5-year sentence for former Massage Envy employee in sexual assaults

UPDATE 3:23 p.m. 2/16/2018: Habtamu Gebreslassie has been sentenced to five years in prison in the sexual assaults of three massage customers.

Editor’s Note: This story includes graphic details that may not be suitable for all readers.

WASHINGTON — Prosecutors are asking a D.C. judge to sentence the former Massage Envy employee convicted of sexually assaulting three women to five years in prison.

Habtamu Gebreslassie is scheduled to be sentenced Friday afternoon in D.C. Superior Court.

Gebreslassie pleaded guilty to first-degree sexual assault of a woman, for licking her vulva during a 2017 massage at Massage Envy in Tenleytown. He also pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree sexual assault of another woman as well as misdemeanor sexual assault of a third woman who was a customer at Deluca Massage & Bodywork near Dupont Circle.

In a sentencing memo, prosecutors said Gebreslassie should be required to register as a sex offender for life.

“The defendant is a serial sexual offender whose conduct deserves the strongest condemnation from the court,” according to U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Williams.

As part of the plea arrangement, prosecutors and Gebreslassie’s attorney, Sweta Patel, agreed to a range between 19 and 60 months of incarceration.

Patel said she “will be requesting a sentence on the lower end of the guideline range.”

She said if Gebreslassie had been convicted at trial on all counts, prosecutors could have sought a sentence of more than 16 years.

Citing the presentence report, prosecutors said Gebreslassie offered no excuse for his conduct, suffered no abuse, mental illnesses or drug addictions.

“The defendant’s first (known) criminal conduct is inexplicable — and inexcusable — given his supportive family and upbringing,” wrote prosecutors.

Patel said her client is a low risk to re-offend.

“Nothing in Mr. Gebreslassie’s upbringing and background indicates that he poses a risk to others in the community,” Patel said. “Mr. Gebreslassie is an individual who, prior to this offense, was a productive member of society, with no contact with the criminal justice system.”

“He did not using any mind-altering substances or violent physical contact to aid in the commission of these crimes,” Patel said.

In asking for the five-year sentence, prosecutors said the victims suffered “violations that no person should ever experience, and violations that have shaken each of these victims to their core.”

Prosecutors said Gebreslassie will likely be deported from the country, after serving his prison sentence.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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