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Press Release

Former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Found Guilty Of Hate-Based Attack of Homeless Man

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia
Defendant Sprayed Victim With Cleaning Solution After Storming Area Where Homeless People Slept

            WASHINGTON - Robert “Leo” Dwyer, 33, of Washington, D.C., was found guilty today of a hate crime for assaulting a homeless man last summer in Northwest Washington, Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen, Jr. announced.  At the time of the offense, the defendant was a member of the District of Columbia’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC).

            “Robert Dwyer targeted this victim for assault because he was homeless,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen.  “This prosecution vindicates the principle that everyone in our community deserves the protection of the law. We will not tolerate this reprehensible behavior in the District of Columbia.”

            Dwyer was found guilty after a two-day bench trial in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia of simple assault with a bias enhancement, based on the homelessness of the victim. The Honorable Neal E. Kravitz scheduled sentencing for Aug. 12, 2015. Dwyer faces a statutory maximum of 270 days of incarceration and a potential fine of up to $1,500.

            In presenting his findings today, Judge Kravitz noted that there was no question that the crime was motivated by the defendant’s hostility toward homeless people, including the victim.

            According to the government’s evidence, on July 28, 2014, at approximately 3 a.m., Dwyer was at the intersection of 17th and Corcoran Streets NW, where he stormed the area where homeless men slept and kept their property. Dwyer began throwing homeless men’s bedding and other possessions into the street, as well as dumping other belongings into nearby trash bins. He then began spraying the area with a cleaning solution, while the victim and other homeless men looked on in disbelief.

            The victim, a local homeless man, then rode his bike past the defendant.  Dwyer turned and sprayed the victim multiple times in the face, arms, and neck. He used a racial slur and profanity in declaring that he hated homeless people “dirtying up the streets.”  He also told an eyewitness that he “hate[d] these people sleeping here.”  Upon being sprayed, the victim fell off his bike, but recovered and rode his bike to the Third District police station.  He immediately reported the attack to Metropolitan Police detectives, who promptly investigated.  Dwyer left the scene prior to police arriving.  The victim received medical attention on the scene for his injuries. 

            The defendant was identified by an eyewitness as being an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner at the time for the Dupont Circle neighborhood.

            In announcing the verdict, Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen commended the work of the detectives and officers who investigated the case from the Metropolitan Police Department. He also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Arviette Spain, Victim/Witness Advocate Diana Lim, Criminal Investigator Durand Odom, and Legal Intern Michelle Munneke.  Finally, he expressed appreciation for the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Geoffrey Starks and Alysa Kociuruba and Deputy Chiefs Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez and Michelle Parikh, of the Felony Major Crimes Trial Section, who investigated and prosecuted the case.

Updated June 5, 2015

Press Release Number: 15-107