Thursday, July 30, 2009

JUDGE LAMBASTS DC POLICE OVER 2002 ANTI-GLOBALIZATION PROTEST

DC Examiner - A federal judge has called for an investigation into the D.C. police department after officials there destroyed key evidence related to a controversial mass arrest of anti-globalization protesters in 2002.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said he wanted to get to the bottom of the disappearance of police records of the orders and movements of police officers in a massive crackdown of protesters rallying against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Hundreds of innocent bystanders in Pershing Park were swept up by the police dragnet. Some 400 people have filed a class-action civil rights lawsuit. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, then a deputy, ordered those arrested to be "hog tied" -- bound hand to foot.

In federal court Wednesday, Sullivan ordered D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles to file an affidavit on the disappearance of the records within the next two weeks. He also suggested that he might appoint an independent investigator to look into the matter.

"When, if ever, can anyone trust their government?" Sullivan asked.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Mara Verheyden-Hilliard said the District has shown "reckless disregard" for legal ethics.

"This case has now developed from a case solely about a massive constitutional rights violation to being about a massive cover-up," she said.

Nickles denied there was anything untoward in the destruction of the evidence and blamed the D.C. Council for not funding a better document-management system.

Police union Chairman Kris Baumann, who has often litigated against the department, said the incident wasn't isolated.

"The destruction of e-mails, the destruction of documents -- anything to cover up government misconduct is the norm," Baumann said.

Washington Post - Some evidence, including a key report and portions of radio transmissions, has vanished. In recent days, the D.C. government has also turned over thousands of pages of records and videotapes to protesters' lawyers, some of which should have been produced years ago.

Sullivan ordered D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles to submit a sworn declaration detailing his office's shoddy work and the steps he was taking to fix the problems.

Sullivan said he would impose "severe" monetary sanctions on the D.C. government and urged Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to "settle this case soon."

"This kind of conduct is not acceptable," Sullivan said, calling the actions of D.C. government lawyers "abysmal" and urging the D.C. Council to investigate the attorney general's office.

After the judge's harangue, the District's attorney, Thomas Koger, had tears in his eyes. He declined to comment.

Sullivan's criticism came during a hearing in two lawsuits that accuse D.C. police of violating the rights of demonstrators and bystanders when officers arrested 386 people in Pershing Park without a warning on Sept. 27, 2002. Former D.C. police chief Charles H. Ramsey eventually issued a public apology for the arrests. Protesting at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the demonstrators were charged with parading without a permit.

Jonathan Turley, an attorney for the protesters, called for an independent investigation of the attorney general's office. Another lawyer for the protesters, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, said she had never seen such "a breathtaking destruction of evidence before."

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