After spending nearly two decades in prison, a Washington DC man is striving to rebuild his life by marketing and selling a workout machine he invented while serving his sentence.
Raashed Hall, 40, is getting his second chance through Georgetown University’s Pivot program, which is a nine-month course aimed at teaching entrepreneurship and building life skills for people who are returning from incarceration.
Up to 150 people apply for the program each year since it was founded in 2018. The program only accepts about 20 fellows annually, allowing them to earn a certificate and get hands-on training outside the classroom, according to a profile of Hall which the DC news outlet WJLA published on Monday.
Hall’s participation in the Pivot program came after he pleaded guilty in 2004 to a shooting which left an eight-year-old girl named Chelsea Cromartie dead. On the day of the killing, Hall had been out with his pregnant girlfriend, and they were drawn into a violent confrontation outside a carryout restaurant in DC that ended with the couple fleeing as someone fired several gunshots at them.
Hall then called his brother to bring him a gun and to drive him around in search of those who had attacked him, he admitted, according to a summary of the case in the Washington Post. They eventually spotted one of the attackers sitting on the porch of a home less than a mile away from the restaurant, and Hall fired the gun his brother had brought him at the assailant.
No one on the porch was hit. But Cromartie was inside watching television while she, her mother and her brother visited her aunt. One of the bullets which Hall fired crashed through the home’s window, hit Cromartie in the head and killed her. Cromartie’s aunt was also wounded, authorities said.
Hall ultimately pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and assault with a dangerous weapon. He also apologized to Cromartie’s family before the judge overseeing the case sentenced him in January 2005.
“I did not mean to do this to anyone, especially not that precious little girl of yours,” Hall said to Cromartie’s loved ones, the Post reported. He said he accepted that “a beautiful child lost her life” because of him and that Chelsea’s death haunted his dreams all the time.
Hall told WJLA that he resolved to change his life while inside the walls of the prison where he served his sentence. He designed and patented a device that uses blocks and adjustable resistance bands to make push-ups more of an intense exercise.
His first Power Push-Up machine prototype five years ago consisted of pieces of wood as well as a buckle. He said he’s since developed three more robust working prototypes, and he added that some of his fellow inmates used their writing and drawing skills to help him start the patent process.
Hall said he was informed of the Pivot program as his release date approached. He began pursuing a spot in the program immediately after hearing the words “entrepreneurship” and “Georgetown”, and he said he was thrilled to get accepted last year.
“It was like it all came together,” Hall told the Pivot program’s website. “It was like a light came on.”
On Monday, he was scheduled to pitch his Power Push-Up machine at the Georgetown entrepreneurship challenge and compete against business students from all over the university, WJLA reported. He placed second at a separate Georgetown-wide pitch competition in early February, according to Pivot’s Instagram account.
Hall said he views his enrollment in the Pivot program as getting another “foot in the door” as he works to establish a new life for himself after serving his time. He also works as a personal fitness trainer with about 100 clients.
“Even though XYZ happened,” Hall told the Pivot site, “this is not going to define who I am.”
He added: “Last year, I was in prison. Now, I’m … [going] to a business school in Georgetown … It makes me proud.”
Cromartie’s grandfather, Daniel, told the Guardian on Tuesday that no one in his family had any comment about Hall and Pivot. Referring to his granddaughter’s case, Daniel Cromartie said: “None of us want to bring any of that back up.”
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