Kristen Hubbard recalled the night more than 30 years ago that she and a close friend parked near Chapter III, a trendy nightclub in Southeast Washington where she looked forward to DJs spinning hip-hop, house and go-go music.
According to Hubbard and court records, two teenage assailants took her and her friend hostage at gunpoint, repeatedly beating and sexually assaulting the women overnight at a Maryland motel. At one point, Hubbard said, the pair forced her and her friend to dig graves for themselves — although, ultimately, they were released.
“I thought I was going to die. We thought we were going to die,” said Hubbard, now 49.
The attackers were arrested days later — after one of them raped a third woman — and were charged with multiple crimes in Maryland and D.C. Joshua D. Haggins, 16 at the time of the 1992 attacks, pleaded guilty to several crimes, including armed rape and armed kidnapping. He was sentenced to 34 years to life in D.C., and 30 years to life in a separate case in Maryland.
On Thursday, a D.C. Superior Court judge will hear arguments on whether the now 47-year-old man deserves to be released early.
Last year, Haggins petitioned a D.C. Superior Court judge for early release under a D.C. law, known as the Incarceration Reduction Amendment Act, or IRAA. Haggins’s attorneys argued he is no longer the drug- and alcohol-abusing teenager that he was decades ago. His release, they say, would accomplish exactly what the law was designed to do: give teens and young adults convicted of violent crimes decades ago a chance to show they have learned from their mistakes.
Hubbard said she vigorously opposes his possible release — which authorities said also would be contingent on a judge granting a similar request in his Maryland case. The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of sexual assault, but Hubbard consented to her name being used.
“It’s not fair at all that we have to be here, all these years later, reliving that nightmare because he now says he’s a changed person,” she said. “I still have to live with the pain he caused me, every day.”
The D.C. Council introduced IRAA in 2016, allowing those who were under 18 at the time of their crimes and had spent at least 15 years in prison to apply for early release. In 2020, an expansion of the law was passed to include people who were as old as 24 at the time of their crimes.
To get out of jail, applicants had to convince D.C. Superior Court judges that they had shown signs of reform and were no longer a danger to the community.
So far, D.C. judges have ordered the release of 135 people under the law, and 16 have been rearrested, according to data from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia. Twenty-nine requests were denied, according to the data. Of those released, the majority had been convicted of murder. Seven people released had been convicted of sexual assault offenses, according to the U.S. attorney’s office data.
According to the Maryland Office of the Public Defender’s Decarceration Initiative, 28 people have been released early under that state’s program, which went into effect in late 2021. Brian Saccenti, the director of the initiative, said individuals must have been incarcerated for at least 20 years and have been age 17 or younger at the time they committed their crimes. Saccenti said he was not aware of any rearrests. He also did not have a breakdown of the charges that had been brought against those granted release under the initiative.
Jonathan W. Anderson, Haggins’s lawyer, said that the Federal Bureau of Prisons deemed his client be at low risk of reoffending and that Haggins’s accomplishments in prison include his earning his GED. He had dropped out of school in the ninth grade.
“Mr. Haggins, who is now 47 years old and has spent over 30 years of his life incarcerated, has overwhelmingly demonstrated his maturity and rehabilitation,” Anderson said in a statement. “He has voluntarily completed a years-long sex offender treatment program, voluntarily served as a mentor in the program, earned the praise of BOP staff for his excellent conduct and been assessed by the BOP as having a ‘minimum’ risk of recidivism.”
Federal prosecutors — as they have with the majority of petitions that have been filed asking judges to grant early release — objected to Haggins’s petition. They cited Haggins’s five nonviolent infractions while in prison, which included failure to show up for his work assignments and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Prosecutor Margaret J. Chriss wrote in a recent filing to the judge that Haggins is a “serial rapist and a robber.”
“He is not sufficiently rehabilitated and mature to reenter civil society, and society and his victims are not sufficiently healed or ready to accept him,” Chriss wrote.
The man with whom authorities say Haggins carried out the attacks — Richard Settles, who was then 19 — was charged with 29 offenses in Prince George’s County, Md., including first- and second-degree rape, robbery and kidnapping. He was found guilty of the charges and sentenced to 99 years in prison, Maryland court records show. The attacks became known as the Chapter III rapes, for the nightclub where the women were abducted.
If the judge in D.C. grants his release, Haggins will have to file a similar petition over his Maryland sentence. Anderson said a Maryland public defender has filed a motion for his early release under the state’s Juvenile Restoration Act.
Hubbard said she hopes that, too, will fail.
“When this was happening to us, we kept screaming for help. No one. No one would help us,” Hubbard recalled. “Now, we are screaming for help again. If he gets out, who will help us? Not just physically, but emotionally. We are begging for help. Again.”