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$2.3 Million Jury Award in Washington, D.C. Wrongful Parole Revocation Suit

A District of Columbia (D.C.) federal jury has awarded $2.3 million to a former prisoner who spent ten years in prison after his parole was wrongfully revoked based on unreliable hearsay evidence.

Charles Singletary was convicted of robbery, armed robbery and assault in D.C. Superior Court. He was paroled in 1990 after serving seven years, and turned his life around; he married for a second time and worked two jobs to support his family. Thinking that South Carolina was a better place to raise his children, he moved his family there with the permission of his parole officer.

Singletary’s life took a dramatic turn when he was arrested in June 1995 for the murder of Leroy Houtman, even though the case was never brought before a grand jury and a D.C. Superior Court dismissed the charges at a preliminary hearing. Regardless, a year later the D.C. Board of Parole held a revocation hearing and revoked his parole based on the arrest.

“Nobody having personal knowledge of the relevant facts testified at the parole revocation hearing,” Singletary alleged in his subsequent civil rights complaint. “The only information presented at the hearing consisted of multiple hearsay. That information consisted of (a) a narrative given by the prosecutor, and (b) testimony by a police detective, neither of whom had any first-hand knowledge of the facts.”

Most of the information presented by the prosecutor and detective came from two sources, Verdez Smith and Terry Washington, who claimed to have learned about the murder from Carmelita Metts. None of the sources were named at the revocation hearing, nor were they present. The statements from Smith and Washington were inconsistent and conflicting. Smith was later charged with Houtman’s murder, and implicated Metts as being involved.

Once Singletary’s parole was revoked and he returned to prison, he endured “harsh living conditions” in high-security federal and state facilities that housed D.C. prisoners. He lost contact with most of his relatives, was deprived of spending time with his children, missed the birth of a child his wife had after his parole revocation, and lost his job and the ability to provide for his family. As a result, his wife divorced him.

The prisons where Singletary was held for 10 years after his parole revocation had poor medical care. As a result, when he began suffering from glaucoma he did not receive adequate treatment and went blind.

Singletary’s efforts to reverse his parole revocation were met with denials by the D.C. Superior Court, the D.C. Court of Appeals and the D.C. federal district court. But on July 7, 2006 the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that Singletary’s due process rights had been denied at the revocation hearing. The appellate court held the evidence at the hearing consisted of multiple hearsay with no indication of reliability and several indications of unreliability, stating that while “the government is not required to carry a heavy burden in such proceedings, it cannot return a parolee to prison based on a record as shoddy as this one.” See: Singletary v. Reilly, 452 F.3d 868 (D.C. Cir. 2006).

At a new revocation hearing held by the U.S. Parole Commission, which had since taken over the functions of the D.C. Parole Board, no parole violation was found. Singletary sued the District of Columbia in 2009 and the district court found the city liable. Following a trial on damages, the jury awarded Singletary $2.3 million on December 12, 2011.

On July 17, 2012 the district court denied the District’s motion for a new trial or for remittitur of the jury award.

Singletary was represented by Washington, D.C. attorneys Edward C. Sussman, Steven Roy Kiersh, Steven C. Leck-ar, and Neal Goldfarb with Butzel, Long, Tighe, Patton PLLC. See: Singletary v. District of Columbia, U.S.D.C. (D. D.C.), Case No. 1:09-cv-00752-ABJ.

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Related legal cases

Singletary v. District of Columbia

Singletary v. Reilly