A D.C. Superior Court judge startled prosecutors at a court hearing on Wednesday when she announced she changed her mind and lowered the sentence for one of two defendants convicted of an anti-gay assault from one year in jail to a six-month jail term.
Judge Yvonne Williams said she made the change during a June 29 sentencing hearing for Christina Lucas, 22, who, along with her twin brother Christopher Lucas, was convicted by a Superior Court jury on May 8 of aggravated assault while armed against a 29-year-old gay man.
The jury’s verdict designated the assault as a hate crime. The verdict followed a two-week long trial in which Christina Lucas was identified as an out lesbian.
Williams said she called Wednesday’s hearing, which was listed as a post disposition status hearing, to explain her rationale for issuing what police and prosecutors reportedly have called an overly lenient sentence for the two defendants.
But Deputy Chief U.S. Attorney John Gidez told Williams her confirmation that she, in fact, had lowered her sentence for Christina Lucas came as a surprise to the assistant U.S. Attorneys who prosecuted the case. He said Williams did not appear to have disclosed her change in sentence during the official, on-the-record part of the June 29 hearing. He noted that the change was not reflected in the official hearing transcript.
“I changed it on that day,” Williams said. “It is recorded. It may have been 20 minutes later.”
At Gidez’s request, Williams said she would call a follow-up hearing to give prosecutors a chance to raise legal objections to the change.
During the Lucases’ trial, witnesses testified that the two defendants led a group of others in an attack on the gay male victim in October 2013 on a Northwest Washington street while calling him anti-gay names.
According to trial testimony, Christina Lucas slashed the victim’s face with a sharp object, causing him to suffer a permanent facial scar, after she called him a “faggot motherfucker.” A police report says the victim also suffered facial fractures and lacerations and a fractured wrist.
“The male victim was knocked over on the sidewalk and punched and stomped multiple times by the Lucases and others in the group,” a statement by the U.S. Attorney’s office says.
Defense attorneys argued that Christina Lucas was an out lesbian and she and her brother, who has accepted his sister’s sexual orientation, would never commit a hate crime against a gay person.
In June, the U.S. Attorney’s Office submitted a pre-sentencing memorandum to Williams asking her to sentence the Lucas siblings to the upper range of voluntary sentencing guidelines established by the court for an aggravated assault while armed conviction. The guidelines call for a sentencing range of between 4 to 15 years in jail.
Instead, Williams sentenced both to four years but suspended all but one year for Christopher Lucas. She initially handed down the same sentence to Christina Lucas at the June 29 sentencing hearing before stating at the Wednesday, July 15, hearing that she changed Christina Lucas’s sentence so that she would serve only six months of incarceration.