Guilty verdict in brutal Capitol Hill beating


Thomas C. Maslin, with wife Abigail and son Jack. (Courtesy Abigail Maslin)

After less than six hours of deliberations, a D.C. Superior Court jury found a Fort Washington man guilty Wednesday on all counts in the brutal beating and robbery of Thomas C. Maslin last summer on Capitol Hill.

Tommy Branch, 22, faced a variety of charges, including aggravated assault and robbery, in the early-morning attack Aug. 18 in a tiny park near Eastern Market.

Branch and two friends allegedly beat Maslin and robbed him of his iPhone, credit cards and keys about 12:30 a.m. as he walked home after having beers with friends following a Nationals baseball game.

After a four-day trial, Branch was found guilty of 11 counts stemming from the attack on Maslin and the robberies of two men in Adams Morgan a few hours later. Branch was found not guilty of two counts involving the alleged robbery of another man in Adams Morgan.

Outside the courthouse, several jurors were visibly shaken and declined to comment.


Tommy Branch (Courtesy of U.S. Attorney's Office)

In an e-mailed statement, Maslin, who is known as “TC,” and his wife, Abigail, said they were “relieved” by the verdict even as they struggle with the long-term — and probably permanent — consequences of the attack. Maslin was struck so forcefully in the head with an aluminum baseball bat that his skull was shattered, his brain bled severely and he was in a coma for six days. His neurosurgeon testified last week that he will never fully recover.

“We remain extremely saddened by the devastation that was caused and the lives that were shattered as a result of this senseless act,” the Maslins wrote. “We pray for peace for all residents of the District and remain focused on the challenging work ahead in TC’s recovery. We are touched and humbled by the kindness, compassion and generosity we have received by so many.”

Maslin, 30, did not attend the trial. His wife testified about her husband’s medical care and ongoing health problems. Jurors were shown a photo of Maslin in his hospital bed, his left eye swollen and blackened.

Branch did not take the stand in the trial, but a glimpse of his personality did emerge. At the end of one day of proceedings, with the jury out of the courtroom, a U.S. marshal returned to Branch’s family members a pair of pants and a shirt and tie that they had brought for him to change into from his jail jumpsuit that day. The marshal told Branch’s attorney that the defendant had been “upset” that he had to wear the same courtroom outfit twice in a row and wanted his family to bring him different clothes the next time.

Branch is scheduled to be sentenced July 2 by Judge Robert Richter. Under sentencing guidelines, he faces a maximum sentence of 105 years in prison.

Two of Branch’s friends also were charged in the attack and robberies. Sunny Kuti, 18, of Southeast Washington requested a separate trial; it is scheduled for July. According to the prosecutor, Kuti carried a black BB gun that didn’t work during the robberies.

Co-defendant Michael Moore, 19, of Landover pleaded guilty and was a key witness against Branch as part of his plea deal. Moore testified that the robbery was Branch’s idea. Moore said Branch had just lost his job and was behind on his rent.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Swanton relied heavily on Moore’s account for his case. There was no DNA evidence or an eyewitness to identify the assailants. Branch’s mother testified that she had unknowingly thrown the bat in the garbage after the attack.

As he testified, Moore glanced often at his childhood friend seated at the defense table. He told the jury that Maslin was unarmed when Moore and Kuti approached him, and he immediately threw up both hands and told them that all he had was his bank card, iPhone and keys. At that moment, Branch came from behind and struck him, Moore testified.

Branch’s court-appointed attorney, Dorsey Jones, said that it was Moore who struck Maslin with the bat. Jones said Moore was trying to deflect the assault charge onto Branch after pleading guilty to other offenses.

Within minutes of the attack, according to court records, the suspects climbed into Branch’s silver Hyundai Sonata and drove to an Exxon station in Southeast, where Branch is alleged to have tried unsuccessfully to use Maslin’s credit card. Prosecutors played a gas station security video that showed Branch’s car minutes after the attack.

After leaving the gas station, Branch, Kuti and Moore drove to Adams Morgan, where prosecutors said the three robbed and assaulted three men as they were leaving a bar. Only two of the three testified that they were assaulted and robbed. The third still had his belongings; Branch was acquitted of the two charges pertaining to that man.

Branch, Kuti and Moore were arrested minutes after the attacks in Adams Morgan.

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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