A Jan. 7 article on proposed Tysons Corner condo towers incorrectly described Thomas Fleury, who represented West Group Properties at Monday's Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting, as an attorney. He is the firm's senior vice president of development services. (Published 1/8/03)
A severe shortage of beds in District halfway houses, the result of budget cuts at the Department of Corrections, has caused more suspects to be released while awaiting trial -- including a homeless man who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman last month while free on personal recognizance.
Raymond C. Evans, 26, had been accused of two sexual attacks in August and September. During an Oct. 7 hearing in D.C. Superior Court, prosecutors asked that he be put in a halfway house. But Magistrate Judge Judith N. Macaluso responded, "Halfway house is simply not an option. . . . It's a charade," according to a transcript.
Evans was released with the promise that he report once a week to the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency and undergo drug testing. On Nov. 1, less than a month later, Evans allegedly confronted a Southeast Washington woman as she was leaving her apartment, pushed her back inside and sexually assaulted her at knife point.
A Superior Court spokeswoman said Macaluso's comments that halfway houses were a "charade" were based on the October closure of Community Correctional Center No. 4, a facility on New York Avenue NE that had 200 beds. With its closure, about 100 beds are available for people awaiting trial, according to the D.C. Department of Corrections.
Darryl Madden, a spokesman for the department, said the halfway house's closure was part of general cost-cutting by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), whose administration is making up a $323 million shortfall for fiscal 2003. Closing the halfway house saved about $3.7 million, Madden said.
The closure has forced major changes in the way the District deals with people in the weeks and months while they are awaiting trial. Susan W. Shaffer, director of the D.C. Pretrial Services Agency, said many of those who would have gone into halfway houses because there was no room for them in the D.C. jail are now released with electronic monitoring bracelets, which are designed to ensure that they stay close to home.
The number of suspects on electronic monitoring is about 160, up from 20 or 30 before the large halfway house closed, Shaffer said. But for homeless people such as Evans, the bracelets are useless. Shaffer said those suspects often must be released on the promise that they report in regularly.
"We obviously have less options than we used to," she said.
Evans has served time in North Carolina for offenses including assault, car theft and drug dealing. His first arrest in the District came Aug. 30, when he allegedly engaged in a "sexual act or contact" with a woman, assaulted her and stole her cell phone. He was charged with misdemeanor sexual abuse in addition to theft and assault and released Sept. 5 on personal recognizance.
In the following weeks, Evans tested positive for marijuana three times, according to the pretrial services agency. Then, on Sept. 28, he allegedly forced a woman to have sex with him at knife point after the two smoked marijuana in the 300 block of H Street NW. The woman flagged down police, and Evans was arrested and charged with another count of misdemeanor sexual abuse.
At the Oct. 7 hearing, prosecutor Mike Columbo asked for Evans to be put in a halfway house because of the two assault charges and the fact that he was homeless. But 47 people in the D.C. jail were waiting for beds in a halfway house, court spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz said.
Ordering Evans into a halfway house would therefore have been ordering him into jail -- which the prosecution had not sought, Gurowitz said.
"It is extraordinarily difficult to fashion conditions of release that will adequately protect the public under these circumstances," Macaluso said, according to the hearing transcript. "I have no option but to release Mr. Evans on his personal promise to come back to court."
Evans was arrested again on a felony charge in November; that charge was dropped and he was released by another judge on personal recognizance Nov. 19. He was arrested earlier this month in connection with the Nov. 1 attack.
Evans is being held without bond.