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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

Friday, June 30, 2017

Maryland Man Pleads Guilty to Involuntary Manslaughter After Punching and Killing a Man in Northeast Washington

Fistfight Occurred After Traffic Dispute


            WASHINGTON – Paul Hagans Jr., 37, of Waldorf, Maryland, pled guilty today to a charge stemming from his role in the killing of a man during an altercation earlier this year in Northeast Washington, D.C., announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips.


            Hagans pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The plea, which is contingent upon the Court’s approval, calls for him to be sentenced to five years in prison. The Honorable Zoe Bush scheduled sentencing for Sept. 8, 2017.


            According to the government’s evidence, on March 2, 2017, at about 3:40 p.m., Hagans was working as a flagger near the 200 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE. Around the same time, the victim, Desmond Joseph, had driven his work truck into the 200 block of Rhode Island Avenue to a building in which he had been doing repair work. At some point, Mr. Joseph exited his truck to move traffic cones out of the way, so that he could drive his truck into a parking lot.


            When Hagans noticed that Mr. Joseph had moved the traffic cones, Hagans approached him and began arguing with him. Witnesses were present when the argument took place. One heard Hagans say to Mr. Joseph: “he was a gangsta up there . . . he was a big man up there” (or words to that effect). That witness then observed Hagans throw a single punch, contacting Mr. Joseph’s head, causing Mr. Joseph backwards and hit his head on the street. According to witnesses, as soon as Hagans delivered the punch, Mr. Joseph was “knocked out” and fell backwards off the curb and onto the street. Another witness said that while Mr. Joseph and Hagans were arguing, Mr. Joseph had a cell phone in his hand and appeared to be making a phone call. Witnesses also said that while the two men were arguing, Mr. Joseph never had anything in his hands.


            Mr. Joseph, 41, was taken to the hospital with a hematoma to the back, right portion of his head with no brain activity. On or about he died from injuries caused by the defendant.


            In announcing the pleas, U.S. Attorney Phillips commended the work of those who investigated the case from the Metropolitan Police department (MPD). He also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office including Victim/Witness Advocate Jennifer Allen and Paralegal Specialist Alesha Matthews. Finally, he commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Damien Diggs, who investigated and prosecuted the case.


Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 
Updated June 30, 2017