A D.C. Superior Court judge sentenced a Southeast Washington man yesterday to serve 15 years to life in prison for the November 1980 robbery and murder of local housing activist Yulanda Ward.

Judge Annice Wagner sentenced James Lewis Pannell, 21, to serve concurrent terms of 15 years to life for the murder and 5 to 15 years for robbery. Both sentences were in connection with the slaying of Ward.

Pannell pleaded guilty last November to those charges, as well as to a manslaughter charge in the death of an elderly man during a burglary in January 1981, two months after Ward's death. Wagner sentenced him to serve 5 to 15 years in prison for that manslaughter, and to serve that sentence in addition to the prison term for the Ward murder.

Two others involved in the robbery in which Ward was killed--Mark Stoney, 19, and his brother, Jacob Stoney, 20--also pleaded guilty last November to manslaughter and robbery charges in connection with Ward's death. Wagner sentenced Mark Stoney last December to serve 14 years to life in prison for his involvement in Ward's death, and to serve an additional term of 5 to 15 years for burglary in the January 1981 incident involving the elderly man.

Wagner sentenced Jacob Stoney last January to 10 to 30 years in prison for manslaughter in Ward's death, and a concurrent term of 5 to 15 years for robbery in that case. Jacob Stoney was not involved in the 1981 incident.

Wagner rejected a request yesterday by Pannell's lawyer, Russell F. Canan, that she sentence Pannell under the Youth Corrections Act, which would make him eligible for parole at any time. Wagner said she could not find that Pannell would benefit from sentencing under the youth offender provisions.

Ward, a cochairman of the District's City-Wide Housing Coalition and a board member of the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, was a Howard University student who had taken a year's leave of absence to do community work.

Although her friends and others active in the housing group were convinced that she was killed because of her political activities, prosecutors and defense lawyers alike have uncovered no evidence to indicate the murder was anything other than a street robbery.