Washington DC

Maryland Man Indicted in Attacks on Gay Men at DC's Meridian Hill Park

Michael Pruden is accused of assaulting five men at the park in Northwest Washington, DC

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A former teacher for Prince George's County Public Schools is accused of attacking several men at Meridian Hill Park in Northwest D.C., and targeting them because of their sexual orientation.

Michael Pruden, 48, was arrested Thursday in Norfolk, Virginia.

The D.C. U-S Attorney's Office says Pruden assaulted at least five men in Meridian Hill Park between 2018 and 2021.

The indictment alleges that after dark Pruden went to Meridian Hill Park, informally known in D.C. as a meeting place for men seeking consensual sex with other men, and assaulted five men with a chemical irritant. Before spraying the men, Pruden pretended to be a Park Police officer, shined a flashlight in the victims’ faces and gave them police-style directives, according to the attorney's office.

Prosecutors say Pruden assaulted four of the victims because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Pruden was charged with five counts of assault on federal land, one count of impersonating a federal officer and a hate crimes sentencing enhancement alleging that Pruden assaulted four of the victims because of their perceived sexual orientation.

If convicted, Pruden faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for each assault count and a three-year maximum sentence for impersonating a federal officer. The hate crimes sentencing enhancement could increase the potential sentence.

In 2021, Pruden was fired from his job as a teacher in Prince George's County, Maryland, after he was arrested for an attack on Dangerfield Island in Alexandria, Virginia.

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