Victim Shares Disbelief that ‘Milk Crate Would Lead To A Life Or Death Situation’

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On July 10, DC Superior Court Judge Andrea L Hertzfeld imposed an eight year prison sentence for a defendant convicted in connection to a non-fatal shooting that stemmed from a disagreement regarding a milk crate.

Diandre Caesar, 30, was convicted by a jury on April 9 of two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon and two counts of possession of a firearm in a crime of violence for a non-fatal shooting that occurred on June 28, 2022, on the 2200 block of New York Avenue, NE. 

Video surveillance showed an individual, identified as Caesar, throw a milk crate over a fence and into the drive-through lane of a McDonald’s while he was mowing the lawn of a nearby parking lot. 

One of the victims, who found his path blocked by the milk crate, left his car to throw the crate back over the fence. He attempted to drive away, but Caesar allegedly retrieved the milk crate and threw it back over the fence, striking the victim’s vehicle. 

An argument ensued, and dash camera footage from the victim’s car captured Caesar and two victims exchanging insults. When the victims, who were in the car with their infant, drove away, Caesar fired four shots at their vehicle. No injuries were reported.

At the sentencing, prosecutors asked Judge Herzfeld to sentence Caesar to 11 years in prison due to the severity of his crime, stating Caesar was a “grown man who knows the difference between right and wrong.”

To support the sentencing request, the prosecution called one of the victims to give a witness impact statement. The victim emphasized that his infant child was in the car when the shooting occurred and that Caesar “knew my son was in the car — a one-and-a-half year old baby.”

The victim admitted that he “[wasn’t] victimless” in what happened and had his child not been in the car he too would be advocating for Caesar to receive the minimum sentence of five years. 

“One of those bullets was five inches away from my child’s car seat,” the victim stated. He emphasized that despite the jury finding Caesar not guilty of child cruelty, the child’s life was put in danger. 

Both the prosecutor and victim in their statements emphasized that the argument that preceded the shooting was “silly” and did not justify Caesar’s actions.

Prosecutors argued that even though Caesar claimed that he had been spit on by the victim, his reaction was “not rational.” 

“Never did I think a milk crate would lead to a life or death situation,” the victim told Judge Hertzfeld.

Caesar’s defense attorney, Joseph Fay, stated that going from never having been incarcerated to “a five year minimum [was] a steep price to pay.” 

Fay went on to say that the pre-sentencing report recommended therapy and mental health services, which were appropriate. However, the sentence that was recommended was not, and that the representations of Caesar’s character were not accurate. 

Fay argued that because Caesar had no prior convictions the prosecution’s recommendation of 11 years was unreasonable. Fay stated that Caesar did “nothing that would warrant the sentence [that] the [prosecution] is asking for.”

Fay emphasized that the five year mandatory minimum sentence “more than met the requirement for society.”

Caesar’s sister, who appeared via WebEx, gave a statement in support of her brother. 

His sister, a recent graduate of Berkeley Law School, said Caesar’s run in with the justice system in 2011, where he was falsely accused was the “reason why [she] went to law school in the first place.” 

She asked Judge Hertzfeld to employ the minimum sentence sharing that he has “fought hard not to become a stereotype,” and emphasized that he is “not a threat to the community and more importantly not a threat to children.”

She shared that their mother has been on dialysis for 16 years and her family “needs him home.”

“Anything beyond the minimum is excessive,” but, “no matter what time he gets he is going to come out a better man,” she stated. 

A friend of Caesar also gave a statement, requesting that the minimum sentence be imposed, stating that he “know[s] how important every minute of every day is for him.” 

A pastor and youth leader connected to Cesar’s family also requested that Judge Hertzfeld impose the minimum sentence.

In her ruling, Judge Hertzfeld recognized that it was difficult “to square [the statements] with what happened,” but that what Caesar did was incredibly dangerous. She stated that the “fact of the matter is there could’ve been a dead child” due to Caesar’s actions. 

Judge Hertzfeld imposed a sentence of 60 months for possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and 18 months for each count of assault with a dangerous weapon. The sentences would be served consecutively. Cesar must also serve three years on supervised release.

Caesar is also required to register as a gun offender in DC within one year of his release. 

Judge Hertzfeld told Cesar he “was very lucky” for all the family support that he had with him in court and in his life. She said that such support could bode well when he is released back into the community.

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