Man arrested in Norfolk for bias-motivated assaults of men in DC park

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 17:31:29-04

WASHINGTON - A Maryland man was arrested in Norfolk Thursday for bias-motivated assaults on men.

According to federal officials, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging 48-year-old Michael Thomas Pruden 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.

The indictment alleges that on five separate dates from 2018 to 2021, Pruden went after dark to Meridian Hill Park, which is also known as Malcolm X Park. Officials say the park is informally known in the Washington, D.C. community as a meeting place for men seeking consensual sex with other men.

The indictment alleges that Pruden assaulted five men with a chemical irritant. Before spraying the men, they say Pruden pretended to be a Park Police officer, shined a flashlight in the victims’ faces, and gave the victims police-style directives. The indictment alleges that Pruden assaulted four of the victims because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

Pruden was arrested Thursday in Norfolk.

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 hate crimes sentencing enhancement increases the range of the potential sentence for the assault counts.