WASHINGTON (CN) — A man who assaulted a congresswoman in her apartment building in February was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday.
Kendrid Hamlin, a 27-year-old homeless man who suffers from schizophrenia, followed Representative Angie Craig, a Democrat from Minnesota, into an elevator, where first he said he needed to get into her apartment, then punched her in the jaw when she told him he needed to get off the elevator.
Craig was able to escape the elevator by throwing her hot coffee at Hamlin and screaming once the doors opened, causing Hamlin to flee down a stairwell and exit the building, according to the government’s sentencing memo.
He was arrested in the afternoon and struggled with officers, biting one during his arrest and at a second at the hospital he was taken to.
Hamlin pleaded guilty in June to assaulting a member of Congress and two counts of assaulting a police officer.
Craig said in a victim impact statement that while Hamlin’s assault left her with a bruised and cut lip, she suffered more lasting damage to her mental and emotional health.
“My sense of safety and security has been significantly impacted. Following the attack, I have developed strategies with professional help to combat and address periodic anxiety. I have sought personal self-defense training,” Craig wrote.
She said she had to move from her Washington apartment following media coverage of the case that disclosed the building's address and led to a “flurry” of death threats against her and her staff.
Kathryn Guevara, Hamlin’s defense attorney, explained to Chief U.S. District Judge James Boasberg that her client took full responsibility and was remorseful for his actions.
She highlighted his troubled childhood, mental health struggles and 10 years homelessness as driving factors that led to the assault of Craig, rather than any malice against the congresswoman.
In a written statement Hamlin expressed remorse and vowed to take the "sign from God" to turn his life around and, upon his release, become a productive member of society.
“I really do apologize to Angie Craig for putting my hands on her, to the officers and to you your Honor,” Hamlin said in his letter.
Guevara, a federal public defender, added that Hamlin’s case is indicative of how inadequate the criminal justice system is in aiding people who struggle with homelessness, noting she and others in the legal system were not social workers.
The attorney asked for a sentence lighter than the 39 months Justice Department prosecutor Alexander Schneider requested and for Judge Boasberg, a Barack Obama appointee, to recommend Hamlin for mental health and substance abuse treatment. She suggested Samaritan Inns, a holistic recovery program tailored to those struggling with homelessness.
Homeless people are more likely to come into frequent contact with law enforcement, according to a California Policy Lab survey published in 2019, which found homeless people reported an average of 21 contacts with police over six months — 10 times more than the average of two reported by housed people. The survey also found homeless people were nine times more likely to report having spent at least one night in jail in the last six months.
In an emotional statement Hamlin’s mother, Harriet Hawkins, asked the judge to show her son compassion, rather than leniency.
“Us, just citizens, we can’t do it alone," she said. "I don’t want him, another Black man, to be alone in the system.”
Boasberg seemed swayed by Hamlin and his mother’s statements, along with Guevara’s argument, and recommended that Hamlin serve his sentence in a federal medical center and receive drug treatment and transitional housing through the Samaritan Inns program upon his release.
“This is a difficult sentencing,” Boasberg said. “You’ve had a very hard upbringing … compounded by serious and unaddressed mental health issues.
“I hope you’ll be able to do [what] you can in prison to prepare for the kind of life you want to lead after you are released,” he said.Follow @Ryan_Knappy
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