A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging a Maryland man with five counts of assault on federal land, one count of impersonating a federal officer, and a hate crimes sentencing enhancement alleging that he assaulted four of the victims because of their perceived sexual orientation, federal prosecutors said.
The indictment alleges that on five separate dates from 2018 to 2021, Michael Thomas Pruden, 48, went after dark to Meridian Hill Park, aka Malcolm X Park, which is informally known in the Washington, D.C. community 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 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 in Norfolk, Virginia. Pruden 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.