- The Washington Times - Friday, October 12, 2012

A Capitol Hill man who suffered traumatic brain injuries when he was beaten during a robbery this summer was struck with a bat and a BB gun, a Metropolitan Police Department detective said Friday at a preliminary hearing for two men charged in connection with the crime.

Tommy Branch, 21; Michael Moore, 18; and Sunny Kuti, 17, have been charged with robbery while armed in the Aug. 18 attack on Thomas “TC” Maslin. D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Richter ruled Friday that there is probable cause to go forward with the case against Mr. Branch and Mr. Kuti and ordered that they remain in jail while their trial is pending.

Mr. Moore, who police indicated has been the most forthcoming with information about the attack, waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

The three men were arrested around 3 a.m. Aug. 18 in the Dupont Circle neighborhood in Northwest near the scene of another robbery, which occurred several hours after the attack on Mr. Maslin near Eastern Market. They were not linked to Mr. Maslin’s robbery until late September. They are now charged with robbery while armed in both cases, and police are looking into whether the men could be responsible for any other robberies.

Police initially said Mr. Moore admitted to pushing Mr. Maslin, saying that Mr. Kuti struck him in the head with a “fake-me-out BB gun,” and that Mr. Branch punched him to the ground, where he hit his head. Upon questioning by Mr. Kuti’s attorney, Jacqueline Cadman, Detective Robert Saunders testified Friday that Mr. Moore said in a subsequent interview that Mr. Maslin was knocked to the ground unconscious from a blow Mr. Branch inflicted with a baseball bat.

“They could hear him snoring because he was unconscious,” Detective Saunders said.

By his own account, Mr. Branch admitted to shoving Mr. Maslin, knocking him to the ground, Detective Saunders said.

Mr. Branch then took Mr. Maslin’s cellphone and credit card, Detective Saunders said. The cellphone was found in Mr. Moore’s possession when the three were arrested later that night, giving Mr. Moore reason to want point the finger elsewhere, Ms. Cadman said.

“He has every motive to push the blame on someone else,” she said.

At the beginning of the hearing, Mr. Branch occasionally glanced back at the courtroom, where Mr. Maslin’s wife, Abigail Maslin, sat in the front row with family members. Ms. Maslin declined to comment after the hearing.

Police said the three men charged in the case were identified by people who knew them after the release of surveillance video that showed Mr. Branch’s car at a gas station where Mr. Maslin’s stolen credit card was used.

Mr. Branch’s attorney, Dorsey Jones, said the car seen in the surveillance video had no distinctive features — like a license plate number or a bumper sticker — to confirm it actually belonged to Mr. Branch. None of Mr. Maslin’s belongings were recovered from Mr. Branch’s car when it was eventually searched in late September, when the men were charged with Mr. Maslin’s robbery. Mr. Jones also noted that no blood was found on Mr. Branch when he was arrested the night of the two robberies.

“Based on Mr. Maslin’s injuries, I would expect some blood,” Mr. Dorsey said.

Mr. Maslin, a 30-year-old father, has remained hospitalized since the attack. He was walking home from the Tune Inn Restaurant and Bar when he was accosted around 12:30 a.m. It was not until 8 a.m. that morning that a passer-by found him unconscious in front of a home in the 700 block of North Carolina Avenue Southeast.