James Dixon sentenced to 12 years for death of black trans woman Islan Nettles

This Transgender Girl Wants Paint The Trans Flag On A House Across From The Westboro Baptist Church
This Transgender Girl Wants Paint The Trans Flag On A House Across From The Westboro Baptist Church

James Dixon, 26, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for manslaughter in the death of 21-year-old transgender woman Islan Nettles.

On August 17, 2013, Dixon flirted with Nettles during an encounter in Harlem before realizing that she was transgender. He later told police in a videotaped statement that he'd been "fooled by a transgender" days before and was driven by "blind fury." Dixon struck Nettles once in the face, causing her to fall to the pavement and hit her head, then hit her again. She died at Harlem Hospital one week later.

"I don't care what people do," Dixon told police at the time. "I just don't wanna be fooled. My pride is at stake."

The District Attorney recommended a 17-year sentence for Dixon, who had pled guilty to manslaughter.

In a victim-impact statement, Nettles' younger sister described the trauma of losing her sister. "Twelve years is not enough," Nettles, 19, told the court. "[Dixon] can write people outside and speak to his family [and] we can't see my sister anymore."

"It's not fair," she added.

Nettles's father, Anthony London, also submitted a statement to the court, which prosecutors read aloud. "No amount of time will ever fill the hole in my heart that the person who was my only child," London wrote.

"I pray for [Dixon's] family," he added, saying he hopes Dixon returns from prison to the open arms of his family. "I am no longer afforded that luxury."

The strongest words of the morning came from Delores Nettles, Islan's mother, who addressed Dixon directly.

"I hope you die. I will hate you for the rest of my life for taking somethings the belonged to me," she said. "Your mother can see you everyday and say 'I love you.' I can't hear that. I'm subjected to seeing my child on a mantle."

"I had eight children and never thought that I'd have to bury one," she added. "I had the best of both worlds with Islan — a son and a daughter."

Addressing Dixon, Nettles said:

James Dixon Sentenced to 12 Years for Death of Black Trans Woman Islan Nettles
Delores Nettles addresses the court at James Dixon's sentencing.

Dixon stared ahead as Delores spoke. He declined to make a statement to the court.

Since the attack, Nettles has become a national symbol for the deadly violence facing transgender women of color. At least two dozen trans women of color have been murdered in the previous two years, according to the Anti-Violence Project. But activists say the official count represents just a fraction of the victims of anti-transgender violence.

"While we have a legal resolution in this one case, for many, it does not represent the real justice we are ultimately seeking. Transgender women, especially women of color, continue to be targeted each day in our city and across the country," said Beverly Tillery, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project. "To honor Islan Nettles and all the other transgender lives we have lost, and to support those who continue to live their lives, we must address the transphobia that runs so deep in our society."

See images from Nettles' vigil:

Originally published