Attorney for Labor Department official recalls no indication client was a suicide risk

The attorney for the Labor Department official who police say tried to rape a co-worker and then killed himself in his jail cell never asked D.C. jail officials to evaluate his client for mental illness or suicide risk.

Michael McAuliffe, who represented Paul Mannina before he was found dead with his throat slashed Tuesday, said in an interview that he did not think such a request was necessary.

“We just never saw this coming. I look back now and wish we had seen something, but we didn’t,” McAuliffe said.

Mannina was found dead in his cell Tuesday morning, less than a day after a D.C. Superior Court judge ordered him held on assault and burglary charges. Police officials with direct knowledge of the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mannina used a razor or sharp object to cut his throat. Neither the jail nor the D.C. medical examiner’s office has disclosed a cause of death. D.C. police said they were still investigating.

At the Monday hearing, Mannina, 58, wept openly as he sat next to McAuliffe. “He was very upset,” McAuliffe said. “But I never perceived there being a threat of suicide.”


2010 photo of Paul Mannina. (Courtesy of Robert Friedel)

Mannina, who lived in the Ashton community in Montgomery County, was arrested last week and charged with first-degree burglary while armed and third-degree sexual assault. The charging documents described him pushing his way into the victim’s home in the 2700 block of Chesapeake Street NW about 9 a.m. June 5.

Mannina, a senior attorney assigned to the Labor Department’s Division of Plan Benefits Security, assaulted the victim so brutally that a titanium plate was placed in her face, police said. Court documents said he punched the victim in the face, sprayed her with Mace, shocked her with a stun gun, cuffed her hands behind her back and knocked her to the living room floor.

The woman was his co-worker of 21 years, according to police and the victim’s husband.

After Monday’s hearing, Mannina was ushered to the courthouse cellblock to await transportation back to the D.C. jail. McAuliffe said that he tried to see his client but was told he could not until that evening, at the jail. McAuliffe said he was not able to make it to the jail that evening, but he had planned to see his client Tuesday morning. It was then that he received the call informing him that Mannina was dead.

According to charging documents, Mannina threatened to kill himself after the attack. The woman told police that as Mannina left her home, he told her he was going to “shoot myself.”

Two days after the alleged attack, Mannina was admitted to MedStar Montgomery Medical Center because of a “change in his mental state,” a detective testified. Mannina was arrested after he was discharged from the hospital.

McAuliffe has repeatedly declined to say why his client had been hospitalized.

Defense attorneys often alert judges, courthouse officials or jail officials when incarcerated clients appear at risk of harming themselves or someone else.

Several attorneys interviewed about the Mannina case, but with no direct involvement in it, said McAuliffe might have been bound by his client’s wishes not to argue for a mental evaluation in court.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of intern Chandra Levy.
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