July 20, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Hannah gets 100 days in jail on new charges
Robert Hannah

Robert Hannah pleaded guilty on July 14 to possession of marijuana following a drug arrest the previous month and to attempted threats against his girlfriend. (Washington Blade file photo)

Robert Hannah, a 20-year-old D.C. man who served six months in jail for a 2008 assault that led to the death of gay Maryland resident Tony Randolph Hunter, was sentenced on July 19 to 100 days in jail on new charges unrelated to the Hunter case.

In the latest case, Hannah pleaded guilty on July 14 to possession of marijuana following a drug arrest the previous month and to attempted threats against his girlfriend in a separate domestic violence related case in which he was arrested on June 19.

The two new cases came after he completed his sentence in the Hunter case, for which he pleaded guilty to a single count of simple assault. Police and prosecutors initially charged him with manslaughter after an investigation found that Hunter suffered a fatal brain injury in September 2009 as a result of falling to the ground and hitting his head on the pavement after Hannah punched him near a D.C. gay bar.

A grand jury lowered the charge to simple assault after prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office said they lacked sufficient evidence to support the manslaughter charge. The action by the grand jury triggered expressions of outrage from LGBT activists, who said they believed Hannah targeted Hunter for an anti-gay attack.

At a July 19 sentencing hearing, Superior Court Judge Jose Lopez sentenced Hannah to the maximum 180 days in jail for both the marijuana possession and attempted threats charges. But he suspended all of the jail time in the threats case and all but 100 days of prison time in the marijuana case, requiring Hannah to serve a total of 100 days in jail.

Lopez also ordered that Hannah be placed on two years of supervised probation upon his release and that he undergo drug and alcohol testing and treatment as well as anger management counseling.

The sentence came after the U.S. Attorney’s office submitted a pre-sentencing memorandum asking the judge to sentence Hannah to the maximum 180 days for each of the two charges and to require that he serve the sentences consecutively.

“The defendant stands before this Court with a previous conviction of simple assault, an assault that resulted in the death of Tony Randolph Hunter,” the sentencing memo says. “Unfortunately, the facts of this most recent domestic violence case make abundantly clear that Mr. Hannah learned nothing from the death of Tony Randolph Hunter,” says the government’s memo.

Richard Toth, Hannah’s attorney, declined to comment when contacted by the Blade.

Court papers show that the attempted threat and simple assault charges were classified as a domestic violence incident that D.C. police said involved Hannah allegedly using physical force to pull his girlfriend against her will into a street.

Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), a D.C. group, and residents of the Shaw neighborhood where Hannah lives said they planned to file community impact statements with the court urging the judge to hand down a stringent sentence.

LGBT and community activists have been following Hannah’s involvement in the criminal justice system since he was released from jail after serving a maximum six-month sentence in connection with the Hunter case.

In a highly controversial action, the U.S. Attorney’s office allowed Hannah to plead guilty to simple assault over an incident in which he admitted punching Hunter in the face after the two crossed paths on the street while Hunter and a friend were walking to a gay bar.

Hunter fell backwards into a fence before falling to the ground and hitting his head on the pavement, resulting in a brain injury that the city’s medical examiner said caused his death.

Hannah told police he hit Hunter in self-defense after Hunter allegedly touched his crotch and buttocks in a sexually suggestive way. Police said a witness backed up Hannah’s story. A friend of Hunter’s, who was also on the scene, told police Hunter never touched Hannah and that the attack against Hunter was unprovoked.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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