Muquan Cawthorne pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter while armed, armed robbery and a related weapons offense Friday in connection with the stabbing death of 18-year-old Olijawon Emmanuel Griffin. Prosecutors dropped initial charges of felony murder, conspiracy and assault.
Police found Griffin on November 17, 2012 around 1:20 am inside the Woodley Park Metro Station suffering from an apparent stab wound; a second male victim was also found beaten at the crime scene. Griffin was transported to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Initial investigations revealed that Griffin was the victim of a robbery on the 1800 block of Columbia Road Northwest. The day of the murder police detained nine young men suspected to be involved in the robbery and Griffin’s death. A grand jury indicted seven teens in the case: Cawthorne, Deon Jefferson, Isaiah Gant, Gary Maye, Immanuel Swann, Greg Whittaker and Chavez Tyrek Myers.
In March, two unidentified juveniles pled guilty in connection with the case, and last month Jefferson pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and armed robbery. Cawthorne is the fourth suspect in the case to plead guilty.
According to Cawthorne’s plea agreement, shortly after midnight on the day Griffin was murdered, he, Jefferson, Gant, Maye, Myers, Swann, Whittaker and two juveniles had planned to commit robberies around the Gallery Place/Chinatown and Adams-Morgan neighborhoods.
Documents state Griffin approached Cawthorne and his friends at a McDonald’s on 18th Street Northwest and asked if they had marijuana to sell. One in the group said “yes,” and Griffin briefly stepped into the restaurant. While Griffin was inside, Cawthorne and the group discussed robbing him of his Helly Hansen jacket.
When Griffin came back outside, he walked with Cawthorne, Jefferson and Maye to Lanier Place Northwest. Cawthorne, who had been carrying a loaded semiautomatic pistol most of the night, handed the weapon to Maye and the group robbed Griffin at gun point.
Cawthorne and his friends then walked to the Woodley Park Metro station; Griffin and his friend Issac Chase arrived shortly after, to confront the group about the robbery.
Documents state that when Chase approached the group, Cawthorne asked Jefferson if he should shoot him. Jefferson said “no,” and then Cawthorne, Maye, Smith, Swann and the two juveniles threw Chase to the ground and began punching, kicking and stomping him. Meanwhile, Gant, Jefferson, Myers and Whittaker moved toward Griffin to keep him from helping Chase.
After Chase managed to get up, he stumbled toward the Metro escalators. As the group jumped him again, Cawthorne stole money from his wallet, documents state.
Plea documents state Cawthorne then remained on the platform level of the station, while several of his codefendants went upstairs one level to the mezzanine. Although Cawthorne did not see what happened next, he later watched Metro security footage of the events.
When viewing the footage, Cawthorne said he saw Griffin and Whittaker square off in fighting positions. In the footage Cawthorne said he saw the two men exchange one punch each before Meyers, who wore a black ski mask, snuck up on Griffin, stabbing him once in the chest, plea documents state.
Cawthorne then heard Swann shout out “Bitch, we don’t play!… Say a word!” which Cawthorne understood to be slang for “Don’t tell anyone what just happened.”
Gant, Maye, Myers, Swann and Whittaker are scheduled to stand trial on September 23.
Cawthorne could be sentenced to as many as 65 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced December 13.
Plea documents have been added to this post
Proffer of Facts.