Man who repeatedly punched transgender woman pleads guilty

A man who repeatedly punched a transgender woman on a New York City street in a case that prompted protests pleaded guilty to manslaughter on Monday.

James Dixon entered the plea in the August 2013 death of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old assistant at a fashion company. The victim was one of three transgender women who encountered a group of about seven young men near a Harlem police station.

Dixon flirted with Nettles before realizing she was transgender. He then punched her in the face, and she fell and her head hit the pavement. He hit her some more before fleeing. Her death, five days later, led to vigils and protests.

"Members of the transgender community are far too often the targets of violent crime," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said. "I hope that this conviction provides some comfort to Ms. Nettles' family and friends."

In a recorded confession played at a pretrial hearing Friday, Dixon said he flirted with Nettles until a friend mocked him. He said he remembered "lashing out" when he realized he was talking to a transgender woman.

Dixon said that he pushed away from Nettles and started to walk away, but she shoved him from behind. He said he tripped, then got up and began punching her.

Dixon wasn't charged with a hate crime, and he said he didn't use slurs when he hit Nettles. He also said he did not hate transgender people.

"I don't care what they do," he said. "I just didn't want to be fooled."