Levy Rouse, convicted of murdering Catherine Fuller and named as the man who committed the most savage attack on the slight mother of six, was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison yesterday by a D.C. Superior Court judge who said he could not make sense out of the "absolutely heinous" crime.
"There is no reason anyone could give why [the crime] was committed . . . ." Judge Robert M. Scott told 21-year-old Rouse, the sixth defendant to be sentenced in Fuller's slaying. "Yet it was done and he was identified . . .[as the person who] inserted the pipe in her rectum."
Rouse, his hands clasped behind his back and led by the elbow from the courtroom, stopped and turned toward the rows crowded with spectators, Fuller's family and police officers. "I'm all right, Mom," he cried to his mother seated in the second row before he slipped through the door to the cell block.
Earlier, Rouse was subdued as he reiterated his innocence. "I didn't do what they said I did. What they said I did I didn't do."
A jury in December convicted Rouse and seven other young men of robbing, kidnaping and murdering the 48-year-old Fuller, who was on an afternoon shopping trip just blocks from her Northeast home when she was attacked by a group of young people who tried to steal her coin purse.
Fuller was pushed into an alley, stripped, repeatedly beaten and then dragged over glass into an abandoned garage where Rouse assaulted her with the pole while others shouted "shove it up more," eyewitnesses testified.
Rouse, the focal point of the investigation, was the only defendant placed at the scene of Fuller's fatal beating by every prosecution witness and he was identified by several as having attacked Fuller with the pole. One of those witneses was his former girlfriend who testified Rouse told her he "did the worst thing to that lady in the alley."
Rouse's attack was "among the most disgusting and reprehensible things I or anyone in the U.S. attorney's office has ever seen," said the usually restrained prosecutor Jerry Goren in urging the judge to give Rouse the maximum sentence of 35 years to life. "I personally feel that is not enough for what Mr. Rouse did. . . . What he did is in many ways beyond belief."
Goren also told the judge it was important to make an example of Rouse to other young people in the community. It was always "Levy and them," said Goren, relating how people described the group that regularly hung out in the park where the plot to rob Fuller was hatched.
"I heard that one thousand times," said Goren. "Mr. Rouse was the leader of the group . . . [young people] looked up to him." The sentence, he said, should be used "both to deter him and to make an example of him."
Rouse bowed his head as Judge Scott, saying he had no hope of rehabilitation for him, announced that he was giving Rouse the maximum sentence of 35 years to life.
Like the four other defendants who have received maximum terms, Rouse will not be eligible for parole for 35 years. Only one defendant has received a lesser sentence. Still to be sentenced are the two remaining defendants convicted by the jury and two young men who pleaded guilty to lesser charges in exchange for their testimony.
Before the sentence was announced, Rouse's lawyer, Lillian McEwen, told Scott that her client "shared Mr. Goren's abhorrence of the crime that was committed." His sister, she said, was killed in an "ironically similar" manner several years ago.
And, she said with Rouse at her side, her client maintained the same defense he presented at trial: "He did not do it."
"The very thought" that Rouse could be convicted of such a crime after his sister's murder "presents a mystery," McEwen said in asking the judge to consider allowing Rouse to be sentenced under a special federal youth act program. The youth act permits a judge to give a defendant a lesser prison term.
McEwen also said that Rouse "had many disadvantages when he was born into the world," prompting one detective assigned to the case to mumble under his breath, "So did I."
Rouse's world, she said, included having a learning disability, dropping out of school and fathering illegitimate children. Rouse testified he had three children but McEwen yesterday said she thinks Rouse may be mistaken and may have only one child.
When McEwen asked the judge to forget the crime momentarily and consider that Rouse was not "substantially different from a lot of young men in that neighborhood," Judge Scott exploded.
"Ms. McEwen, how could you discount the crime he committed?" Scott asked, his voice rising. "This crime was committed. Your client was identified [as committing] a crime that was absolutely heinous and nonsensical."
Scott then stared at Rouse and pronounced the sentence. "That means you are not going to have the possibility of parole for 35 years."
"Real good, real good," beamed one detective at the sentence as the spectators filed from the third-floor courtroom.
"Someone still has to feed them," said David Fuller. "There's nobody to feed my wife now. She's in the ground."