D.C. murder suspect freed until trial arrested again

Javon Hale was on a weekend pass from juvenile detention when he was charged with killing a day laborer who had just finished hauling trash from a vacant apartment building in Southeast Washington.

He spent his next two birthdays in jail. But in November, a D.C. Superior Court judge released Hale, now 18, into the District’s “high intensity supervision program.” Hale was given a curfew and an electronic monitoring bracelet as he awaited trial in the 2010 killing.

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Late Tuesday, Hale was arrested again and charged in two shootings and a kidnapping over three days in December that left one man dead and two others badly wounded. Hale was shot in the wrist during a gun battle.

That he was free before his trial on the 2010 murder charge angered friends of Manuel Sanchez, the victim in that shooting. “Is there any justice in the world?” asked Rafael Canela, who hired Sanchez to clean the apartment building. “Why . . . did the law allow this? Does a life not mean anything?”

There are 360 defendants who have been released from the D.C. jail contingent on GPS-device monitoring. Most are not watched in real time. Staff worker typically review old data to determine compliance and report violations to the court. “The only way to stop all criminal activity is to incarcerate somebody until trial,” said Leonard A. Sipes, a spokesman for the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency, which monitors defendants released pending trial.

Sipes declined to comment on Hale’s case. But generally, he said, “there is no guarantee when it comes to community supervision.”

Law enforcement officials said Hale complied with the terms of his release. His monitoring bracelet was given to him to ensure that he kept his curfew: 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The shootings occurred at 3:15 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Neither his injury, for which he sought hospital treatment, nor a speeding ticket he received Dec. 25 in Prince George’s County would have triggered a violation notice or an investigation, officials said.

Documents filed Wednesday in D.C. Superior Court say the monitoring device that kept track of Hale’s whereabouts helped police in their new case against him by showing that he was near both of the December shooting sites.

Hale’s attorney, Billy Ponds, argued at an arraignment Wednesday that the GPS data were unreliable and that authorities’ only witness was a paid informant. But Magistrate Judge Lori Parker agreed with prosecutors that Hale should be detained until his next hearing, on Feb. 8.

Presiding over that hearing will be Judge Robert E. Morin — who ordered Hale’s release in November.

Hale is newly charged in a Dec. 26 shooting at 14th and K streets in Southeast.

Court charging documents say that a man double-parked his car and opened fire into the car next to his. Police said that the victim was hit in the body, left forearm and chin and that 20 shell casings were found at the scene. The man remains in critical condition, according to police.

Three days later, in the 5000 block of Ayers Place SE, Hale and Darnell Rivers, 22, allegedly kidnapped a man to rob him and perhaps hold him for ransom, according to court documents.

But the victim also had a gun, police said, and during an intense shootout inside a gray Mazda, Rivers was killed and Hale and the victim were wounded. Police said they recovered a Kel-Tec 9mm semiautomatic gun, a five-shot .38-caliber revolver and a .45-caliber handgun.

Hale was charged with kidnapping while armed as well as assault with intent to kill while armed.

After two years of the charges winding through the courts, an attorney for Hale’s co-defendant in Sanchez’s killing said the case against both men is crumbling. New information points to a third suspect pulling the trigger, the attorney said. Authorities have described the motive in the crime as an attempt to steal Sanchez’s vehicle.

At the November court hearing, attorneys for Hale, who was charged as an adult in the 2010 killing, and the alleged accomplice, Rafael Douglas, also 18, said prosecutors gave them information that a man named Carlos, known as “Los,” was the shooter. His full name was not revealed in court, but Douglas’s attorney, Kevin J. McCants, said that Carlos was killed a few years ago in a dispute over a woman. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office would not comment on that account.

According to a transcript of the hearing, Ponds, Hale’s attorney, said two witnesses have been unable to identify his client from a photo array. He asked that Hale be released until trial, saying that “the evidence against Mr. Hale is dramatically different than it was when presented to the court on a detention hearing. . . . There is no reason for him to be held.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reagan Taylor told the judge that prosecutors “still believe that Mr. Hale was involved in this event but in a different role as the shooter.” She said authorities have learned “from at least two sources that this person ‘Los’ was in fact the shooter.”

Taylor did not object to releasing Hale with the monitoring conditions set by the judge.

Mary Pat Flaherty contributed to this report.

 
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