The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How an inmate who repeatedly threatened to rape his guards ended up on a bus back to D.C.

Antwon Pitt completed his two-year sentence for robbery at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida. While there, staff said, he repeatedly exposed himself, masturbated and made threats of rape. Pictured are Jose Rojas, the president of the union of Coleman corrections officers; Lisa Ward, a Coleman corrections officer, center; and Kaley LaVeigne, a former Coleman nurse. (Melissa Lyttle/For The Washington Post)

SECOND-CHANCE CITY | This is the second of a continuing series that will examine issues related to repeat violent offenders in the District of Columbia. Part I | Part III | Part IV| Part V | Part VI

Within a cellblock reserved for problem inmates at the nation's largest federal prison complex, Antwon Pitt became known as a sexual menace.

The violent offender from D.C., now 22, habitually dropped his pants, exposed his penis and masturbated when anyone passed by his cell, according to detailed accounts from 10 prison staffers. A male corrections officer said Pitt exposed himself and demanded oral sex. A female officer said Pitt called her a bitch and explicitly told her how he would rape her. A prison nurse said he feigned chest pain to get her attention and then pulled out his penis and began to masturbate while lying on the exam table.

One time, he was so disobedient and violent that a team of officers had to subdue him with pepper spray while outfitted in helmets and gas masks.

“I will kill all of you. Bring it on, motherf---ers,” the 6-4, 220-pound inmate said during the incident in January 2015, according to one of the officers present who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job.

Yet Pitt was not prosecuted, despite nine referrals to the FBI. Instead, he was released last summer from the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex after having completed his two-year sentence for robbing a D.C. woman.

Two months after Pitt returned to the District, federal officials lost track of him after he cut off his GPS bracelet. He was arrested two days later on drug charges, but a D.C. magistrate judge released him without knowing the details of his time in prison.

Within days, a woman in Northeast D.C. awoke to find a man in her bedroom. He stole her purse and cellphone and fled. A week later, Pitt raped a 40-year-old college professor in her home in the Hill East neighborhood of Southeast Washington. Pitt was convicted of the rape charge in June of this year; the burglary charge is pending.

“They dropped the ball here,” said Lisa Ward, a veteran Federal Bureau of Prisons corrections officer at Coleman. “And those women in D.C. paid for it.”

A spokeswoman for the FBI’s Jacksonville office confirmed that the agency “conducted a thorough investigation into the allegations against Antwon Pitt” and provided the findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. She declined to discuss those findings. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.

It is unclear whether details of the FBI investigation were communicated by the Bureau of Prisons to the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency for the District of Columbia (CSOSA), the federal agency responsible for supervising D.C. parolees. The Bureau of Prisons said it provides progress reports on offenders to CSOSA, which typically include disciplinary records and summarize an “inmate’s adjustment during confinement,” but did not elaborate on what was contained in Pitt’s report. CSOSA, citing federal privacy laws, declined to answer questions about Pitt’s time in prison.

“We have to rely on the information that’s shared with us,” said Nancy Ware, the director of CSOSA, refusing to elaborate.

The Washington Post previously reported that CSOSA waited 15 days after losing contact with Pitt to request a warrant for his arrest for violating the terms of his release.

Interviews with federal corrections officers and staffers, along with a review of Bureau of Prisons documents, law enforcement records and a pre-sentencing report obtained by The Post, paint a picture of a disturbed young man with a long history of sexual violence who was repeatedly given breaks by the system. Pitt’s attorney, Judith Pipe of the Public Defender Service, declined to comment.

At Coleman, eight federal corrections officers and two nurses told The Post that they repeatedly documented crimes Pitt committed in the Florida federal prison. They said they believed Pitt should have had his sentence extended or, at a minimum, been classified as a sex offender.

From April 2014 to July 2015, he accumulated 20 documented sexual offenses at Coleman, according to a review of disciplinary reports — a figure that officers say is excessive for young offenders serving such short sentences.

“They need to get more time,” Ward said. “And they need to be classified as sex offenders. Maybe if he had been a sex offender, they would have taken him seriously in D.C. when he cut off his GPS bracelet.”

The road to prison

Pitt had a history of violence — including robbery, battery and aggravated assault — known to judges, prosecutors and area law enforcement.

The Post previously chronicled Pitt’s lengthy journey through the D.C. criminal justice system, where multiple agencies had an opportunity to stop Pitt in the weeks preceding the October rape.

Documents newly obtained by The Post reveal that Pitt had an even more extensive criminal history than previously reported, displaying violent and sexually deviant behavior for years prior to the rape.

His mother said that when he was just 5 years old, he and a classmate roughed up an elementary school teacher, according to a pre-sentencing report authored by CSOSA. His mother also said that Pitt committed sexually inappropriate acts toward her and his younger sister, the report said.

At 11, he was taken from his home and placed under the watch of the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, which supervises foster care in the city.

Pitt later told a court-appointed psychologist that he was removed from his mother’s home after she became an alcoholic. But Pitt’s mother told an investigator that she only began drinking to cope with “the pain and the shame” brought on by her son’s sexual misconduct.

He was placed in foster care homes, but problems occurred because of “his violent tendencies,” the report said. Pitt, 14, was moved to a live-in treatment facility for troubled youths in Portsmouth, Va.

Portsmouth police were called to the facility in 2009, when Pitt was 15. He was accused of raping a boy and forcing him to perform oral sex. The case was closed after the victim changed his story, according to records obtained by The Post.

In 2010, Pitt was accused of assaulting staffers at the facility. One worker tried to restrain Pitt on the floor, and Pitt punched the worker in the eye, the police report said. Two weeks later, police were called on a report that Pitt was threatening an employee, whom he struck in the face.

In 2011, when Pitt was 17, he was again accused of sexual assault, this time within a classroom at the Portsmouth facility.

“The victim was approached by the suspect and threatened that if the victim did not give anal and oral sex the victim would get beat up by the suspect and his friend,” according to a police report. “The suspect then forced the victim to pull his pants down. The suspect then sodomized the victim and then forced the victim to give the suspect oral sex.”

Pitt was not prosecuted for any charges in Portsmouth. Tamara Shewmake, a spokeswoman for the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, said in a statement that the Pitt investigations were handled by a previous administration and that the current office “would not be able to respond on the actions or decisions of the previous Administration.”

Pitt was removed from the Virginia facility in 2011 and sent to a live-in treatment facility in Georgia. Several weeks later, he took a metal chair and slammed it over the head of a fellow resident, who ended up in the hospital. Pitt pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and battery.

He spent nearly a year in jail in Georgia and then was released in October 2012.

Back in the District, within a span of several months, he racked up five minor arrests on complaints including shoplifting and making threats.

Then in July 2013, Pitt, armed with a BB gun, slammed a woman to the ground on her doorstep and robbed her. Later, he bit a D.C. police officer who tackled him.

Pitt pleaded guilty to felony robbery and misdemeanor assault of a police officer.

“By all accounts, the defendant appears to be a severely troubled individual and is a grave risk to the community,” the author of the pre-sentencing report stated and recommended 24 to 66 months of incarceration.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Heidi Pasichow sentenced Pitt to 24 months in prison under the District’s Youth Rehabilitation Act, which allows “deserving” offenders younger than 22 to later remove their crimes from public records. Pasichow, through a courts spokeswoman, declined to comment on Pitt’s case, citing the judicial code that prohibits comments that could affect the fairness of ongoing proceedings.

Pitt eventually was transferred to the high-security Coleman facility, where he would serve out the bulk of his time.

‘You’re disgusting’

Built in 1995, the Coleman prison complex lies in rural central Florida — about an hour outside of Orlando — with Spanish moss hanging from oak trees and sandhill cranes on the property.

It houses more than 7,000 inmates in a mix of facilities, including low- and medium-security institutions and two high-security penitentiaries: Coleman I and Coleman II. They are called Pen 1 and Pen 2 by corrections officers. Within Coleman II, famed Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger is serving out a life sentence.

Corrections officer Lisa Ward patrols the specialized housing unit of Pen 1 — a designated area for inmates who act out or have other issues. She has earned the nickname “Red” because of her auburn hair and fierce demeanor. The 53-year-old has worked at Coleman for nearly 21 years.

Like almost all female officers there, the 5-foot-6-inch Ward wears a heavy, black smock to hide any hint of curves on her 160-pound frame. She also wears a diamond ring on her left ring finger, even though she is not married. She thought the ring might deter prisoners from targeting her with sexual taunts.

When Pitt entered Coleman I on April 15, 2014, he was placed in the specialized housing unit — a unit that can accommodate more than 190 inmates if needed. The walls are off-white and made of concrete, and the floors are gray. Cells are 8 feet by 10 feet wide and can hold one or two prisoners. When officers walk by, they can peer into a small cell window six inches tall and two feet wide.

On June 30, 2014, Ward was doing a prisoner count when she got to Pitt’s cell just past 10 p.m. She said he stood up and began to stroke his penis. He described how he would rape her and called her a bitch.

“I’m old enough to be your mother,” she said she told him. “You’re disgusting.”

Ward wrote up the incident in a disciplinary report. A few weeks later, a hearing officer found him guilty of committing a “205” — prison code for engaging in sexual acts, which falls in the “high security” risk category.

Inmates are sanctioned by losing credit toward early release for good behavior or personal privileges, including email access, phone calls and visits. Their personal property can also be impounded.

Pitt had already accumulated more than 20 disciplinary offenses at Coleman, including assault, fighting with inmates, refusing to obey orders, destroying property, engaging in sexual acts and self-mutilation.

As the offenses piled up, prison officials stripped away Pitt’s good time credit, recreational hours, email privileges and commissary money. Eventually, officials ran out of sanctions for him.

In late 2014, Ward said, an FBI agent traveled to Coleman and interviewed her in the warden’s conference room. Ward named the agent, but at the request of the FBI, The Post agreed not to publish his name.

Ward recalled that the agent told her that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida was planning to prosecute Pitt for his sexual exposure and masturbation directed at prison staff.

The agent said that Pitt could get up to six months for each sexual misconduct incident, which could add 10 years to his sentence, Ward recalled.

She said she never heard from him after that visit.

FBI spokeswoman Amanda Warford Videll declined a request to interview the agent but confirmed the existence of the investigation.

“The FBI completed the investigation on Dec. 8, 2014, and provided the findings to the USAO,” she said.

Prosecutors also declined to comment.

Ward is one of more than 400 female corrections workers at Coleman who are plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons alleging that rampant sexual harassment by inmates at the Florida institution has gone unpunished for years, putting the public and prison staffers at risk. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case is set for a hearing in August in front of an administrative judge in Miami. A spokesman from the Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the litigation.

Heidi Burakiewicz, a D.C.-based lawyer, is leading the lawsuit. She said Pitt’s case is an example of a “learned culture” at Coleman that inmates can get away with sexual harassment.

“Everybody at Coleman knew this guy was a danger. It was not a surprise to see that this was what happened when he was released from prison,” she said. “If we’re trying to rehabilitate people while they’re incarcerated, this is a perfect example of no steps being taken.”

‘It was a game to him’

On the morning of July 2, 2014, less than 36 hours after Pitt allegedly exposed himself to Ward, registered nurse Kaley LaVeigne made her rounds at the specialized housing unit. She walked from cell to cell to distribute medication and check on inmates.

“We do our sick call every day,” she recently told The Post. “We call out to them. They hear our voices, and they know when we’re coming.”

When LaVeigne approached Pitt’s cell at 7:35 a.m., she said, he went to his door, holding his erect penis as he began to masturbate. She ordered him to stop.

“F--- that bitch,” he said, according to documentation from the incident.

He then gave a sick note to LaVeigne — slipping it under the door — and continued to masturbate.

“He did this every day. He would wait for any females to walk by his cell,” she said. “It was a game to him.”

LaVeigne said Pitt would get other inmates “all riled up,” as well.

“He would set off a chain reaction,” she said.

At the end of July 2014, LaVeigne said, Pitt threatened to rape her. Several days later, he once again exposed himself and masturbated toward her. Other times, she remembers him hanging from his bunk bed, upside down, as he masturbated.

“I have about five total inmates that have been some of the worst ones,” she said. “He’s number one.”

In the summer of 2014, LaVeigne was interviewed by an FBI agent about Pitt. She said she could not remember the agent’s name.

“They stated that they were going to try to prosecute him for being a sexual predator, for having so many masturbation offenses against numerous women during his criminal career,” she said.

But like Ward, she said she never heard back from the agent.

“Nobody could really tell us anything,” she said. “We thought they would go on with the investigation.”

The 26-year-old said she recently resigned from her position at Coleman.

“It changes you,” she said. “I’ve only been doing it for three years, but I am ready to move on.”

‘No one could faze him’

Early on the morning of Jan. 31, 2015, Pitt was acting out again.

He had hung a towel over the small window on his door to obscure the sight-line into his cell. Within his cell, he draped sheets over his bunk to create a makeshift tent.

This account is based on interviews with three officers who witnessed the events.

Pitt refused to come to his door for a prisoner count at 10 a.m. Officers were concerned that he was possibly harming himself, placing traps for officers or fashioning a makeshift weapon.

A negotiator came to Pitt’s door three times to talk to him. Pitt still did not respond.

Shortly before noon, a five-officer team outfitted with a shield, helmets and gas masks prepared to enter Pitt’s cell. One officer used a hand-held video camera to film the encounter.

The team launched pepper balls into the cell. Pitt grabbed his mattress and slammed it against his cell door. Officers then fired four bursts of pepper spray at Pitt.

The first officer into the cell carried the shield and scuffled with Pitt, who dislodged his mask. The officer, now exposed to the pepper spray, left the cell.

Another officer slipped and fell, and Pitt pinned him to the ground and began biting him. One bite penetrated his protective jumpsuit and left a mark on his bicep. A third officer began to punch Pitt repeatedly.

“I’ve never had an inmate like him before,” said one of the officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job. “He had this thing where no one could faze him.”

Eventually, the officers subdued him. They took him outside to shower in order to decontaminate his skin.

“He was telling us we were his bitches,” said another officer.

Pitt later accused the officers of using excessive force. The officer who punched Pitt has been fired on those grounds, according to interviews with officers.

Several weeks later, Pitt was transferred out of Coleman I and moved down the road into the specialized housing unit at Coleman II, officers said. There, he would serve out the remaining time of his sentence: five months.

In March 2015, Pitt was found guilty by a prison hearing officer of masturbating in front of female staffers. The official record noted that it was his 20th sexual offense since February 2014.

In April, once again, he threatened staff and masturbated in front of female officers, records show. In May, he fought another inmate.

By that point, Pitt had maxed out all possible sanctions.

On July 29, 2015, an internal disciplinary officer at Coleman found Pitt guilty of masturbating in the presence of female staffers, records show.

On that very day, he was released. He was put on a bus and sent back to D.C.

Back in D.C.

When Pitt returned to the District, he was supposed to abide by court-ordered conditions of release, including appearances for drug testing and attendance at sexual- and anger-management therapy sessions. Additionally, CSOSA placed Pitt on GPS monitoring on Aug. 8, 2015.

Pitt cut off his bracelet on Sept. 28, sending an alert to CSOSA. The next day, the battery died. Pitt’s supervision officer was unable to find him at his given address.

On Sept. 30, Pitt was arrested in the downtown Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library with synthetic drugs. A D.C. police officer found the cut-off GPS bracelet in Pitt’s backpack.

Then-D.C. Magistrate Judge William Nooter, who was considering only the drug charge but was aware of the tampering allegations, released Pitt on Oct. 2 despite a written warning from the Pretrial Services Agency that there were no release conditions that could ensure the safety of the community. The pre-trial report on Pitt given to Nooter made no mention of his prison disciplinary record. Nooter declined to comment on Pitt’s case, citing the judicial code of conduct.

Days later, CSOSA requested a warrant for Pitt’s arrest for violating the terms of his supervised release. That request lingered at the U.S. Parole Commission for a week.

It took 10 days for the signed warrant to arrive at the U.S. Marshals Service office, which is also located in D.C. The commission has since changed its delivery process to overnight mail, according to Patricia Smoot, who chairs the commission.

Smoot said the agency had no knowledge of the FBI investigation into Pitt’s behavior in prison. She said the commission had no authority to extend Pitt’s sentence beyond his release date. She also said that the commission ordered additional conditions once Pitt was on supervised release in D.C., but she declined to reveal the nature of those measures, citing privacy laws.

On Oct. 6, a 21-year-old woman woke up in her apartment to find a man standing by her bed; he stole some of her belongings and ran, according to charges filed in D.C. Superior Court. Pitt has since been charged in that burglary.

On Oct. 13, Pitt entered a home in Hill East, where a 40-year-old professor, a mother of two young daughters, was working on her laptop. He grasped her throat and dragged her across the hardwood floor into her bedroom, where he raped her and then stole her phone. She needed facial surgery to repair fractures to her cheekbone and eye socket.

A federal task force tracked her cellphone to a gas station in Prince George’s County. A Secret Service agent approached Pitt, who slammed him into a case of water bottles and ran off. It took four officers to subdue Pitt, who tried to bite the agent.

In early June, a jury convicted Pitt of first-degree sexual abuse, robbery, burglary, kidnapping and assault with significant bodily injury.

Pitt, who is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 8, could face decades in federal prison.

Officers at Coleman were outraged when they heard what he had done.

“It honestly made me sick to my stomach,” said Jose Rojas, the president of the union of Coleman corrections officers. “I believe the U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI are partially responsible for that assault in D.C.”