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Press Release

United States Attorney's Office Opposes Release of Violent Offenders

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia

            WASHINGTON - The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia filed a response in opposition to a motion by the Public Defender Service seeking the wholesale and indiscriminate release of all misdemeanor defendants currently serving sentences after being convicted of their crimes in a court of law. 

            “These misdemeanor defendants include violent criminals convicted of offenses involving vicious and armed assaults, assault on police officer and other first responders, bomb threats, voyeurism, stalking, indecent exposure to minors, and domestic violence,” said United States Attorney Timothy J. Shea. “This pandemic should not be used as a basis to release violent criminals onto the streets of Washington. “Now more than ever, as law enforcement authorities are being stretched thin due to the impact of COVID-19, the rule of law must be maintained.”

            In its filing, the United States Attorney’s Office wrote that each defendant’s “sentence was imposed by an impartial judge after consideration of the crime of conviction, the impact on the victim, the criminal history of the offender, and other relevant statutory and prudential factors. Wholesale relief without regard to these factors would neither do justice nor serve public safety.” 

            The filing also expressed concern about the release of individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses. According to the supplemental response filed on April 3, 2020, “categorically releasing all domestic violence offenders at this point is likely to create an even greater increased risk of violence in the community.” The filing went on to express the concern that granting “early release to all of those offenders, at the same time, with little notice to victims, into a community facing severe public health restrictions[, would] uniquely put those members of the community in increased danger.”

            Releasing all inmates who have committed the aforementioned crimes, without taking into account the victims impacted by their conduct, without concrete evidence that their release would benefit the health of people both inside and outside the jail, and without a case-by-case assessment of whether a defendant poses an ongoing danger to the community, would offend sensible notions of justice and public safety.  Consistent with the March 26, 2020, directive of the U.S. Attorney General, however, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia is undertaking a careful, case-by-case review – taking into consideration, among other things, the nature of the defendant’s conviction, the potential risk posed by the defendant to the community, and the possibility of release conditions that will assure the safety of the community –  in order to facilitate the release of some vulnerable, non-violent inmates who are not likely to pose a risk to public safety.

Updated April 6, 2020

Press Release Number: 20-058