Woman charged in DC hospital carjacking denied showers in jail, lawyer says

A still image from a security camera authorities say shows Brown attempting to flee from the scene of the crash. (Court documents)(Courtesy court documents)

A woman charged with carjacking after police say she stole a vehicle parked outside a hospital with an ill passenger inside last week, has been denied showers in the D.C. jail and experienced other mistreatment, her lawyer told a judge Thursday.

Kayla Brown, 23, is charged with unarmed carjacking in the June 3 incident, which ended after police say she crashed the stolen SUV into a downtown D.C. building.

The passenger inside the vehicle, 55-year-old Leslie Marie Gaines, died following the crash. The D.C. Medical Examiner’s office said last week it was still investigating the exact cause of Gaines’ death.

The comments about the alleged conditions in the D.C. jail were made during a mental observation hearing in D.C. Superior Court on Thursday.

A doctor with D.C.’s Department of Behavioral Health examined Brown and filed a report Wednesday recommending she undergo a full mental competency evaluation and that that evaluation be carried out at the D.C. jail where Brown is being held. That’s according to a discussion of the doctor’s report discussed in court; the report itself has not been made public.

Brown’s attorney, Sylvia Smith, however is arguing for Brown to be temporarily transferred to St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital for the full exam.

Smith said Brown faces “an incredibly tenuous and dangerous situation,” at the jail, saying Brown had been denied a shower for a week after being taken into custody, unnecessarily placed in a “safe cell,” denied the opportunity to speak with family members on the phone and “has been assaulted” by Department of Corrections staff.

The request set off a lengthy and, at times, testy exchange between Smith and Superior Court Judge Heidi Pasichow.

“She’s in a very dangerous situation … people are dying at the jail,” Smith said.

“I’m not talking about people. … I don’t have any facts before me about that,” Pasichow said. “What I’m focusing on is just this one matter. I’m not going to generalize, and I’m not going to listen to generalizations.”

At one point, the judge paused the hearing to pick up the phone to call the deputy general counsel of the Department of Corrections to inquire about Brown’s treatment.

“I wanted to get the understanding as to whether or not some of these issues that are raised were resolved,” Pasichow said. “And he said the only issues that he was aware of was the opinion that she didn’t have the shower and, apparently, she has had a shower. When she had it, I don’t know. OK, I don’t know that.”

WTOP has reached out to the D.C. Department of Corrections for comment on the matter.

A follow-up hearing about whether Brown will be sent to St. Elizabeths for the mental competency evaluation is set for Monday. The doctor who conducted the evaluation is expected to testify, and the defense lawyer said she will call another doctor to the stand to rebut some of the recommendations from that doctor’s report.

How carjacking unfolded

Police said Brown was at Washington Hospital Center last Monday, after her parents called police to report she had been acting “crazy” for days and may have taken drugs. She was taken to the hospital in an ambulance but at some point slipped away from her family.

That’s when police say Brown encountered the SUV that Gaines was a passenger in. The woman had just completed a physical therapy appointment when she fell ill. Her daughter drove around to the emergency room entrance of the hospital and got out of the vehicle to get a wheelchair from inside.

When the daughter left the vehicle, police say Brown got inside and took off, driving several miles into D.C. where she crashed into a building on the corner of 6th and D streets, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C. has its headquarters.

Initially, police said they were seeking charges of carjacking, murder and kidnapping. For now, prosecutors are only moving forward with the carjacking charge, and the others are still under investigation.

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Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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