The Washington Post

Death of Labor Department lawyer accused of sex assault was suicide, officials say

The senior Labor Department attorney charged with sexually assaulting a co-worker killed himself in his jail cell by slashing his throat with a razor, according to two law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the case.

It is unclear how Paul Mannina got the razor. One of the officials said it was a jail-issued razor that Mannina tampered with. But the other official said that is still part of the investigation. Both officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the probe is ongoing.

Jail officials have declined to comment, and the D.C. medical examiner’s office said Wednesday that it had not made a final determination on Mannina’s cause of death.

In an interview Wednesday, the victim’s husband said Mannina and his wife were platonic friends.

Mannina, a senior attorney at the Labor Department, was accused of beating the woman in her Northwest Washington home this month so severely that she required a titanium plate in her face. On Tuesday, a day after his first court appearance, Mannina was found with his throat slashed in a D.C. jail cell he was sharing with another inmate, police officials said.

2010 photo of Paul Mannina. (Courtesy of Robert Friedel)

Standing outside his brick split-level house Wednesday morning, the woman’s husband broke his silence on the mysterious case by angrily defending his wife’s relationship with Mannina.

“They were friends. We were friends. It was never, ever anything sexual,” he said.

The Washington Post generally does not identify victims of sexual assault — or close relatives whose identities would make clear who the victim is.

Mannina, a respected lawyer and family man who was 58 when he died and lived in Montgomery County’s Ashton community, had been charged with first-degree burglary while armed and third-degree sexual assault. He faced a maximum of 60 years in prison.

The husband said the attack stunned both him and his wife, who is 60 and has two children. The victim and her husband have been married for 28 years and have known Mannina for 21 — since he joined her as an attorney at the Labor Department.

The two colleagues and their spouses socialized occasionally over the years, the husband said.

“I liked him,” he said. “There were never any signs that anything like this could happen.”

On Mannina’s death, the husband said, “There are a lot of tragedies to go around here” — but he declined to say much more. “I’m angry at Paul. Very angry. But right now, I care exclusively about my wife and her welfare.”

He also addressed the crush that his wife told police she believed Mannina had on her. It was innocent, the husband said. “She said she ‘thought’ he liked her, but she didn’t think it was anything serious,” he said. “She is an innocent victim, a victim of being this man’s friend.”

He said the two loved gardens and photographing them, which they had planned to do on the day of the attack. His wife had dropped him off at the airport for a business trip early that morning and had told him she was meeting Mannina later for coffee and to visit and photograph gardens. The two would often go out together, he said, while he was out of town on business trips. These were nothing more than outings between friends, he said.

The brutal attack on the morning of June 5 involved a stun gun, handcuffs and pepper spray. At first, the woman told police that the attack was random, but she later pointed to Mannina.

Her husband said she initially denied identifying Mannina as her attacker because she was afraid.

“She didn’t know if he would return to the house and harm her, me or our kids.”

His wife, he said, is recovering — but with difficulty. “She’s afraid to open the door now. It will be another 100 years before she lets anyone into this house again.”

Clarence Williams, Peter Hermann and Paul Duggan contributed to this report.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.


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