Judge Sentences Homicide Defendant to Serve 6.25 Years

DC Superior Court Judge Milton Lee sentenced a homicide defendant in a 2019 homicide case to over six years in prison.  

On the evening of July 21, 2019, Metropolitan Police Department officers found 27-year-old Jamal Bandy suffering from multiple gunshot wounds on the 1300 block of Congress Street, SE. According to court documents, Bandy succumbed to his injuries an hour after being found. 

Law enforcement officials later identified Romiel Hightower, 31, as one of two suspects on the scene. The second suspect has not yet been identified. 

Hightower was indicted on first-degree murder while armed and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. 

On Feb. 24, Hightower pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter while armed, which carries a potential maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. As part of the plea agreement, the prosecutor and Hightower’s defense attorney, Jason Tulley, agreed to recommend six-and-a-quarter years in prison with five-years of supervised release.

During the sentencing on June 21, Judge Lee expressed his concern that the parties’ proposed such a short sentence.

“The sentence is on the light side,” Judge Lee said. “And what the decedent’s family said to me is not insignificant.”

Tulley argued that Hightower has expressed genuine remorse for his actions. He told Judge Lee that Hightower \pleaded guilty despite knowing that, given the challenges to the prosecution’s investigation, he would have had a high chance of being found not guilty in a trial.

Tulley argued that this showed Hightower’s willingness to accept full responsibility.  

“I’d like to apologize to the Bandy family and Mr. Bandy himself,” Hightower said. “This has been an ongoing nightmare, and there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about what I did.”

Judge Lee then listened to statements by several members of Bandy’s family regarding the impact that the incident had on their lives.

“To Mr. Hightower, I appreciate you acknowledging you’re wrong and apologizing because it helps,” one of the family members said. “But at some point, in time, we have to say enough is enough and you need to get the maximum sentence.” 

After hearing from the family members, Judge Lee decided he would accept the sentence that both parties proposed, citing Hightower’s decision to plead guilty despite having a good chance of winning a trial as a major part of his decision. 

As part of his sentence, Hightower will have to register as a gun offender.