March 28, 2017
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
CF3-17659-13, Hon. William M. Jackson, Trial Judge
Matthew B. Kaplan for appellant.
P. Seifert, Trial Attorney, Criminal Division, United States
Department of Justice, with whom Channing D. Phillips, United
States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and
Elizabeth Trosman and John P. Mannarino, Assistant United
States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.
Glickman and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Ruiz, Senior
McLeese, Associate Judge
Darnell Mason challenges his convictions for tampering with
evidence, destruction of property, obstruction of justice,
and unlawful entry. We hold that the trial court committed
reversible error by disqualifying a potential juror. We
therefore reverse the judgment and remand for further
proceedings. We also hold that the evidence was sufficient to
support Mr. Mason's tampering convictions, so that Mr.
Mason may be retried on those charges. We do not address Mr.
Mason's other challenges to his convictions, because the
circumstances giving rise to those challenges may well not
arise on remand.
evidence at trial indicated the following. At around 2:45
a.m. on October 3, 2013, Mikiyas Getachew was entering his
home on Blaine Street NE when several men wearing black ski
masks approached him. One of the men was armed with a pistol,
and the men forced Mr. Getachew to open the door to his home.
The man with the pistol kept it pointed at Mr. Getachew, his
wife, Nava Wasihun, and his mother, Eleni Wodaje, while the
other men searched for and removed valuable items including
watches, cell phones, televisions, computers, an engagement
ring, the keys to Ms. Wasihun's Nissan Altima, and the
keys to Ms. Wodaje's Honda CRV.
forty-five minutes after the robbery began, the men drove off
in the Altima and the CRV, taking the other stolen property
with them. After dividing some of the stolen property among
themselves, they took the rest to a house at 308 Raleigh
Street SE. That house was unoccupied and for sale, and none
of the men had permission to enter it.
the men, Greg Gantt and Shareem Hall, drove the stolen cars
to Brothers Place SE to avoid "leav[ing] any
traces." While walking away from the vehicles, they ran
into Ricardo Blakeney, who joined them. Ultimately, Mr.
Gantt, Mr. Hall, Andre Townsend, and Mr. Mason decided to
destroy any physical evidence left in the cars by setting the
cars on fire. At a gas station, Mr. Hall filled a bottle with
gasoline, and the men drove the cars toward a field at MLK
Jr. Elementary School, arriving at about 5:05 a.m. They
parked the cars next to each other, and Mr. Hall doused both
cars with gasoline. Mr. Gantt and Mr. Townsend each set one
of the cars on fire, and both cars were severely damaged as a
stopping to sell two stolen cell phones, the group returned
to 308 Raleigh. The group then used some drugs and fell
asleep. The police tracked the group through a court-ordered
GPS ankle monitor that Mr. Gantt was wearing. Officers went
to 308 Raleigh and knocked on the front and back doors of the
house. The group woke up, scattered the larger stolen items
around the house, and brought the smaller stolen items into
the attic, where they hid. After several hours, all five men
eventually left the house. Mr. Mason tried to flee by jumping
over a fence to an alley behind the house, but he was tackled
by an officer. After the men were arrested, the police
recovered four black face masks and much of the stolen
property from 308 Raleigh.
police did not recover the gun. Mr. Hall last saw the gun in
Mr. Townsend's possession as they left Blaine Street and
Mr. Townsend got into the Nissan with Mr. Mason. Mr. Hall
believed that the gun must have been left in the attic at 308
Raleigh. After his arrest, Mr. Mason made two phone calls
from jail in which he apparently asked his friend to find and
remove the gun from the attic.
Mason argues that the trial court committed reversible error