A D.C. Superior Court judge this morning found probable cause that three suspects accused of participating in stabbing a teenage male while yelling homophobic slurs at him June 26 may have committed the crime. Magistrate Judge Frederick Sullivan then issued varying release conditions for each suspect as they await a grand jury hearing to determine whether the charges against them will proceed to trial.
Sullivan ordered Ali M. Jackson, the alleged stabber, held without bond. He released Desmond Raimon Campbell to a high-intensity supervision program (HISP) with an order to stay away from the area where the attack occurred, near the Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. Sullivan released Alvonica Jackson with an order to submit to drug testing, and to avoid both the Howard Theatre area and the victim, a 16-year-old male.
All three defendants are next due in court Aug. 16 for a felony status conference.
The three had been offered a plea deal July 6 by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, but the defense rejected the deal, saying there was not enough time to fully consider it, and that it was ''wired,'' meaning all three defendants would have to accept its terms.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jin Park told the court that the plea deal would have involved Campbell and Alvonica Jackson pleading guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon, and Ali M. Jackson pleading guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon with a bias enhancement.
The July 9 preliminary hearing was at times chaotic, as all three lawyers for the defense fiercely cross-examined the government's witness, Detective Kenneth Arrington of the Metropolitan Police Department.
Among the many topics raised by lawyers Camilla Hsu, Bernard Crane and Mani Golzari were statements made by the victim and witnesses to the crime; questions about whether the victim had previously been acquainted with Ali Jackson; and the third-hand nature of Arrington's testimony, based primarily on interviews of other detectives and police officers at the scene, and witnesses not directly interviewed by Arrington.
The defense also questioned Arrington's handling of the case, asking why he had not prepared the charging document and seemed unaware of some of its contents. Defense attorneys focused particularly on a female companion of the victims who was allegedly not searched or questioned by police. Arrington, noting he was not the only detective or police officer at the crime scene, said he did not know if the female companion had been searched.
Arrington told the court the victim and his female companion had encountered Ali Jackson earlier on the night of June 26 near the intersection of Florida and 7th Streets NW. Jackson allegedly asked the female, ''Why did you bring this faggot around here?'' The victim called Ali Jackson a ''bitch,'' and Ali Jackson was then heard asking a group of bystanders for a knife so he could stab the victim. He then disappeared down an alley next to the Howard Theatre, near the intersection of 6th and T Streets NW.
Arrington also testified that a female witness told police she had seen Alvonica Jackson steal $3 from a tip jar in the women's restroom inside the Howard Theatre sometime before the stabbing, and overheard her talking with Campbell, her boyfriend, about robbing someone. They then exited the theater to the street.
Arrington said that, according to the victim, Ali Jackson emerged from the alley at a later time, carrying a knife and pointing it at the victim and saying, ''Imma poke your faggy ass.'' The victim then grabbed a can of pepper spray he was carrying and sprayed it at Ali Jackson. The victim told police he was then lifted off his feet and put in a chokehold from behind, while Ali Jackson stabbed him three times.
Arrington cited a witness saying it was Campbell who placed the victim in a chokehold as the victim continued to spray his attackers with pepper spray, when Alvonica helped to restrain the victim. The suspects released the victim when they heard police sirens, with Alvonica Jackson and Campbell telling the victim, ''Your faggy ass deserved that.'' Ali Jackson was arrested shortly afterward when police discovered him in the 1800 block of 7th Street NW.
Arrington testified that Alvonica Jackson was arrested and detained after she interfered with police officers arresting her brother. Campbell returned to the scene and told police he had been involved in the incident.
Arrington said the victim positively identified Ali Jackson as his stabber. The male witness also positively identified Ali Jackson as the stabber and Alvonica Jackson and Desmond Campbell as his accomplices.
The victim suffered wounds to his left arm and leg, and a 2-inch deep wound in the left lower back. He was treated at Howard University Hospital and released.
Arrington also testified that Campbell and Alvonica Jackson made derogatory comments about the victim's perceived sexual orientation when they were interviewed at the police station later that night.
Hsu, representing Ali Jackson, grilled Arrington for more than an hour in court on instructions detectives had given to witnesses, the roles of particular officers in the investigation, and a lack of notes taken by Arrington.
''You're asking so many questions, I'm paying half-attention,'' Sullivan said gruffly to Hsu. ''Get to the point.''
Hsu asked Arrington whether the victim and Ali Jackson had known each other prior to the stabbing incident. Arrington answered that they had, just from hanging around the area close to the Howard Theatre. Arrington said Jackson had called the victim a ''fag'' previously.
Crane, defending Campbell, focused much of his cross-examination of Arrington on the presence of the victim's female companion and asked why she had not been interviewed. Crane also suggested his client could not have seen Jackson with a knife because his line of sight was blocked by the victim's body. According to Crane, his client's actions were in response to seeing his girlfriend's younger brother being sprayed with pepper spray.
Golzari, defending Alvonica Jackson, raised the point that neither mace nor blood from the victim had been found on Alvonica Jackson's clothes, unlike those of Campbell and Ali Jackson, and that Alvonica Jackson did not have $3 on her person that the female witness claimed she had taken from the Howard Theatre restroom earlier.
All three defense attorneys argued against a finding of probable cause, saying that the government had failed to negate whether Ali Jackson had acted in self-defense, that Campbell could not have known whether Ali Jackson had a knife, and that Alvonica Jackson played a limited role in the incident.
Friends and family members of the defendants, sitting in the back row of the courtroom, appeared to be pleased as the defense lawyers questioned Arrington, and muttered complaints when Sullivan ruled to sustain Park's objections those questions. At one point, two U.S. marshals escorted Campbell's cousin out of court for making audible comments about the way the case was developing.
Sullivan found probable cause existed to move forward with the case against all three.
Ali Jackson, who pleaded guilty June 5 to a charge of simple assault for hitting a store owner who was attempting to stop him from stealing, was held without bond after Park argued that he had a history of violating the conditions of his release, stemming from previous arrests in the District, his deferred sentencing agreement in the simple assault case, and previous arrests in Maryland on unrelated charges.
''There's nothing about the defendant that should convince the court he's not a danger to the community,'' Park said.
Ali Jackson was also previously charged with carrying a dangerous weapon, in October 2011, but found not guilty by a jury. According to charging documents in that case, Jackson was arrested in the 900 block of 3rd Street NW by police officers who said Jackson rode a bicycle through a group of transgender women while brandishing a knife.
Sullivan found that even though Campbell had a more extensive criminal record due to convictions for disorderly conduct and on drug-related charges, as well as other arrests, because most of his those convictions and arrests occurred more than nine years ago, he posed less of a danger to the community. Sullivan approved Campbell's entrance into a ''high intensity supervision program,'' provided he is deemed eligible.
Park asked that Alvonica Jackson be held without bond, but her lack of a criminal record and the presence of a stable home influenced Sullivan to release her.
''I can protect the community and reasonably assure she'll come back,'' Sullivan said in explaining his decision.