A homeless man was sentenced Thursday to 27 months in prison for assaulting U.S. Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) in the elevator of her Washington, D.C., apartment building. The attack led to a wave of threats against the congresswoman and prompted her to move, she told a court.
Kendrick Hamlin, 27, also known as Hamlin Khalil Hamlin, pleaded guilty June 1 to assaulting the three-term congresswoman and two D.C. police officers who arrested him after Craig fought him off by tossing hot coffee at him.
In handing down a 21-month term for assaulting Craig and three-month terms for biting the two officers, to run consecutively, Chief U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg said a “very hard upbringing … compounded by very serious, unaddressed mental health” and drug abuse issues were behind much of Hamlin’s conduct. But the judge added that the February assault in Northeast Washington was “just the latest in a series of violent behavior and assaultive behavior.”
“I want to help you get better,” Boasberg said. “I also have to protect the community.”
Federal prosecutors sought a 39-month prison term for Hamlin, citing an “extraordinary criminal history,” including 12 convictions for offenses including robbery, attempted robbery and assaulting law enforcement officers. Hamlin’s defense sought a term of a year and a day, laying out his history of mental illness since childhood, homelessness since he was 17, schizophrenia, intellectual disabilities and physical assaults experienced in past jail terms.
Craig’s attack came in a year in which homicides and violent crime in the District have climbed more than 34 percent over 2022. The crimes have victimized both officials and everyday residents and fueled political attacks by Republicans in Congress against criminal justice policies in the Democratic-led city.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.) was held up in an armed carjacking in early October. On Sunday night, U.S. Secret Service agents opened fire to stop what they said were possibly three people who appeared to be breaking into a parked, unoccupied Secret Service vehicle in front of a protectee’s Georgetown residence.
In a signed victim impact statement filed by prosecutors, Craig asked the judge to hold Hamlin accountable for his actions, saying that while the case received attention because she’s a member of Congress, on the morning of the attack, she “was simply a woman followed into an elevator by a man and assaulted there.”
According to sentencing papers, Hamlin entered the vestibule of Craig’s apartment building near Union Station about 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 9, removed his shoes and defecated, then entered the lobby about 6 a.m. when another person left the building, opening a locked door. After pacing around for an hour, Hamlin followed Craig after she came down to the lobby, got a cup of coffee and walked back to the elevator. He told her he needed to get into her apartment.
Hamlin trapped her, grabbed her neck, slammed her into a metal wall and punched her in the face, the congresswoman wrote, causing a cut to her lip, bruises and days of soreness and discomfort.
Craig wrote that a news outlet broadcast a police report with her building address, forcing her to move, and that after commentary by media personalities repeated Republican claims that one of her aides supported defunding the police, “I received a flurry of additional targeted physical violence and death threats to myself and my staff.”
Craig, 51, who represents the southern Minneapolis and St. Paul Twin Cities metropolitan area and is the first lesbian mother to serve in Congress, said her wife and four sons are concerned for her safety. She said she hoped Hamlin is provided mental health and addiction services while in prison that will enable him to become a productive member of society.
However, Craig added, “until that occurs, given his history of previous convictions and my own experience, I believe he would continue to be a further threat to others.”
Prosecutors cited Hamlin’s history of violent conduct, as well as at least nine arrests on allegations of violence or threats that were dismissed as part of plea agreements.
“None of the prior sentences from any of the criminal cases, or even his arrest and his incarceration in this case have deterred him [Hamlin] from committing other acts of violence,” Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander R. Schneider told the court, saying that only prison time would protect the public.
Hamlin apologized to Craig, the officers, his family and others he had harmed in a letter and oral statement before the judge. Supported by his parents and stepparents, a brother and his girlfriend, Hamlin asked for forgiveness and treatment, adding that he feared for his life in jail after what Assistant Federal Public Defender Kathryn Guevara called past suicide attempts and violence at the hands of officers.
“I deeply apologize to Representative Angie Craig for putting my hands on her and on the officers as well,” Hamlin said. “Please give me a chance.”
After Guevara and Hamlin’s parents spoke on his behalf, Boasberg said he would recommend that Hamlin serve his sentence in a medical center in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and be released under supervision to a residential treatment facility. The judge said he hoped the defendant would do what his father urged and find a path for his life during his next year or so behind bars. The judge said he’d check in on Hamlin’s future reentry, saying, “I hope you get the support and treatment you need in prison.”
In a statement, Guevara and Assistant Federal Public Defender Eugene Ohm said that “while we are disappointed in the length of the prison sentence, we are hopeful that he will finally get the mental health treatment he has been seeking and desperately needs upon release,” and that they hoped the country would work toward stopping “the ineffective and deeply harmful practice of incarceration as a substitute” for treatment of mental illness.