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D.C. Officer Gets 6 Months In PCP Case Tied to Death

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 8, 2004; Page B01

A D.C. police officer was sentenced yesterday to six months in jail for helping to buy PCP for a woman who later was found dead.

The 33-year-old woman plunged to her death within hours of the July 6, 2002, drug buy. Although the officer, Joseph M. Jennifer, has not been charged in the death, D.C. Superior Court Judge Craig S. Iscoe left little doubt that he believes that Jennifer bears some responsibility.

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Facing Jennifer, Iscoe said that although he does not know what caused Dawn Rothwell's "tragic and untimely death," he was certain that the officer's conduct that night was a "factor." The D.C. medical examiner's office ruled the death an accident in January 2003.

"Your actions were appalling," Iscoe said.

The judge's strong feelings were clear from the day that he found Jennifer guilty almost two months ago, when he jailed the officer instead of letting him remain free until sentencing.

Jennifer, 38, was convicted of a misdemeanor, aiding and abetting possession of PCP, and faced up to 180 days in jail. Iscoe said the aggravating circumstances in the case left him no reasonable alternative to imposing the maximum penalty.

PCP, the full name of which is phencyclidine, can produce hours of a frenzied high. The drug has unpredictable effects, and people under its influence have been known to behave erratically, from stripping off their clothing to killing with little or no provocation.

Jennifer, a D.C. police officer for 13 years, is currently suspended without pay and facing termination, said Sgt. Joe Gentile, a police spokesman.

So far this year, 26 D.C. officers have been arrested, one of them twice, according to Gentile, who said privacy rules prevented him from providing the names of the officers and the charges against them.

Standing before Iscoe yesterday, Jennifer insisted that he was sorry and that he took responsibility for his actions. "I can't take back what I did," he said. "I made a poor judgment that night."

The remarks provided little comfort to the family of Rothwell, who died after she and a friend, Teresa Cole, met with Jennifer and Sylvester Webb, a barber who was a friend of Jennifer and Cole.

"I didn't hear any remorse," Rothwell's mother, Barbara, said after the sentencing. "He never apologized to me and my family for the death of my daughter."

On that night, Jennifer was "on the prowl for sex," and instead of stopping a crime facilitated one, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven R. Kaufman wrote in a memorandum to the court.

Jennifer and Webb had been drinking at a party, according to prosecutors, and after leaving, the two men headed to Cole's home, where they found her and Rothwell.

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