Jail Separation Order Puts Defendants’ Safety in Jeopardy, Says Defense Team

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During a Feb. 3 status hearing, defense attorneys for multiple co-defendants charged in a conspiracy case argued that the separation order the prosecution imposed has been a “logistical nightmare for the jail.”

Co-defendants Nkobia Edwards, 20, Charles Hill Jr, 22, Dominique Franks, 22,  Melvin Morris, 24, Michael Mason, 19,  Dajuan Jones, 23, and Alvin Jackson, 28,  are incarcerated for their alleged conspiracies and involvement in a non-fatal construction site shooting. 

The shooting occurred on the 3300 block of 34th Street, NW on June 17, 2021. According to court documents, a car pulled up to the construction site and three gunmen exited the vehicle to open fire on the site before hopping back into a stolen vehicle and fleeing the scene. A vehicle pursuit lasted approximately 30 minutes before Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers captured the car and its four occupants.

Additionally, Mason and Jones are also facing additional charges for their involvement in the murder of 21-year-old Brea Moon, which occurred on the 3900 block of Alabama Avenue, SE on April 7, 2020.

Jones and Jackson are also allegedly charged with assault with intent to kill while armed for a shooting that occurred on the 5000 block H Street, SE on May 2, 2020.  

Apart from the other co-defendants, Mason is allegedly charged with the murder of 18-year-old Antwuan Roach, which occurred on the 3800 block of East Capitol Street, NE on May 22, 2020.

Both murders were believed to be gang-related incidents, according to court documents.

Due to a prosecution separation order, all co-defendants have been separated in the DC jail for over 16 months.

The prosecution listed the reasoning behind the separation as crew-related issues and misconduct by the defendants, noting that they accessed cell phones and social media while in jail. DC Superior Court Judge Anthony Epstein  questioned the purpose of the separation when it comes to addressing the issues behind it. 

Attorneys Howard McEachern and Gemma Stevens  representing Edwards, attorney Shawn Sukumar representing Hill, attorneys Megan Allbrun and Julie Swaney representing Morris, attorney David Knight and Prescott Loveland representing Jones, attorney Euphus Belu-John representing Jackson, and Ain Andrew all joined to request the separation order to be waived.

The defense claimed that their clients’ access to education is paused since the separation order prevents them from being in the DC Jail’s communal classroom. They also argued that the defendants’ safety is in jeopardy due to their placement among members of an alleged rival group. 

Judge Epstein said he needed time to discuss the issue with DC Superior Court Judge Milton Lee before deciding on the separation waiver request. 

During the Friday status hearing, the prosecution also informed the court of standing plea offers, stating that one of the defendants, who was not present in court, pleaded guilty. The prosecution is still waiting on others to respond. 

On behalf of Mason, attorney Andrew rejected the plea offer, while the others asked for more time. 

Even though the offers are wired, Mason’s rejection of his plea offer did not affect the others because he holds an additional murder charge not listed in DC Courts, besides the murders of Moon and Roach, said prosecution. 

Frank, Hill, and Jackson, along with others, had their families present in the courtroom for support.  

For the ease of future hearings, Judge Epstein split the defendants into three groups, with some overlapping into multiple. 

  • Group 1: Edwards, Franks, Morris, and Hill.
  • Group 2: Hill, Mason, Jones, and Jackson. 
  • Group 3: Jones and Jackson.

Status hearings for the groups are scheduled for March 17. 

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