A 30-year-old Accokeek, Md., man yesterday received the maximum sentence of a year in prison for severely beating a D.C. parking enforcement worker who had ticketed his car.
The sentence came as U.S. Attorney Stanley S. Harris made a rare appearance in court to show his support for stiff punishment.
The defendant, Edward Darnell Meyers, had pleaded guilty to a single count of assault. In handing down the sentence, D.C. Superior Court Judge Steffen Graae complied with requests from federal prosecutors, who had sought the maximum penalty.
Meyers, who was working as a courier at the time of the incident, will be eligible for parole in four months.
Prosecutors and city officials called the sentence a landmark in efforts to provide more protection for city workers who daily run the risk of brushes with a sometimes unappreciative public.
Parking enforcement workers in particular have complained of being harassed and sometimes attacked by angry motorists, who seldom have been punished.
"We feel very comforted by this type of result," said Paul Davis, chief of parking enforcement for the District.
"This is the first time an assault against one of our people has gone to sentencing. I believe a deterrent effect has been echoed to the public that you cannot attack our people with impunity," he said.
In the courtroom yesterday was former parking enforcement worker Martha Gaines, 27, who was severely beaten after she had ticketed Meyers' car during the height of the afternoon rush hour last Sept. 2 when she found it parked illegally at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
"I'm really glad they finally gave someone some prison time," said Gaines. "As ticket writers, we were always being harassed. Now the citizens might give us a break and think before they hit us."
Harris said yesterday he attended the sentencing to show his concern in the matter. He said he had seen Gaines on television shortly after the beating incident and had been moved.
"That guy really beat her up," Harris said. "I came into the office the next day and told my people that we were going to do everything possible to prosecute this case to the maximum extent.
"I wanted us to demonstrate to the transportation people and to the ticket-writing people that, by God, that kind of conduct isn't something we're going to tolerate."
Gaines, who was severely beaten in the face and head and suffered a concussion, cuts and bruises during the assault, said she is on leave without pay from her parking enforcement post, living in an apartment in Southeast Washington with her 3-year-old son and being supported by her parents.
She said she is unsure whether she will ever work at the same job again. "It almost cost me my life," she said. "I'm not afraid, but I'm really nervous. I won't go back unless I have to."
Some workers have been lobbying City Council members in an effort to stiffen criminal penalties for assaults on city employes who work in enforcement positions outside the police department.