D.C. Domestic Violence Cases Saw 30 Percent Decrease in Simple Assault After 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic 

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D.C. Witness observed a 30 percent decrease in domestic violence cases involving simple assault in the District of Columbia after the 2020 pandemic. 

In 2022, there have been 84 domestic violence cases reported by D.C. Witness.

The District of Columbia describes domestic violence in their legal code as “ a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner, dating partner, or family member. The term “domestic violence” includes physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.”

The Council on Criminal Justice reported the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated domestic violence rates because victims were confined to their homes and forced to spend time with their abusers due to stay-at-home orders.  

Assault with a dangerous weapon is the most prevalent type of domestic violence incident, representing 58.8 percent of reported cases. Furthermore, simple assault is the second most common incident, being 17.6 percent of the total. Sex abuse, 13.2 percent, and threats, 10.4 percent, were the least common incidents. The total number of incidents for threats over the three year period is 19. The total number of sex abuse of the time span is 24. There was a total number of 32 reports for simple assault and assault with a dangerous weapon is 107 reports. 

This chart depicts the relationship between the type of charge and its corresponding sentence. This comparison shows how domestic violence defendants are more commonly charged with firearm offenses and simple assault. 

Between 2020 and 2022, 16 defendants were sentenced with simple assault with an incarceration period of two months. Additionally, 24 defendants were sentenced with firearm offenses with an incarceration period of nearly 8.5 months. 

According to D.C. Code, threats applied to “whoever threatens within the District of Columbia to kidnap any person or to injure the person of another or physically damage the property of any person or of another person”. D.C. Witness reported charges of threats, including kidnapping and bodily harm. 

The highest number of threats were in 2021 with eight reported incidents. Additionally, there were five reported threats in 2020 and six during 2022. 

According to D.C. Defense Attorney, Shawn Sukumar, assault with a dangerous weapon is “any assault defined under the simple assault statute that is committed with a weapon that is defined under DC as a dangerous weapon, making it aggravated.” 

D.C. Witness reported charges for assault with a dangerous weapon throughout the years 2020 through 2022, as depicted in the chart above. From 2020 to 2022, assault with a dangerous weapon saw a 53.57 percent increase.

On April 13, 2021, Miles Sullivan pleaded guilty to attempted assault with a dangerous weapon for shooting his girlfriend. The incident occurred at a laundromat with Sullivan pointing a firearm at his pregnant girlfriend before shooting her in the chest. 

The victim described Sullivan as having anger management issues, according to a D.C. Witness article. Sullivan was sentenced to two years in prison with three years on supervised release. 

D.C. Witness also reported charges of sex abuse, which ranges through four different levels from penetration to sexual contact. The chart shows an increase in sex abuse cases in 2022, with a total of 10 reported incidents. D.C. Witness also documented six sex abuse charges during 2021 and eight incidents in 2020. 

On Nov. 21, a 30-year-old defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree child sex abuse. An anonymous phone call was received by Child Protective Services in Prince George County, Md, on August 31, 2021 in connection with the sexual abuse of a 9-year-old girl. 

The victim stated the defendant, her father, exposed himself to her. The victim described being scared and shaking. The defendant ordered her to put her mouth on his private part. 

The defendant confessed to police officers when questioned about the sexual abuse. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 16. 

According to the DC Code, “simple assault is committed by an individual when an attempt or effort, with force or violence, to injure another person.” D.C. Witness reported 32 charges of simple assault throughout 2020, 2021, and 2022. Charges of simple assault decreased from 2020 to 2022. Specifically, there was a peak of 13 simple assault charges in 2020, which has decreased to nine reported incidents in 2022. This change from 2020 to 2022, is a 30.77 percent decrease from 13 to 9 reports. 

On June 6, when Charles Augburn pleaded guilty to simple assault and unlawful possession of a firearm due to prior conviction for an incident on Jan. 30. The altercation between the defendant and the defendant’s girlfriend occurred with her accusing Augburn of flirting with other women. His girlfriend allegedly revealed a taser during the argument with Augburn brandishing a firearm, according to D.C. Witness. 

Augburn registered as a gun offender and was sentenced for supervised release through the Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA). 

While the aforementioned cases do not include murder charges, domestic violence cases can escalate and result in victim fatalities.

On June 9, 2021, Steven Robinson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder while armed for shooting his girlfriend Shanika Williams on July 12, 2020. On the day of the shooting, MPD officers arrived at the scene of the crime and pronounced Williams dead after identifying a gunshot wound on her chest. 

During the sentencing, Robinson apologized, saying “it was in cold blood…I don’t even think I will probably ever be at peace. She was my friend.” 

After pleading guilty, the defendant was sentenced to 12 years in prison, as well as five years of supervised release. 

Similarly, on Oct. 3, 2022, a jury found 57-year-old Darnell Sterling guilty of second-degree murder. The victim, his 34-year-old girlfriend Olga Ooro, had previously filed for a stay away order that Sterling violated at the time of the murder.

 Ooro was reported missing on July 17, 2020 and her body has still not been found. 

According to D.C. Witness reports, this incident was the culmination of multiple physical altercations, as Ooro previously reported that Sterling busted her lip and injured her knees in April 2019. 

Sterling is still held at the DC Jail and his sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 2.

Overall, the impact of the pandemic varied across different domestic violence offenses: threats, sex abuse, simple assault, and assault with a dangerous weapon. It is crucial to note that this research solely pertains to cases reported between Jan. 1, 2020 to Nov. 15, 2022 in the District of Columbia. 

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