A San Francisco Superior Court judge today (Friday, May 3) ordered a transgender woman to stay away from Divas nightclub, about a week after a jury found her guilty of vandalizing the Nob Hill venue’s door.
The case against Latiya Pryor, 44, stemmed from a 2011 brawl at the bar, which is popular with transgender women and located at 1081 Post Street. The jury found Pryor not guilty of battery.
The August 28, 2011 fight started after another woman thought Pryor had stolen her shoes, which were eventually discovered not to be missing after all.
Pryor declined to be interviewed before her sentencing, citing an attorney’s instructions, so Elizabeth Hilton, managing attorney in the misdemeanor unit at the public defender’s office, explained Pryor’s side.
Hilton said that as the women, who both performed in the bar’s drag show that Saturday night, were “working out” what had happened to the shoes, bar owner Stephen Berkey, 65, came back to the dressing room, pushed Pryor numerous times, “called her several racial slurs,” and hit her nose with his wrist, giving Pryor a bloody nose. (Pryor is African American.)
As he hit Pryor, “she swung at him in self-defense,” Hilton said. He also said something to the effect of “I knew you were a thief,” she said.
After the brawl, Pryor took off the thigh-high boots with nine-inch heels that she’d been wearing, and swung one of the shoes as she had an “animated discussion” with someone, Hilton said. One of the heels broke the glass in the club’s door, she said.
“Unfortunately,” Hilton said, the jury didn’t believe that Pryor broke the window accidentally.
In an interview, Berkey said that he’d been trying to break up the women’s fight after the late-night show ended, and Pryor “slugged me.”
The hit “knocked me out,” he said. “I was lying on the floor for a good minute, knocked out. … Then, we tried to keep her out of the place, and she kicked the door in.”
Divas Manager Freddy “Alexis” Miranda, who referred to Pryor by a nickname, said the incident started after “Classy went on a rampage and started yelling and hollering and causing a disturbance” and jumped on the nightclub’s small stage.
Berkey got up between Pryor and the other performer, and “waved both of his arms in the air” to try to stop the fight, Miranda said. She said Pryor told him, “Get away from me or I’m gonna’ hit you,” and then she did, Miranda said.
Miranda said Berkey hadn’t used racial slurs during the incident. Hilton said that one witness testified she hadn’t heard the derogatory remarks, while another had been outside the bar when Berkey allegedly used the slurs.
Berkey, who’s owned Divas since 2001 and described himself as “an open-minded straight guy,” banned Pryor from Divas after the incident, but she ignored that fact, he said. Police have been called “a number of times” because of Pryor returning to the three-story club, Berkey said.
In November 2012, he filed a restraining order petition designed to protect one of the club’s bartenders from Pryor. In the records, Berkey said Pryor was “fully aware that she has been permanently banned, but [she] has repeatedly tried to enter the bar.”
The bartender said in a statement attached to the court filing that Pryor had recently come into the bar and become “verbally abusive” and screamed when he asked her to leave. She threatened him with physical violence, and then threw a glass at him, he said. She missed.
“This person has previously threatened to assault me on previous occasions, and continues to come into the bar and cause a disturbance, despite being permanently banned from Divas,” the bartender wrote. The restraining order was eventually granted.
Berkey said that in a retaliatory move, Pryor had unsuccessfully sought a restraining order against him. He said he’d been “harassed by this despicable person” for months “in every possible way,” as well as by taxpayer- and donor-supported advocacy groups and “every freebie attorney” she could find.
The efforts on Pryor’s behalf were “supposedly because I 86’d her because of race,” Berkey said. “I 86’d her because she assaulted me.”
After Friday’s hearing, Pryor, who appeared scattered and in a rush, offered little comment, but she said she’d been ordered to stay 50 feet away from Divas and pay $175.
Miranda said that Pryor’s sentence included a two-year stay away order, anger management counseling, and 20 hours of community service. The terms of the sentence couldn’t immediately be verified.
[Update Monday, May 6]: According to Tamara Aparton, a spokeswoman for the public defenders office, Pryor’s sentence includes two years of court probation, a stay away order of 50 yards from Divas, 20 hours of community service, and anger management. No restitution was determined and she’s likely to do 24 sessions of anger management, Aparton said, citing the Pretrial Diversion Project [End update].
When contacted by the Bay Area Reporter, Berkey initially said his only comment for the paper was “Fuck you.”
“I am tired of everybody sucking up to her and everybody harassing me because she’s such a big damn liar,” Berkey said of Pryor. “She’s probably come to you with some kind of damn story,” none of which would be true, he said. Berkey said he found it “hard to believe” that the B.A.R. hadn’t spoken to Pryor at that time.
He eventually suggested he was sorry, saying, “I’m a little bit upset about this, and I’m taking it out on you.”
When Miranda called the B.A.R., she indicated she wanted to apologize for Berkey’s attitude, on his behalf. She eventually became upset herself after she was asked about Pryor and presented with unrelated questions about the club’s history as a popular spot for sex workers.
“I don’t get where a whole club is being persecuted,” Miranda said. She said, “It’s not up to me to find out what a person does for a living.” If someone is “obviously” soliciting “we ask them to stop or we ask them to leave,” she said.
Hilton, who only referred to Berkey by name after the B.A.R. did, called his allegations about Pryor violating her ban from the bar and making threats “baseless.” She said she and others in her office didn’t know of any other pending charges against Pryor.
During the trial, she added, Berkey was “standing guard” to see which performers from his bar would testify. Hilton said she had to “escort him around the corner twice.”
“I’ve been an attorney in this office for 15 years, and I’ve never had a complaining witness stand guard outside the courtroom” to watch for other witnesses, she said.
Assistant District Attorney Nina Yazdi prosecuted the case.