First Time Gun Offender Sentenced Under Youth Act

A DC Superior Court judge sentenced a weapons possession defendant under the Youth Rehabilitation Act (YRA) on Nov. 2. 

Hassan El Hawa is charged with carrying a pistol outside a home or business. 

Judge Judith Smith sentenced El Hawa to nine months in jail and one year supervised probation but suspended the time. However, she imposed a six-month probation sentence where El Hawa will have to complete 45 hours of community service, register as a gun offender, complete a mental health assessment, be employed or seeking employment, or be enrolled in school and participate in a mentoring program. 

El Hawa, 23, was arrested in 2019 after the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers investigated what they deemed as suspicious activity and found a firearm under his car seat, according to court documents. El Hawa was the only one arrested during that incident. 

Documents also state that the defendant was not licensed to carry a firearm. Additionally, the firearm recovered from the scene was not registered in the DC area. 

During the hearing, the prosecutor recommended a six-month probation period, saying they want El Hawa to be a productive member of society. 

However, the prosecution opposed El Hawa being sentenced under the YRA. The prosecutor argued that El Hawa had previously come in contact with the law on a weapons offense and even though the case was thrown out, the current charge would mark the second gun offense. 

Defense attorney Jacqueline Williams argued against the prosecution’s assessment saying that it is unfair for the prosecution to hold that against him when her client was not charged with anything. Williams further argued that this case is purely possessory and there was no indication of El Hawa intending to use the weapon or engage in any violent actions. 

Williams urged Judge Smith to consider the YRA, saying El Hawa was just the type of defendant the act is trying to protect. She said El Hawa has been trying to enroll in higher education and find a job.

Williams said it has been difficult for her client to get a job because of this pending case.

“I really do want to change and turn my life around,” said El Hawa.

El Hawa told Judge Smith he wants to get a business degree and maybe start his own electrician business. 

Maria Marzullo wrote this story.