NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A man accused of attacking several men with a chemical irritant in a Washington, D.C. park due to their sexual orientation was arrested in Norfolk and has been indicted with hate crime sentencing enhancements for the bias-motivated attacks, the Department of Justice says.
Maryland resident Michael Thomas Pruden, 48, was indicted by a federal grand jury with five counts of assault on federal land, one count of impersonating a federal officer, and hate crimes sentencing enhancements, according to a release from the DOJ. He was arrested last Thursday in Norfolk.
The indictment alleges he attacked four of the victims because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.
Prosecutors say the attacks happened on five separate dates from 2018 to 2021 after dark at Meridian Hill Park, aka Malcolm X Park. It’s informally known in the area as a meeting place for men seeking consensual sex with other men, the DOJ says.
Before he would attack the men with the chemical, prosecutors say Pruden pretended to be a Park Police officer and shined a flashlight in victims’ faces while giving them police-style directives.
He faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years for each assault count and a three-year statutory maximum sentence for impersonating a federal officer. The DOJ says the hate crimes sentencing enhancement increases the range of the potential sentence for the assault counts.
If you have information about a similar incident, call the FBI tip line, 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).