A DC Superior Court judge accepted a plea deal and sentenced a sex abuse defendant to serve two-and-a-half years in prison.
Joseph Howard pleaded guilty to third-degree sex abuse for an assault that happened on July 11, 2020, on the 2700 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE.
In accordance with the plea deal parties made, Judge Neal Kravitz sentenced Howard to four years, one-and-a-half of which were suspended, followed by five years of supervised probation.
The conviction will require the 30-year-old defendant to register as a sex offender for 10 years. He must also stay away from the victim and the area of the offense.
The prosecutor said the victim was unable to attend the Nov. 19 sentencing but would have attended if she could.
The prosecutor showed the court a still image from surveillance footage of the victim before she was assaulted. They said the victim was “cooperative, brave and inspiring” throughout the process. They said the attack has hindered her personal life because she has constant flashbacks. The prosecution continued, calling Howard a “sexual predator” and relaying the details of how the assault occurred.
According to the prosecution, Howard exposed himself to the victim, who told him to leave her alone. He responded by pushing her to the ground and telling her “you’re gonna suck this d***”. Howard then attempted to pull off the victim’s shorts and underwear. He then stopped assaulting her when a bystander heard her screams.
Judge Kravitz asked the prosecution why the sentence in the plea is light, considering the severity of the case. The prosecutor said the reasoning was the victim wanted closure. Defense attorney Prescott Loveland said he “respectfully disagrees” that the sentence is light because the victim wants closure. Rather, he said the sentence is appropriate for the circumstances.
Loveland showed Judge Kravitz family pictures of Howard, provided by his mother. He said Howard has had a hard life which has included family issues and major mental health issues.
Howard also has a substance abuse problem with PCP, the prosecution said.
Loveland also said Howard was not in his right mind at the time of the assault because he was homeless at the time and none of Howard’s prior assaults were sexual in nature.
He also said his client was put in harsh conditions at DC Jail and experienced “draconian english punishment.”
Howard made a statement to the courtroom, apologizing to Judge Kravitz for his actions. He said he was going through a tough time at the time of the assault. He then apologized for to the victim and asked for her forgiveness. Howard said he plans to change his life once he gets out of prison, and wants to start a business. Howard said he has a lot going for himself and plans to surround himself with family.
As part of his probation, Howard must participate in a drug treatment program, a mental health evaluation, sex offender counseling and housing assistance.
The prosecution agreed to dismiss two misdemeanor cases Howard picked up in 2020 as part of the plea deal.