and referred to the assault as "mutual  combat" between two men, reports the Dallas Morning News. The defense reportedly used male pronouns to refer to Booker and called her by her birth name, according to the paper, upsetting her family.  

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Edward Thomas mugshot City of Dallas

Police have not revealed a motive in Booker's murder. Lyles, the man charged with killing her, is linked to two other slayings and an October 18 stabbing attack that seriously wounded a transgender woman, police have said. The two other victims who died were not transgender, police have said. 

Booker's cousin, Quanjasmine Baccus, told CBS News after her murder she was often targeted for being transgender. Booker was the fifth transgender person slain nationally in 2019, and there have now been at least 21 transgender people killed across the country this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The majority of the victims were transgender women of color. 

Booker's death led to calls for change from community activists and politicians, with Texas Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke tweeting that transgender women of color "deserve better."

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