Johnson apologized to Freeman’s family for killing Freeman, who was 17 at the time of his death.
Defense attorney Premal Dharia said Johnson’s remorse was real. The impact of the crime has “sunk in fully,” she said.
Charging documents state that a “lifelong friend” of Freeman’s told detectives that Freeman and others were at the Raymond Recreation Center/Park when someone, now identified as Johnson, rode up to Freeman on a bicycle and grabbed him. The two threw each other around “as if they were wrestling,” the friend told detectives. That person also said that Freeman and Johnson were classmates at one time and that Johnson had “picked on” Freeman.
“It’s very devastating to me and my family,” Freeman’s father, Michael Washington, said. “I understand these guys were friends. But anger and stuff like that doesn’t have to escalate to that level. We grieving forever.”
Leibovitz’ sentence of 14 years was near the top of the agreed upon range for the plea agreement. Johnson could have been sentenced to as few as 12, or as many as 15, years. She said the fatal stabbing was “a terribly tragic result” of impulsive anger.
“When anger got the best of you, you took a person’s life,” Leibovitz told Johnson.
A press release, and a copy of the government’s sentencing memorandum, are below.
District Teenager Sentenced to 14-Year Prison Term In Killing of Another Teenager- Slaying Took Place Last October Near Recreation Center –
WASHINGTON - Derek Johnson, 17, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to 14 years of incarceration on a charge of second degree murder while armed in the slaying of another teenager near a recreation center, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
Johnson, who was charged as an adult, pled guilty in November 2011 and was sentenced by the Honorable Lynn Leibovitz in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Upon completion of his prison term, Johnson will be placed on five years of supervised release.
According to the government’s proffer of facts, Johnson and the victim, 17-year-old Jamar Freeman, were friends. However, Johnson believed in September or October 2011 that Freeman had broken into his house and stolen personal items from him.
On October 8, 2011, at about 7:30 p.m., Johnson rode his bicycle to the Raymond Recreation Center in Northwest Washington, where he encountered Freeman. Johnson at the time was armed with a knife. Freeman did not have a weapon and Johnson had no reason to be afraid of him. Johnson punched Freeman in the face or neck area, and the two began fighting by throwing punches and wrestling. During a lull in the fighting, during which time the two verbally taunted each other, Johnson removed from his clothing the knife, and Freeman began running away, toward the baseball diamond located in the park.
Johnson swung the knife and buried it in Freeman’s chest. Freeman ran away down an alley, near the 900 block of Quincy Street NW, where he collapsed. He subsequently died that evening from a four-to-five-inch stab wound in his chest.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen commended the work of the Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) Violent Crimes Branch. He especially cited the efforts of MPD Detectives James Wilson, Gus Giannakoulias, Joshua Branson, Norma Horne, Gabriel Truby, Anthony Greene, and Sgt. Andrew Fineklman. U.S. Attorney Machen also praised the work of paralegal Fern Rhedrick of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Lastly, Mr. Machen thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Pearlman, who investigated and prosecuted the case.