SECOND-CHANCE CITY | This is the first installment in a series that will examine issues related to repeat violent offenders in the District of Columbia. Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI
The woman was sitting on her sofa, working on her laptop, when she saw him.
A young man, 6 feet 5 inches tall, wearing fuzzy knit gloves and gray denim pants. Standing inside her condominium in Hill East near the Stadium-Armory Metro station. It was Oct. 13, in broad daylight, a little after 2 p.m.
At first, she thought he was lost. But then he grabbed her and slammed her against the wall. She punched and kicked, but he dragged her across the hardwood floor and into the bedroom. And he raped her, according to charges filed in D.C. Superior Court.
“Stop fighting, or I’ll kill you,” he said.
The 40-year-old woman, described in court papers as 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, suffered fractures in her eye socket and cheekbone.
The alleged perpetrator, 21-year-old Antwon Durrell Pitt, had an extensive criminal history, including eight arrests in four years and a robbery conviction. Three times, he was sentenced under laws designed to promote leniency and second chances for inexperienced adult offenders. In two of those cases, he was sentenced under the District’s Youth Rehabilitation Act, a 1980s-era law aimed at “deserving” offenders under the age of 22.
Pitt’s case shows that such laws, combined with lax enforcement by key federal agencies, can give many chances to violent offenders despite repeated criminal behavior and the failure to abide by terms of release, according to a Washington Post review of court records, transcripts and probation reports.
The D.C. criminal justice system relies on a mix of federal agencies and D.C. judges to swiftly intervene and communicate vital information to protect the public from violent offenders.
In the crucial weeks before the rape, a D.C. Superior Court magistrate judge and two federal agencies — the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) and the U.S. Parole Commission — failed to work together to take Pitt off the streets.
Pitt’s behavior raised many red flags, indicating escalating risk.
Just out of prison last summer after serving a robbery sentence, Pitt did not report for some of his court-ordered drug testing and anger management sessions. He did not keep in contact with his supervision officer. And in a final act of defiance, Pitt cut off the GPS monitoring bracelet affixed to his ankle and let the battery run dead. He was completely off the grid.
CSOSA, the federal agency charged with watching D.C. offenders released from prison, did not request a warrant for Pitt’s arrest for 15 days after losing contact with him. The Parole Commission waited a week after getting that request before forwarding it to law enforcement. And the magistrate judge denied a prosecutor’s request to keep Pitt behind bars, despite a troubling report from the Pretrial Services Agency.
“No conditions or combination of conditions can reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance or safety to the community,” said the report that was given to magistrate William Nooter.
The District’s Youth Rehabilitation Act was passed in 1985 to give youthful adult offenders a chance to have their records wiped clean from public view if they successfully complete their sentences, even those who commit violent crimes, with the exception of murder and a second crime of violence while armed.
At a time when the Obama administration and Congress are working to ease “mandatory minimum” sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenses, in part because of concerns that such laws have unjustly imprisoned large numbers of African Americans, D.C. law enforcement officials are increasingly concerned about the number of repeat violent offenders on the streets. The District, for example, has seen a near doubling in the percentage of homicide suspects with prior gun-related arrests.
“Sometimes, we just scratch our heads,” D.C.police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said. “We feel like there’s a revolving door for violent offenders. It’s very frustrating for us because we see the victim, and we see the impact on the victim.”
Pitt’s case is among at least 3,600 under the Youth Act since 2007 that have not been scrubbed from court records, according to Post research. Of those, 1,900 were felonies, including more than 700 for violent crimes.
CSOSA spokesman Leonard A. Sipes Jr. said the agency followed its policies and procedures in the Pitt case.
“Mr. Pitt was assessed, closely supervised, referred for appropriate services and placed on GPS,” Sipes said.
Nooter, now a Superior Court judge, and two other Superior Court judges involved in Pitt’s cases declined to comment for this story, as did two of Pitt’s supervision officers, citing privacy rules. James E. Bacchus, the chief of staff for the Parole Commission, said that the agency can in some cases prioritize certain warrants.
“The criminal activity in this case didn’t rise to the level that would have us redivert our work routine,” Bacchus said.
Pitt is set to go on trial Monday on a charge of first-degree sexual abuse, along with charges of robbery, burglary and kidnapping related to the alleged October attack.
“Mr. Pitt is about to stand trial for crimes he did not commit,” said his attorney, Judith Pipe of the Public Defender Service, in a written statement. “His DNA wasn’t on the victim, wasn’t on her sheets, and wasn’t in her apartment, and the victim doesn’t identify him as her assailant. We are confident that a fair trial — a trial based on the evidence and not on unrelated past acts and allegations — will show that Mr. Pitt did not commit these crimes.”
A prosecutor recently said in court that the victim’s DNA was found on Pitt’s glove. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment for this story.
In Hill East, the rape devastated a close-knit block of neighbors on A Street SE. Hundreds of frightened residents attended a community meeting in October.
“I want to know why he was out. He has a violent background. He has clearly targeted women in the past,” said Denise Krepp, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who lives half a block from the scene of the crime. “So who made the decision that he should be out on the streets?
“And I want a name. Because someone is responsible for this.”
Antwon Pitt was born in the District on June 1, 1994, and grew up the oldest of three children. His biological father was not involved in his life, according to court records. At age 12, Pitt was removed from his mother’s home and placed into the foster-care system. He began psychiatric treatment at age 13.
“They thought I needed somebody to talk to cause my mom was drinking,” he told a forensic psychologist, according to court records. “They thought I was affected by the drinking.”
Pitt worked at a recreation center and a movie theater when he was a teenager. The Post unsuccessfully attempted to reach several family members, and the available information about him is limited to what can be gleaned from police, court and probation records.
At 17, Pitt left Washington to enter treatment at Devereux, a live-in facility in Cobb County, Ga., that specializes in the care of emotionally troubled young adults. Pitt told the psychologist that he moved there because his social worker thought it “was the best thing for me at the time.”
The Post was unable to determine whether Pitt had a juvenile record, which would have been closed to public view. But he “had a long history of violent behavior” prior to his treatment in Georgia, according to comments from the facility’s program manager in court records.
On Oct, 28, 2011, within a few weeks after Pitt’s arrival in Georgia, a boy named DeAngelo, also 17, stepped in front of Pitt while they waited in line for medications. Pitt reacted by calling DeAngelo names, according to a police report.
Later in the evening, according to the police report, Pitt picked up a metal chair and slammed it against the back of DeAngelo’s head. DeAngelo was taken to Kennestone Hospital, where he received 11 staples.
A police officer asked Pitt why he did it.
“I thought it was a good idea,” Pitt told him.
A Cobb County grand jury indicted Pitt as an adult on charges of aggravated assault and battery. Later, a judge ordered Pitt examined for mental competency.
The psychologist wrote that Pitt had below-average intelligence and did not understand what medications he was taking. “While Pitt may suffer from a mental illness,” she wrote, there was no indication that he did not understand the difference between right and wrong.
After a plea deal in October 2012, a judge sentenced Pitt to one year in jail, with credit for the nearly 12 months he had already served.
He was sentenced under Georgia’s First Offender law, which unlike D.C.’s Youth Act can be applied only to individuals who have not been previously convicted of felony crimes. Under the law, Pitt would have no conviction on his record unless a judge revoked the sentence.
Within days of his Oct. 10, 2012, release from the Georgia jail, he was in trouble again.
After his return from Georgia, Pitt, now 18, moved into a group home on E Street SE. He commuted daily to attend Youth in Transition, an alternative school based in Baltimore.
Within a five-month span, he was arrested five times.
The first arrest occurred just two weeks after his release from jail in Georgia. On Oct. 24, a security guard at a Macy’s department store on G Street NW spotted Pitt stuffing five shirts into his pants and jacket sleeves. He was charged with shoplifting. After an appearance in court on Nov. 8, he was released upon signing a promise to return to court for his next hearing.
Pitt failed to show up for the hearing, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. On Dec. 22, he was arrested for the second time in two months and charged with a violation of the Bail Reform Act, a law that lays out criminal penalties for violating terms of release. This time he was held in jail for 16 days, unable to pay the $1,000 bond set for his shoplifting case and the $500 bond in the bail case.
On Jan. 7, 2013, he pleaded guilty to the bail charge, and the shoplifting charge was dropped. He was sentenced that day by Judge Juliet McKenna. Pitt’s social worker, Leslie Palmer, told the judge about his background, including his child neglect case beginning when he was 12 in 2006 and his stay at the Georgia facility.
“I’ve probably been the only person that he’s had . . . consistent . . . in his treatment,” Palmer said. “But as he’s getting older, our relationship isn’t as close as it used to be.”
McKenna sentenced Pitt to six months of probation under D.C.’s Youth Act. In Pitt’s case, the law would allow him to avoid the statutory minimum 90-day sentence for the Bail Reform Act violation.
McKenna declined to comment for this story.
The judge warned Pitt that if he violated his probation “then I’m kind of stuck with having to give you a 90-day sentence. So the 16 days that you’ve done already at the jail are going to seem like nothing in comparison to the time you’ll be serving if you’re not successful on probation.”
Pitt told her that he understood.
Signs of trouble appeared eight days later.
On Jan. 15, Pitt’s CSOSA probation officer, LaTonya Clement, went to look for him at his group home on E Street SE. She learned that Pitt had been “officially ‘put out’ ” of the home four days earlier. He had allegedly assaulted another resident and two staff members, according to Clement’s report. No criminal charges were apparently filed over the alleged attack.
From E Street, Pitt had moved into a group home on Kansas Avenue NW. Soon someone called police and reported that he was pacing back and forth with a knife, threatening to “kill everyone in this house,” according to police records. “I’ll smoke the police,” he told other residents. “I don’t give a damn.” He stated that he needed the knife for protection in case anyone “gets in his face,” according to two witnesses.
That day, Jan. 29, 2013, he was arrested for the third time in three months and charged with making threats. He was promptly released pending future proceedings on his personal promise that he would return to court.
At this point, with battery, aggravated assault and threats in his background, Pitt’s propensity for violent behavior was becoming unmistakable.
Pitt’s probation officer did not learn of his re-arrest until Feb. 7, records show.
Concerned about the turn of events, Clement filed her report the next day and requested a hearing in D.C. Superior Court to determine whether he had violated his probation. A hearing was eventually scheduled for Feb. 26.
Clement documented Pitt’s ejection from the E Street group home and said his whereabouts were “unknown at the writing of this violation report.” Pitt posed a “high risk for community supervision” because of his “history of assaultive behavior,” his antisocial peers and environments, lack of employment, lack of discipline, and his maturity level, she wrote.
A few days after Clement’s report, Feb. 11, Pitt was arrested for the fourth time in 31/2 months. This time, he was caught trying to go through the emergency gate at the Benning Road Metro station without paying his fare. A police officer noticed that he had a folding knife in the pocket of his pants and attempted to remove it.
“F--- no,” Pitt told the officer. “You not taking my knife.” After a struggle on the ground, the officer handcuffed Pitt. The officer found a second weapon, a 51/2-inch Rambo-style knife, in the left pocket of Pitt’s coat. He was charged with possession of a prohibited weapon.
He was held in jail for 15 days, until his Feb. 26 hearing. After the hearing, he was released into the community under the additional supervision of a “specialized supervision unit” of the Pretrial Services Agency, which is responsible for gathering information about newly arrested defendants and preparing recommendations for release options. The agency attempted to connect Pitt with mental-health services, and a judge scheduled a mental-health status hearing for him. His probation hearings were deferred for the mental evaluation.
Once again, Pitt was free on his personal recognizance, his promise to appear in court.
The next month, on March 20, Pitt was arrested for the fifth time in five months and charged with destruction of property for breaking a bedroom door at the Kansas Avenue group home.
Five days later, he was found to be “not in full compliance with release conditions, mental health services, and drug testing,” according to the court docket.
In late May, Pitt appeared before McKenna to determine whether his probation would be revoked.
Clement, Pitt’s probation officer, stated that Pitt had missed a number of drug tests and office visits.
“You used to call in the beginning,” Clement told Pitt in court. “And he would even say, ‘I’m coming,’ but still never show up.”
Clement, through a spokesman, declined to comment for this story.
McKenna stated Pitt had not shown “any compliance” with his probation or with his mental-health requirements. The judge also said that since February, Pitt’s probation officer had consistently requested that his probation be revoked.
Pitt’s defense attorney, Robert Athanas, asked that Pitt be sentenced to the time he already served and still receive the benefit of the Youth Act.
“With all due respect, Mr. Athanas, I think based on Mr. Pitt’s consistent pattern of behavior here, I don’t see that he remains eligible for treatment under the Youth Act,” McKenna stated. “There’s simply no indication here that Mr. Pitt is amenable to rehabilitation.”
The judge stated that she would sentence Pitt to 90 days, the statutory minimum for the Bail Reform Act, and he would get credit for the days he had already spent in jail.
Pitt’s defense attorney asked for that time to be served in a halfway house, so that Pitt could continue to go to school and to receive treatment. The judge denied that request, saying that Hillcrest, a behavioral health program, was “unwilling” to continue to treat Pitt because of his behavior.
The defense attorney tried again, this time asking for the judge to re-sentence him to probation.
“No,” she said. “Not at this time. Not given the history here.”
Pitt spoke up.
“I’ll plead to anything,” he told her. “I just don’t want to go to jail.”
She told Pitt to step back to the U.S. Marshals, who took him into custody. The hearing was over.
In June, Pitt pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor weapon charge in exchange for dismissal of his other criminal cases involving the threats and the destruction of property. He received another 90-day sentence, to be served at the same time as his other one for the bail violation.
On July 26, 2013, he was released from jail.
His freedom would last for four days.
Just before 2 a.m. on July 30, 2013, a 46-year-old woman was on her doorstep entering her home on Ridge Street NW. A man approached, grabbed her and threw her down. He took her purse and fled.
A D.C. police officer soon spotted a suspect — later identified as Pitt — who matched the description of the assailant. The suspect ran, and two other officers joined in pursuit. After one of the officers pulled the suspect to the ground, the man dropped a dark, rolled-up T-shirt. Inside was a BB gun. The suspect reached for the gun, and an officer struck him in the face, according to the police report. He then bit another officer’s forearm.
The officers recovered the victim’s black Samsung cellphone and the T-shirt, which had been in her purse. Pitt was charged with robbery while armed and assault on a police officer while armed.
“I just bought that gun today,” he volunteered, according to the report. “I’ve been carrying it all day. It’s not illegal.”
In the fall of 2013, Pitt pleaded guilty to one count of robbery, a felony, and one count of assault on a police officer, a misdemeanor.
Pitt’s court-appointed attorney asked for the statutory minimum for robbery, 24 months, with all but six months suspended. He also asked for sentencing under the Youth Act.
The prosecutor in the case, Marvin Lett, opposed the Youth Act sentencing. He argued that Pitt had already received leniency in Georgia for his “first offender” sentence and had failed the terms of his first Youth Act conviction in the District. By this point, Pitt had been arrested seven times and convicted three times, Lett wrote.
“Quite simply, the defendant has exhausted his second chances,” he wrote.
Pitt was also subject to a pre-sentence report by CSOSA, which involves an assessment of the defendant’s criminal and family history. Such reports are not released to the public.
But details from the report are included in Lett’s filings to the judge. They reveal, for the first time in public records, concerns about sexual behavior regarding Pitt.
Lett revealed that the report documented “fabrications, deceptions and sexually inappropriate conduct,” including an incident in which Pitt had exposed himself to a jailhouse nurse on Aug. 8, 2013. The report said both Pitt’s mother and his social worker said he needed to receive treatment for “sexual misconduct,” according to Lett.
Additionally, according to Pitt’s social worker, his “homicidal thoughts increased” after he was released from jail in Georgia in 2012, Lett said.
“The fact that Mr. Pitt is so young and has had such a troubled childhood is more than unfortunate,” the prosecutor wrote. “But it should not entirely protect him from the cause-and-effect of his own bad and violent decisions. . . . The government is concerned with releasing so quickly back into the community a defendant who continues to show ‘defiance, aggression and violent and sexual tendencies.’ ”
Lett recommended a total of 36 months in prison.
During a sentencing hearing on Dec. 3, 2013, Pitt’s attorney said his client was a young man who still had the chance to turn his life around.
“Your honor, he’s consistently communicated to his — his younger family members that they should not make the same mistakes that he has,” his attorney said.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Heidi Pasichow asked Pitt why he committed the robbery.
“I wasn’t really thinking, your honor,” he said.
Pasichow said she understood that Pitt was young. But she struggled with the severity of his crimes.
“I mean it might be bad enough if we were talking about just simply a shoplifting or just simply a car theft, but we’re talking about a battery and we’re talking about an aggravated assault and we’re talking about possession of a prohibited weapon, a knife, and in this case we’re talking about coming up from behind someone in the early morning hours and I’m sure scaring — scaring this person. And then apparently wrestling around with an officer,” she said in court.
“So I think the circumstances are dangerous, and the problem with that is as you said, you haven’t really given me any good explanation as to why you would do something like that other than you weren’t thinking.”
Pasichow sentenced Pitt to the statutory minimum — 24 months — to be served in prison. Then she considered whether he would receive the benefit of the Youth Act to allow his record to be cleared of the robbery charge if he successfully completed his supervised release.
Pitt’s defense attorney argued that he would be an ideal candidate because he was a young man who did not use drugs or alcohol.
The judge was still hesitant.
“Right, but he’s violent,” the judge said. “It’s not clear to me that he understands exactly what he’s done. He’s had no explanation for it, no thought about it and I don’t know.”
Ultimately, Pasichow decided to sentence Pitt under the Youth Act.
“It’s a very difficult decision,” the judge said. “I’m concerned about Mr. Pitt. I’m going to give him the benefit of the Youth Act sentence, but we’ll see.”
She ordered a list of conditions for Pitt after his release from prison, including: mental-health treatment, sexual therapy and instructions to find a job or further his education.
“Good luck, Mr. Pitt,” she told him.
Pasichow declined to comment for this article through a court spokeswoman.
On July 29, 2015, about 850 miles south of D.C., Pitt was released from a high-security federal prison close to Orlando, the Coleman II facility, which houses the notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. Pitt had spent more than 19 months in prison and earned 126 days for time spent in jail in the District, according to Bureau of Prison records.
He was now 21 years old. Under the terms of his release, he would be monitored for three years — until July 2018 — by CSOSA. After he returned to Washington, he was fitted on Aug. 6 with a GPS bracelet. As an offender under “intensive” supervision requirements, Pitt would be required to have at least eight contacts a month with CSOSA.
His supervision officer, George Eatmon, last had contact with Pitt on Sept. 18, court records show. Pitt also had missed court-ordered drug-testing appointments and anger-management sessions. Eatmon, through a spokesman, declined to comment for this story.
Sipes, the spokesman for CSOSA, said that Eatmon followed agency policy by trying to bring Pitt back into compliance:
On Sept. 21, Pitt reported to CSOSA and had contact with someone there, but not with Eatmon, the agency said. After that, there was no contact. The next day, Eatmon tried to visit Pitt at home but could not find him.
On Sept. 28, Pitt did not appear for a scheduled appointment. That day, CSOSA received a “master tamper alert” — indicating that Pitt had cut off his GPS bracelet and removed it from his ankle. His phone was disconnected as well.
On Sept. 29, the agency learned the GPS battery had died.
But Pitt would be back within the grasp of law enforcement within a day.
About 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 30, a Wednesday night, Pitt was found by a D.C. police officer in a restroom stall on the third floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in downtown Washington. He had a substance that appeared to be synthetic marijuana, along with a digital scale and small plastic bags. In his backpack, Pitt carried his GPS bracelet, the police report said.
Pitt was arrested on three charges: unlawful possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance of synthetic cannabinoid, possession of drug paraphernalia and tampering with a GPS device.
Two days later, Pitt was taken from his jail cell to appear in court for a formal reading of the drug charge against him.
Pitt was in a basement level courtroom — C-10 — where recent arrestees are brought in several at a time. The presiding magistrate judge typically spends just a few minutes on each case to decide whether to keep defendants in custody or release them.
A Pretrial Services Agency report, summarizing the defendant’s criminal history, is given to the judge. On Pitt’s report, there was a note that a Pretrial Services Agency employee had spoken on the phone with Pitt’s supervision officer. Pitt’s compliance was poor, the report stated. The report did not mention that CSOSA had lost contact with Pitt or that he was supposed to be wearing a GPS bracelet. It did warn the judge that no release options would assure “safety to the community.”
Cliff Keenan, the director of the Pretrial Services Agency, said such language indicates that a defendant has been assessed as “high risk.”
On Oct. 2, Nooter was the presiding magistrate judge.
A transcript of the brief proceeding reveals that there was confusion about Pitt’s GPS monitoring.
“It just says that he had a GPS monitoring device that appeared to be tampered with. It doesn’t indicate that he was supposed to be wearing a GPS device,” Nooter said that day.
Noting that Pitt’s compliance with his supervised release had been poor, the prosecutor requested a “five-day hold,” a stop-gap action commonly used for offenders who have violated the terms of their release from prison. The hold would allow CSOSA time to request a warrant from the Parole Commission to keep Pitt in custody.
Nooter denied the request. He did not explain his reasoning during the hearing. Instead, he told Pitt to return to court later that month and to check in with his supervision officer by the following week.
He also told Pitt that he must not commit any more crimes.
“Mr. Pitt, I’m going to release you in this matter on your personal promise to return to court,” the judge told him.
Pitt was not refitted with a new GPS bracelet before he was ushered back into the community.
Nooter declined to be interviewed for this article.
For Krepp, the Hill East neighborhood commissioner, the decision to release Pitt is maddening.
“Someone said, ‘I look at his background, and I think he’s okay,’ ” she said. “And that individual owes my neighbor an apology. Because but for him being released, he would not have been in this neighborhood.”
Oct. 6 was the deadline for Pitt to report back to his CSOSA supervision officer. He failed to do so. If he had checked in that day, he would have been refitted with a GPS bracelet, according to Sipes, the CSOSA spokesman.
The day Pitt missed his deadline, just before dawn, a 21-year-old woman was sleeping in her bed in her apartment on Michigan Avenue NE, in a neighborhood close to Catholic University and the Brookland Metro stop.
When she woke up, a tall man — later identified in charging documents as Pitt — was standing next to her bed. “I will get out of here,” he told her. He allegedly took her tote bag, her phone and her wallet, along with a photograph of her mother.
That same day, in an attempt to return Pitt to custody despite the magistrate’s ruling, CSOSA filed an “alleged violation report” to request that the Parole Commission issue a warrant for his arrest.
“By the time a warrant is requested, there is a very substantive reason that someone should go back to jail,” commission spokesman Bacchus said.
The U.S. Parole Commission took seven days to grant that request. In the meantime, no one was out looking for Pitt.
A parole commissioner signed off on the warrant on Oct. 13. The signed warrant had to be mailed to the U.S. Marshals, who would then enter it into the National Crime Information Center database, allowing law enforcement officers to arrest Pitt. The signed warrant did not arrive at the U.S. Marshals until Oct. 23 and was entered into the database that day, according to a Marshals spokesman.
“We don’t sit on requests for warrants,” said Supervisory Deputy Linwood Battle.
On Oct. 13, Pitt allegedly entered the 40-year-old woman’s home in Hill East, through an unlocked door, and raped her. He allegedly stole her cellphone, her husband’s checks and cash and fled to the Stadium-Armory Metro station, where he was recorded on surveillance video.
A task force composed of D.C. police, Secret Service and U.S. Capitol Police officers began to track the cellphone belonging to the victim.
The next day, Oct. 14, officers pinpointed the cellphone at a gas station in Prince George’s County, Md. When an officer approached Pitt at the station, he ran and was eventually wrestled to the ground, a police report says. One officer needed medical care after the struggle, according to court records.
Pitt had in his possession the cellphones of both the burglary and rape victims, according to the charges filed in D.C. Superior Court.
In December, Pitt was extradited to Washington. He remains in jail awaiting trial.
In April, the U.S. attorney’s office indicted Pitt on 10 charges related to the alleged rape and burglary. Earlier this spring, Pitt was also indicted on charges related to the drug arrest in the library, including tampering with his GPS bracelet.
Steven Rich, Peter Hermann and Keith L. Alexander contributed to this report.