Judge Grants Motion to Withdraw Murder Defendant’s Guilty Plea

During a motions hearing May 15, a DC Superior Court judge granted a murder defendant’s request to withdraw his guilty plea.

In September, Alton Rivers pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for his role in the death  of 68-year-old Anthony Anderson on the 3600 block of 14th Street, NW on July 27, 2018.

Judge Judith Bartnoff said she granted the motion because of the “factual disputes” in the case. She noted that Rivers’ alleges Anderson was the initial aggressor and that he swung first. She also said the prosecution’s version of the events was unclear about who the initial aggressor was and whether or not Rivers was defending himself.

According to Judge Bartnoff, Rivers’ previous defense attorney knew he was hesitant with pleading guilty. Judge Bartnoff said she also noticed his “uneasiness” and noted that when he accepted the plea agreement he made statements about acting in self-defense. She said Rivers’ pre-sentencing report also raised questions about his guilt.

Rivers’ previous defense attorney, Madalyn Harvey, motioned to withdraw from the case two days before he his Dec. 8 sentencing. Defense attorney Lisbeth Sapirstein was appointed on Jan. 8, DC Courts states.

In response, the prosecutor said witnesses saw the confrontation between Rivers and Anderson and support their assertion that Rivers is responsible for Anderson’s murder.

According to court documents, Rivers told police that Anderson initiated the confrontation, began jumping around and put his hands behind his back. He said he believed Anderson was reaching for a weapon, so he pulled a screwdriver out of his pocket and stabbed Anderson once.

A witness told police Rivers pulled out what appeared to be a knife and repeatedly stabbed Anderson in the chest, the documents state.

During the hearing, Sapirstein also spoke with Judge Bartnoff at the bench about Rivers’ competency. Judge Bartnoff ordered Rivers to undergo a preliminary competency screening and scheduled a mental observation hearing on May 17.

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