Justice Department to help in Kedarie Johnson murder trial

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department is sending a federal hate crimes lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute a man charged with killing a transgender teenager last year.

LGBT advocates have long been skeptical of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' pledge to prosecute acts of violence against transgender people. But the rare move, outlined in recently filed court papers, is a sign he intends to do so even as the Trump administration has taken other steps to erode the rights of transgender people broadly. The New York Times first reported the decision Sunday.

The case involves 23-year-old Jorge Sanders-Galvez. He is charged with killing 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson in Burlington, Iowa, in March 2016. Authorities have not disclosed a motive. But Johnson's relatives tell local news outlets they believe the shooting was a hate crime.

KWQC reached out to the Department of Justice about the case and received a response saying, "This spring, the attorney general directed Civil Rights Division attorneys to dedicate themselves to proactively investigate a certain set of cases of individuals who were murdered because they were transgender. This is just one example of the attorney general's commitment to enforcing the laws enacted by Congress and to protecting the civil rights of all individuals."