Sophia Dalke fired shots from a D.C. rooftop in November. (Photo courtesy Facebook)
A D.C. Superior Court judge on March 18 handed down a sentence of 2 years probation for a transgender woman arrested last November for repeatedly firing a gun on the roof of a downtown office building that led to a 10-hour standoff with D.C. police.
The sentencing came three months after Hyattsville, Md., resident Sophia Dalke pleaded guilty to separate charges of carrying a pistol without a license and the unlawful discharge of a firearm as part of a plea bargain deal offered by prosecutors.
In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office dismissed a more serious charge of assault with a dangerous weapon and agreed to recommend a sentence at the lower range of court sentencing guidelines.
At the time of her arrest, police reported that Dalke stated she initially intended to commit suicide by jumping off the building and was suffering from a mental health crisis.
A police arrest affidavit says Sgt. Jessica Hawkins, a transgender woman who serves as supervisor of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, played an important role in persuading Dalke to surrender peacefully. Court records state that Dalke entered the upscale office building at 1999 K St., N.W., sometime before 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15.
Dalke’s LinkedIn page said she worked as an IT support specialist for a company located in the building, which enabled her to gain access to the building after normal business hours.
The arrest affidavit says Dalke began firing shots from the roof of the building and shot out several windows of adjacent buildings, causing police who arrived on the scene to take cover. No one was hurt during the incident, according to court records. But the incident lasted through the morning rush hour, prompting police to close nearby streets and sidewalks, which caused a massive downtown traffic jam.
Court records show Dalke was held since the time of her arrest. At the time of her guilty plea, Judge Anita Josey-Herring agreed to a request by Dalke’s attorney that she be transferred to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital for psychiatric evaluation to help the defense develop an appropriate sentencing recommendation. The judge also agreed to a request by Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Earnest, the lead prosecutor in the case, that Dalke remain incarcerated after her evaluation at St. Elizabeth’s on grounds that she was a danger to herself and the community.
Josey-Herring sentenced Dalke on March 18 to 12 months’ incarceration for the unlawful discharge of a firearm charge and six months incarceration for the charge of carrying a pistol without a license. She then suspended both sentences and ordered that Dalke undergo 12 months’ probation with several conditions, including a requirement that she enter an alcohol treatment program and undergo a “substance abuse assessment.” Another condition includes ongoing mental health screening and evaluation.
The judge ordered her released following the sentencing, court records show. The records show that Josey-Herring also scheduled a probation review hearing for April 26.
“I think she was very lucky that she got a judge who would look at the big picture and understand the human story that brought her to this event,” said D.C. attorney Cheryl
Stein, who is not Dalke’s attorney but who has represented clients in D.C. Superior court for more than 30 years.
Stein noted that a conviction for carrying a pistol without a license carries a possible maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Under her sentence, Stein said, Dalke could receive no more than the one year in jail should she violate the terms of her probation.
“Do I think this is an appropriate sentence? Yes,” said Stein. “I think it’s always a good idea to treat someone’s issues rather than just punishing them. This clearly was a defendant with a lot of needs, and I think it’s wonderful that we’re trying to meet those needs instead of just locking her up.”