A D.C. Superior Court judge on Tuesday sentenced a 19-year-old District man to five years in jail after he pleaded guilty in November to a charge of aggravated assault while armed for hitting and seriously injuring a transgender woman with a stolen car he was driving.
Police and prosecutors said Startwaune Anderson, who was 18 at the time of the incident, hit Boo Boo Washington, 26, at the intersection of 4th and K streets, N.E. at about 3:18 a.m. on July 5, 2017, with a Ford Focus hatchback vehicle he stole earlier that day.
“The defendant acted intentionally and on purpose and not by mistake or accident,” prosecutors said in a proffer of facts submitted as part of a plea bargain offer to which Anderson agreed in November at the advice of his lawyer.
Washington was hospitalized in critical condition at the time of the incident for injuries that included bleeding on the brain, multiple rib fractures, a lacerated spleen, and a punctured lung, according to prosecutors. She was sedated and on a respirator for at least two weeks and remained in the hospital for over a month before being released to undergo outpatient rehabilitation.
William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case, said there was insufficient evidence to classify the incident as a hate crime, even though it occurred in an area known as a place where trans women congregate.
“We have no reason to believe that Startwaune Anderson knew that the victim was a transgender woman at the time that he struck her with the car,” Miller said.
In addition to the five-year jail term, Judge Anthony Epstein sentenced Anderson to five years of supervised release on probation after completing his jail term and ordered that he receive substance abuse and mental health treatment.
Epstein also ordered that the sentence be carried out under the city’s Youth Rehabilitation Act, which allows judges to seal and remove from public disclosure the criminal record for someone sentenced under the Youth Act if they successfully complete their probation without committing another criminal offense.
David Richter, the defense attorney representing Anderson, told Epstein during a sentencing hearing Tuesday that Anderson had been struggling with a substance abuse problem. He pointed to court records showing that Anderson admitted to being under the influence of PCP and Xanax shortly before the incident.
A police arrest affidavit says witnesses saw Anderson walk out of the car with which he struck Washington after he crashed it into a fence several blocks away along the perimeter of the campus of Gallaudet University while holding a bottle of vodka.
“It was a combination of bad choices by Mr. Anderson,” Richter told Epstein. “This is a very bad situation all around. It is fortunate that this was not a murder case,” said Richter. “He realizes that…He is a different person than the one I met” shortly after Anderson’s arrest in July, Richter said.
He called on Epstein to sentence Anderson to five years along with five years of supervised probation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Monica Trigoso, the lead prosecutor in the case, asked Epstein to sentence Anderson to six years in jail. She said that although Anderson admitted to wrongdoing in pleading guilty and expressed remorse to the person whose car he stole, he remained silent about the victim who was struck by the car he drove.
“The defendant did not mention anything in regards to the victim of the assault that he almost killed and who spent weeks in intensive care fighting for her life and is still having medical issues to this day,” Trigoso said in a sentencing memorandum filed in court.
She noted in the memorandum that Anderson has a prior criminal conviction for which his probation was revoked twice. She did not disclose the nature of the conviction, possibly because it may have occurred when Anderson was a juvenile.
Anderson, who was escorted into the courtroom wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, apologized for his actions when asked by Epstein if he would like to make a statement.
“I apologize to my friends,” he said. “I want to start over and be a better person.”
Epstein said he carefully considered all of the issues raised by the defense and the government and believed justice would be served best by sentencing Anderson to five years of incarceration.
“The reason for this crime is PCP and how it is such a dangerous drug,” Epstein said. “I’m confident now that all of the drugs are out of Mr. Anderson’s system and he understands the seriousness of this.”
He added, “I understand how young Mr. Anderson is. I feel the cause of this crime was his drug use.”
Epstein also recognized that five of Anderson’s family members and friends were in the courtroom to show their support for him at the time of his release. Richter said that among those who came to show support was Anderson’s girlfriend.
No family members or friends of Washington attended the hearing. A former official with the D.C. LGBT community services center Casa Ruby told the Washington Blade at the time of Anderson’s arrest that Washington was a Casa Ruby client and was well known and liked by people she met at Casa Ruby.
Although LGBT advocates sometimes submit community impact statements to judges about to hand down a sentence for someone convicted of a crime against an LGBT person, in this case a single impact statement was submitted that did not mention Washington’s gender identity or that she was part of the LGBT community.
Billy Pittman, chair of the D.C. Police First District Citizens Advisory Council, called on Epstein to sentence Anderson to some jail time.
“[A]t this time we believe he is a clear and present danger to our communities and we seek his removal from society in hopes he will come to understand the damage and pain he has inflicted upon all of us who reside here,” Pittman said in his statement.