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16th & U Robbery Suspect Was Free Pending Carjacking Trial

by Borderstan.com — November 24, 2009 at 11:29 am 20 Comments

The robbery on Saturday at 1 p.m. was in front of Results Gym at 1612 U Street NW, a very busy location, particularly on a Saturday afternoon. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Right in the heart of Borderstan on U Street… around 1 p.m. on Saturday two men robbed a woman at 16th and U NW. In fact, the address on the crime report is 1612 U Street NW, which is the address for Results Gym and Bang Salon. The police caught two suspects shortly afterward. (Full details follow.) According to MPD, one of the two suspects is being held and a pre-trial hearing is tomorrow; no word yet from MPD or the prosecutor’s office on the second suspect.

But here is the kicker. The two suspects were driving a car that they supposedly carjacked earlier in the day in Prince George’s County. Still, the story gets better. One of the two suspects arrested for the 16th and U robbery was arrested earlier this month by the MPD in the 7th District for carjacking. The court had released him–yes, he was free–pending his trial for carjacking. (I have not yet been able to determine whether this particular suspect is being held or if he was released again; I will update as I get more information.)

It is bad enough that the two suspects felt free to commit a robbery at one of the busiest intersections in the area in broad daylight–across the street from MPD 3rd District headquarters at 1620 V Street NW. (The crime occurred in the 2nd District, however.)

But one of the suspects was free on bail after being arrested for carjacking. Call me naive, but I thought carjacking probably got you thrown in jail without bail.

Description of Crime

Here is the write up on the crime that I got Monday from the MPD 2D listserv on Yahoo! Groups. I saw that the Saturday robbery at 16th and U had “closed” because police arrested two suspects:

November 21, 1 p.m., Robbery-Force & Violence, 1600 block of U Street NW: “The complainant reported that the suspect exited from a vehicle and snatched her iPhone. The suspect got back into the vehicle, with two other suspects and fled the area. A witness provided  information on the vehicle. The vehicle was stopped and two of the suspects were placed under arrest. Closed Case.”

Message from Chief Lanier

At the bottom of the same email was the following message from MPD Chief of Police Cathy Lanier regarding the robbery (emphasis is mine):

Thanks to the hard work of officers in the 2nd District and members of the community (witnesses), two violent suspects were apprehended within minutes of a robbery during which force and violence were used. The suspects were in a vehicle that was taken in a carjacking in Prince George’s County. They used this stolen vehicle in the District to flee the scene of the robbery at 1:00 pm on Saturday.

At least one of the suspects arrested had previously been arrested by MPD officers earlier this month for an armed carjacking in the Seventh District. He had been released pending trial in that case.

Again, I want to commend the officers, detectives, and community members for working together to apprehend another repeat violent offender. Our officers will continue to seek, arrest, and charge these repeat offenders until they get the message that the District of Columbia will not become a place complacent to violent crime.

You can help by providing information to our police anonymous tip line on known violent criminals who continue to repeat their crimes in the District and our neighboring jurisdictions at 1-888-919-CRIME. Thank you, Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of Police

Additional Information/Questions

I have been writing up these types of crimes for more than a year. But, I don’t claim to be an expert on DC criminal law (at all). I am going to try and get more information about why the suspect in Saturday’s robbery at 16th and U cold have have been released from jail pending trial for a serious crime such as carjacking.

Questions…

  1. Is this a problem with DC law?
  2. Are the jails full and the judge had no choice but to release the guy?
  3. Would the crime bill that failed to pass the DC Council earlier this year have fixed the problem?
  4. Regarding the two suspects that were arrested for the robbery at 1612 U Street: were both of them held… if not, why not?
  5. Exactly what kind of crime in DC warrants being held without bail? What about gun crimes?

In the meantime, any readers who know more about this subject (and many people do), please chime in with comments. Note: Keep it civil.

Comments (20)

  1. Wasn’t carjacking made a federal offense in either the late ’80’s/early ’90’s? I could be totally wrong on my recollections.

  2. Avi: I would be happy if it were a crime in DC!

  3. These types of crimes would be greatly reduced if the MPD had foot/bicycle patrols. The simple presence of officers on the sidewalks goes much further than them cruising around at 30 mph in their patrol cars.

    An added benefit would be a healthier, more fit police force from having to walk/bike rather than drive. The MPD could even haul out their PR folks and talk about going “green”.

    Obviously, Chief Lanier lacks the leadership skills to rally her own and focus on these crimes. Crimes of this nature will only increase in number without the presence of law enforcement officers where the criminals see easy pickings.

    Where is the public outcry? All we hear is what a great job the Chief is doing and how tough she is on crime. That is certainly not he case in our neighborhood.

  4. Agreed with Michael on the foot/bike patrol issue.

    There are far too many police driving around (and yes, STILL ON THEIR DAMN CELL PHONES!) and not actually patroling. The amount of petty crime would go down greatly, and peole would think twice about more serious crime if police walked/biked around. And they’d get to know the neighbors which would make it easier to know the regular/normal goings on and people in the area.

    I don’t get why it’s so difficult to have a foot patrol unit. Even the Capitol Police have segways.

  5. I am going to chime in here. What about the fact that this guy had been released pending trial after he was charged with carjacking? Where is the outrage on that? The police can arrest criminals one after the other… yet it appears that many are released immediately. This concerns me far more.

  6. A reality of the US justice system is that people are sometimes released pending trial. Usually with bail. In violating bail, he doesn’t get the money (or item of like value) back. Keeping people in jail indefinitely isn’t something that can be done, or we’d have to replace dog parks with jails (zing!)

    As a resident/taxpayer of DC, I can try to get more foot patrols, but likely can’t change this country’s bail system.

    And now I have the law and order ‘doink doink’ in my head.

  7. Let’s not lose perspective here. There is no reason that a person should be held in jail awaiting trial on a carjacking charge. First of all, this isn’t a violent crime, and it is unlikely that he is a threat to the safety of the community. Second, he hasn’t been tried for the crime yet. You cannot punish someone for being charged with a crime. He needs to be convicted first.

    Not allowing bail is only allowed for the most serious of crimes, not for picking up a car and joyriding. Let’s not be crazy about this.

  8. James,

    Isn’t there a difference between car theft and carjacking? Stealing a parked car and joyriding is one thing. Using force, or threat of force, to hijack a car while it is occupied is something else altogether. If the prior crime was car theft I would agree that it was a nonviolent crime. If, on the other hand, the prior crime was carjacking (using force) I question your characterization of that as nonviolent, and therefore the decision to release the suspect pending trial.

  9. Here is a description of carjacking:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carjack

    “Stolen Auto” means that someone steals your car when you are nowhere near it, let alone in it.

    So… you are driving down the road and someone walks up to you at a stoplight, smashes your window, tells you to get out of the car (perhaps with a gun to your head) and then drives off. This is carjacking.

    The carjacker is released from jail pending trial. A week later you pull up to the same stoplight and see your assailant walking across the street, smiling at you.

    Personally, James, this is not what I call “justice.”

  10. James: Let’s not lose perspective here. Just because it’s been common for durg-addled thugs to threaten my wife with a pistol-handle beatdown, kick her and the baby out of the car, because they need new wheels for more terror, doesn’t mean you should defend the seriously f’d up status quo.

    Carjacking isn’t a violent crime? You can never hold someone because they haven’t been tried and convicted yet? Hey Maigret, what about now that they’ve carjacked, been arrested for that, then robbed using the carjacked car, robbed, and were arrested again?

    Nah, let’s wait ’till they do something serious. Please tell us what that might be.

    Seriously, when not seeing what’s around you in the District, do you enjoy mentally residing in an ideological cul de sac? Must be nice and comfy in there.

  11. All you transplants are a bunch of newbies.

    This kid of thing has been going on for decades here.

    All your crying and whining on your disgusting hip urban blogs is not going to change anything.

    Go back to the suburban cul-de-sacs that you came here from.

  12. DC NATIVE: I have lived in downtown DC for 17 years and once before for almost two years; was in downtown Chicago for 10 years in between. I have never lived in the suburbs. Not going anywhere. This kind of stuff should never be taken as “normal.”

  13. My apologies, everyone. I missed the part about carjacking. For some reason, I was thinking car robbery. I should read closer next time.

    But, I took a look at the DC code which is posted online and checked out the bail provisions(DC ST § 23-1321, & 1322). It turns out that carjacking (which is defined as a “crime of violence”) does not automatically trigger being held without bail. Being held without bail can only applies to “murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, or assault with intent to kill while armed.”

    However, a judge can hold a pretrial hearing to set conditions on the release of an accused carjacker (maintaining employment, not using drugs, stuff like that). But it is almost impossible that a judge will ever hold a carjacker in prison without bail before a trial.

    I’m no lawyer, but I suspect that doing so would violate the 4th amendment’s protection against an unreasonable seizure. You can’t just keep someone locked up without a trial, which is what this would boil down to.

    My apologies for the original misread – I hope this post helps illuminate the discussion.

  14. James: A huge thank you. That is the type of info I am looking for here. I disagree with our law. I think carjacking is definitely a violent crime. I realize there could be different circumstances for different situations, but…

  15. “Go back to the suburban cul-de-sacs that you came here from.”

    No

  16. James wrote: “You can’t just keep someone locked up without a trial”

    Straw man. And frankly, that statement is somewhat illuminating regarding your tenacity in exploring means by which *not* to utilize pretrial detention.

    The question here is pretrial detention, not detention without the right to trial.

    I’ll have more to write on this if I find the time, but the District has at times strengthened mightily the abilities to hold violent offenders without bond. The first such efforts along these lines came in ’91 or ’92, and most recently during Council’s consideration of the Omnibus Crime package.

    This goes far beyond the two narrow DCMR excerpts you cite.

  17. A daytime robbery in front of the neighborhood’s Fire Station and behind the Police Station.

    Just great to know the criminals are really shaking in their boots at the thought of getting caught and sent to jail in this city.

    At least they are caught, I suppose.

  18. Many people are unaware of how criminal prosecution works in the District of Columbia. Hopefully the following answers provide some clarity:

    1. Is this a problem with DC law?

    There’s not really a problem with DC law. Offenses and penalties for carjacking and robbery are clear and do not vary much from other jurisdictions. The problem is that DC does not prosecute offenders accused of committing felonies under DC law. Local felony prosecutions are handled by the federal US Attorneys office, and all of the city’s judges are appointed by the President.

    In essence, this has created a problem whereby the city’s prosecutors have no particular relation to the residents they serve. There are no consequences for lax prosecution, bad plea deals, or dropping charges altogether. This is especially troublesome when viewing statistics that show that new prosecutions in DC have fallen by half since 2003, even though the number of arrests has remained constant.

    The federal prosecutors are not accountable to residents or the DC government. This is a situation in contrast to nearly every other court system in the United States where local prosecutors are elected by the people. In theory, an elected prosecutor would be held accountable for the actions taken to fight crime and prosecute offenders.

    In light of this, Congresswoman Norton has introduced a bill in Congress (HR4009) that would create the position of a DC District Attorney. The new DA would prosecute all local crimes in the District of Columbia, leaving the US Attorneys to prosecute federal crimes only. A DC DA would be elected by and accountable to the residents of the District. It won’t solve all of our problems, but at least DC residents will have somebody who could be held accountable.

    2. Are the jails full and the judge had no choice but to release the guy?

    No. All felony defendants held awaiting trial are remanded to the custody of the US Marshals. Felons convicted in DC are then handed over to the federal Bureau of Prisons to serve their sentence. Until we get more facts about this particular case, it’s unclear just exactly what the conditions were for the defendant’s pretrial release. However, it is extremely unlikely that jail space is influencing those decisions.

    3. Would the crime bill that failed to pass the DC Council earlier this year have fixed the problem?

    Unlikely. The crime bill does not (and could not) address the problems that DC has with lax prosecution and awful pretrial services.

  19. I don’t think the courts ever felt car-jacking quite serious enough hence people being able to bail themselves out. Im sure things will change after all of this unfolded though.
    -Jack

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