In January, a jury found Colbert, 56, guilty of voluntary manslaughter while armed, assault with a dangerous weapon, and carrying a dangerous weapon outside of a home or business in connection with the case.
During sentencing Wednesday, Colbert addressed the court at length, while asserting that he was not the instigator of the conflict between himself and Wright.
“I have remorse for Robert Wright’s mother and my mother both,” Colbert said. “Both mothers lost their sons. [I had] no intent of ever killing him, I was trying to defend myself.”
The March 2012 altercation between Colbert and Wright centered around a disagreement on whether a dog Wright was walking had defecated on Colbert’s yard. At trial, the defense argued that Colbert acted in self-defense.
At sentencing Wednesday, prosecutors argued that Colbert had a history of violent conduct, which included an incident in which Colbert stabbed a different man in the neck. According to prosecutors, Colbert often possessed “a sense of superiority.”
James Rudasill Jr, Colbert’s newly appointed defense attorney, did not dispute that Colbert had anger management issues, or a sense of superiority. Rudasill, though, explained Colbert’s behavior by saying, “when you pushed him, he pushed back.”
Before reading the terms of sentencing, Judge Dixon reflected on the conflict.
“It’s difficult to make sense of the situation,” Dixon said to Colbert. “You were concerned about dog defecation and from there, a full-blown escalation resulting in the death of Mr. Wright occurred.”
Sentencing documents and a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office are below.
District Man Sentenced to 17 Years in Prison For Fatal Stabbing in Southeast Washington -Attack Followed Argument About the Victim’s Dog-
WASHINGTON – Ellsworth Colbert, 57, was sentenced today to 17 years in prison on charges stemming from a slaying in Southeast Washington during an argument over the victim’s dog, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.
Colbert, of Washington, D.C., was found guilty by a jury in January 2013 of manslaughter while armed, assault with a dangerous weapon, and carrying a dangerous weapon. The verdict followed a trial in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable Herbert B. Dixon, Jr. Upon completion of his prison term, Colbert will be placed on five years of supervised release.
According to the evidence at trial, Colbert and the victim, Robert L. Wright, 37, became embroiled in an argument on the morning of March 4, 2012, in front of Colbert’s house in the 3500 block of Pope Street SE, in the Penn-Branch neighborhood. The trouble began after Mr. Wright and a friend walked their dog on Colbert’s property. Colbert became enraged and brandished a knife and a walking stick.
The altercation moved up the street to the house where the dog was kept, located in the 3600 block of Highwood Drive. During the course of the argument, Colbert lunged at Mr. Wright and cut him in the neck with his knife. Mr. Wright then retrieved a nearby shovel, and the two continued their altercation in the middle of the street. During the course of the fracas, Colbert tackled Mr. Wright to the pavement, causing him to lose possession of the shovel. Colbert then stabbed Mr. Wright in the back, chest and abdomen resulting in his death.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen commended those who worked on the case for the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), including detectives, mobile crime technicians, and others. He acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Fern Rhedrick, San Lane, Phil Aronson, Kwasi Fields and Sharon Newman, Litigation Support Services Specialists Ron Royal and Josh Ellen; Intelligence Analyst Lawrence Grasso, and Victim Advocate Tamara Ince.
Finally, U.S. Attorney Machen commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Robert J. Feitel and Edward A. O’Connell, who prosecuted the case at trial.