Mother of trans homicide defendant speaks out

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Friday February 2, 2024
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Leslie Blueford, the mother of trans defendant Leion Butler, said she is taking things one day at a time during a February 2 interview with the Bay Area Reporter after a hearing in federal court. Photo: John Ferrannini<br>
Leslie Blueford, the mother of trans defendant Leion Butler, said she is taking things one day at a time during a February 2 interview with the Bay Area Reporter after a hearing in federal court. Photo: John Ferrannini

The mother of the transgender woman who has pleaded not guilty to charges of killing a man at San Francisco's Crissy Field in November told the Bay Area Reporter she's taking things "one day at a time" during an exclusive interview Friday after the latest court hearing in the case. At the hearing, the tentative date for the trial was pushed back from April to July.

Speaking to the B.A.R. February 2 at the federal courthouse at 450 Golden Gate Avenue near San Francisco City Hall, Leslie Blueford also said that her daughter, Leion Butler, "is doing better now," especially after being transferred to the San Francisco County Jail at 850 Bryant Street.

Blueford said that initially Butler, 20, had been held at Santa Rita Jail in Alameda County (where federal defendants are typically held). But she is now being housed at the city jail after Butler was returned to the custody of the United States Marshals Service, said Blueford.

In Santa Rita Butler had been in a "two-man cell," but now in San Francisco "can walk around," said Blueford, "because it's a more "open" environment.

"They had her locked up in a cell all these weeks but she's not anymore so she's doing better," said Blueford.

Assistant Federal Public Defender David Rizk, who is representing Butler, confirmed that Butler was in U.S. custody on January 12, as the B.A.R. reported. The marshals neither confirmed nor denied Butler was in U.S. custody in December.

Rizk had complained at a December hearing that Butler had been held by the San Francisco Sheriff's Department in an all-male facility. Magistrate Judge Alex G. Tse ordered the marshals to respond to remediate those concerns, but the service told the B.A.R. late last year it wouldn't say if that meant she had been transferred to it.

"All I can do is go and see her, check in on her, make sure she's alright," Blueford said. "I'm taking it one day at a time. We're going to keep on fighting this."

Blueford, on the advice of Rizk, would not answer any questions about the allegations in the case.

Butler is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Hamza Walupupu, 32, on November 12 at Crissy Field. A former U.S. Army airfield now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the location bumps the prosecution up from the state to the federal court system.

As the B.A.R.previously reported, according to a federal memorandum in support of keeping Butler in custody, Butler told police in an interview after her arrest that she was working as a sex worker the night of November 12 when Walupupu allegedly approached her. After performing oral sex on Walupupu, he wanted a refund after she revealed she was transgender, the memorandum continues.

Butler refused and then shot Walupupu and took his car to Hunters Point, where she wiped it down of fingerprints, and then abandoned it, according to the memorandum. Butler called her mother, who advised her to destroy evidence, the government alleges.

"The defendant took — and later disposed of — the victim's backpack because she had looked in it and thought it had her DNA on it," the document stated. "She also disposed of the clothes she was wearing, which had blood on them, and her mother threw away the purse she was carrying. The defendant also gave her gun away to a third party because 'there's a body on [it].'" Police later found the car because it'd been double-parked for three days.

A December court filing from the U.S. Attorney's office states that Butler "repeatedly discussed murdering the victim and continued to show no remorse for doing so" on the phone earlier that month. It was not stated if Butler knew she was being recorded.

"In one conversation, the defendant was speaking to an unnamed person on the phone," the filing states. "The two of them discussed writing a letter in support of her release. The unnamed person suggested that the defendant say she felt sorry for what happened. The defendant responded, 'Say that. Say that I apologize to anyone I hurt, but my life was in danger, and I felt like I had to defend myself in that moment or it would have been me.'"

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported on the phone conversation.

The filing states that later Butler told her mother that "I used to like, feel bad for doing bad shit, like you know? ... But girl, I don't feel like nothing, I don't feel like shit ... I don't feel like I'm in the wrong. Period. I don't. ... I don't feel like I'm in the wrong ... I just feel like, girl, he got what he deserved."

July trial more likely after hearing

During the hearing in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston, Rizk said that as the defense has started preparing its case, it has become clear that "we'll need a lot more time." The trial had been set for mid-April.

"The government has begun to talk about dates in the first half of July, which we understand is available," he said. "The defense is going to be asking for a continuance."

Illston said that she would leave open a July 1 date on her calendar for the trial to start.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelsey Davidson, who is prosecuting the case, had no objection, and all agreed to finally set the schedule on February 23.

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