City Desk

The Needle: Tattered Rule

Ink Up: The D.C. Department of Health rejected a controversial proposed regulation that would have required a 24-hour waiting period to get a tattoo. +4

Name Game: Two new condos on the 3800 block of 14th Street NW wants D.C. residents to help choose its moniker. Your options? A bunch of skiing- and ski-resort-related names. -3

Read more The Needle: Tattered Rule

Three AU Students Arrested for Assaulting Fellow Student

Three American University students were arrested for assaulting a fellow student near campus earlier this month, according to arrest warrant documents from D.C. Superior Court. Milain Fayulu, Anthony Abdelnour and Miguel Lama were arrested on April 11 for assaulting AU student Alex Louden.

Two of the three arrested students, according to AU's student newspaper the Eagle, are members of the unrecognized fraternity that came under fire earlier this week after internal emails leaked in which the fraternity brothers referred to female students as "bitches" and casually alluded to sexually assaulting women.

The Eagle spoke to Louden and had more information about the alleged assault, which occurred on New Mexico Avenue NW on April 7: Read more Three AU Students Arrested for Assaulting Fellow Student

Former Charter School Exec Sentenced to Nine Months in Prison for Embezzling School Money

The former executive director of Nia Community Public Charter School was sentenced to nine months in prison for embezzling $29,000 in funds intended for the Southeast school, U.S. Attorney Ron Machen Jr.’s office announced today.

Monique Murdock pleaded guilty back in November to the charges and also admitted to making unauthorized purchases with a government-issued purchase card while she worked for another employer in Virginia.

Murdock c0-founded the charter school in 2006 and served as its executive director until 2008. She diverted $29,000 from the school's account to write checks to a foster child that was in her care. With the exception of $100, she transferred all that money to a different account in her name, the Washington Post reported in November.

She was fired from her post at that school in November 2008 and filed a wrongful termination suit in 2009, which was ultimately settled before the case went to trial. The D.C. Public Charter School Board later revoked the school's charter for poor academic performance and failure to develop a curriculum, according to the Post.

Between July 2006 and August 2008, the charter school received more than $3.3 million from the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board. It also also received more than $548,000 from the U.S. Department of Education during the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years, a press release from Machen's office states.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

The National Zoo’s Bite Club

The animals at the National Zoo may seem like a generally docile bunch, but behind the scenes, they can get pretty rowdy. While baby panda Tai Shan’s nip of a zookeeper in 2008 and a 2003 zebra bite generated awkward press releases, some other animals at the zoo haven’t exactly been model citizens, either. Between April 2007 and October 2013, 38 animal-caused injuries were reported at the National Zoo, according to the findings of a Freedom of Information Act request. (Most happened behind the scenes, away from visitors.) Next time you’re near an octopus tank, proceed with caution.

Cool Runningscheety
When an excited cheetah tried to get into its enclosure in 2009, an unlucky zookeeper found himself in its way. The cheetah ran him over, dealing out claw marks on his face and back.

Read more The National Zoo’s Bite Club

This Week’s Page Three Photo


700 Block of 13th Street NW, April 22

This and past page three photos are also in this online gallery.

Chatter: Hot Lavatory

cover-issue1794-lgWhat you said about what we said last week

Bathroom sex! Last week’s Young & Hungry column concerned that most clandestine yet impetuous form of intercourse, a topic that plenty of D.C. restaurant and bar owners were happy to discuss. Readers were quick to suggest a few more hotspots for restroom boot-knocking. Like Zaytinya, where “there’s a single bathroom at the end of the bar area with a huge oak door. You can’t hear a thing from the outside,” wrote commenter GoldCoastKid. “It also doubles as an excellent coke bathroom, too. That’s just what I’ve heard.”

And from Buzzfeed’s John Stanton on Twitter: “I once caught a dude having sex with a girl sitting bare-assed in the urine trough in the [Rock & Roll Hotel]’s men’s room.”

The local blog Stop Requested imagined what one might overhear when encountering an act of bathroom sex in some of the restaurants cited in the article. Two examples:

  • The Palm: “Please try to keep it down. My campaign manager is RIGHT outside.”
  • Teddy and the Bully Bar: “Speak softly and carry a big stick. Oh wow, you got the second one covered. OK, but still shush though—there’s a line outside for god’s sake!”

Reacting to our article, Jezebel declared bathroom sex “D.C.’s hottest trend.” Color us skeptical, but at least one commenter seemed to agree, kind of. “You know folks, the people in the rest of the country reading this will not be impressed, think it’s hip, and will be generally repulsed by the libertine nature of this article,” wrote Jarhead. “People think Washington is a cesspool of excess. This article only confirms that. The rest of the country is hurting, and increasingly, D.C. looks like Rome circa August 410. Behavior such as this does nothing to contravene that notion.”

On Twitter, Ahmad Zaghal reacted thusly: “Jarhead sounds like he needs some bathroom sex.”

Read more Chatter: Hot Lavatory

Buy D.C.: Georgetown French Market

Each week, Buy D.C. will highlight shops and items you can only find in the D.C. area, featuring different goods from different shops all around the city, curated by 94.7 Fresh FM co-host and owner Kelly Collis.


Pardon My Stench
Channel Jackie Kennedy with these French candles, the same ones she used as first lady in the White House. Pillbox hat not included. Riguad Candles, $90. Comer & Co., 1659 Wisconsin Ave. NW. (202) 525-2767

Read more Buy D.C.: Georgetown French Market

Russ Ptacek Spent Tuesday Waiting for Muriel Bowser

WUSA9 investigative reporter Russ Ptacek and a cameraman sat outside Ward 4 D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser's office at the Wilson Building for two and a half hours Tuesday, waiting to snag an interview with the Democratic mayoral nominee. But Bowser never came, and Ptacek, whom Washington City Paper dubbed D.C.'s most excitable newsman in a 2013 cover story, didn't seem happy.

The newsman took to Twitter to tell his nearly 10,000 followers what was happening. He also went to her Georgia Avenue NW campaign headquarters with no luck, and took four selfies throughout the day, showing his dismay with the perceived stonewalling.

A station producer tweeted a photo of Ptacek standing next to a large picture of the mayoral candidate, saying "this is as close as we got to @MurielBowser." (This photo is not included in the selfie count.) The newsman also retweeted messages from his followers thanking him for holding government officials accountable. The Council is currently on Easter recess, but Ptacek says he saw every other member in the hallway during his stakeout.

"I'm very busy, and that's a huge waste of time," Ptacek says of chasing around Bowser for the day. "But I will do it if someone blows me off for two months." Read more Russ Ptacek Spent Tuesday Waiting for Muriel Bowser

How an African Kidnapping Crisis Has Terrorized D.C.’s Eritrean Immigrants

Michael Andegeorgis

Lawyer Michael Andegeorgis has helped Eritreans whose relatives have been held for ransom.

The phone call came from eastern Sudan, just as the grocer reached the corner of U and 9th streets NW on a spring day three years ago.

The man spoke clearly in Mebrahtialem Gebrekidan’s mother tongue, Tigrinya, the language of his native Eritrea. Your nephew is being held captive, the voice told him. Pay us $7,000 and we’ll release him. “I just opened my door and stopped driving,” says Gebrekidan, who lives in Columbia Heights.

Gebrekidan, 37, immigrated to the United States seven years ago, part of an Eritrean diaspora that numbers in the hundreds of thousands. After a short time in New Jersey, he moved to the D.C. area, where his sister also now lives, and eventually took over ownership of Greenway Market, a grocery on East Capitol Street that he sold last year. But he left behind family members who he says struggle under oppressive political conditions in one of the poorest countries on Earth.

Haben, Gebrekidan’s nephew, had fled Eritrea, fearing harsh imprisonment for skipping out on mandatory military service, and was taken by captors almost immediately after crossing the border into Sudan. Gebrekidan negotiated the ransom down to $4,000; he sent it to friends in Sudan who traded the cash for his nephew, who made his way to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. But just three months after he was released, the nephew, then around 20 years old, was kidnapped again by tribesmen in the area, called Rashaida, after he was betrayed by smugglers he’d enlisted to bring him to Israel. They kept him in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula and demanded $33,000, according to his uncle.

Gebrekidan reached out to family and friends in England and Israel, who struggled to come up with the cash as his nephew was beaten, electrocuted, and hung upside down “like Jesus Christ,” Gebrekidan says, his arms outstretched as he recalls the story in an Ethiopian bar in Bailey’s Crossroads. It took three weeks to gather the money, after which the traffickers brought the young man to the Israeli border. He crossed and was picked up by Israeli soldiers, then was released and has been living in Tel Aviv since, according to Gebrekidan.

Gebrekidan is one of the thousands of Eritreans across the globe whose life has been touched by torture and extortion. Preying on Eritreans’ vulnerability—they lack help from their own government, which has been accused of complicity in the kidnappings—the hostage-takers have benefitted from chaos in a region whose poor aren’t among the top priorities of humanitarian organizations or international bodies.

Because of its sizable population, the Eritrean immigrant community in the D.C. area has been particularly affected by this crisis. Worries about kidnappings often dominate discussions in businesses around the U Street NW corridor, a center of Eritrean émigré culture in the region, and East African bars and shops in Springfield and Silver Spring. Last May, hundreds turned out for a march across Washington hoping to raise awareness of Eritrean refugees’ hardships, and a conference in Alexandria brought experts and advocates together to discuss the human trafficking. From cab drivers to lawyers, a large number of Eritreans in the region—a population that could be as large as 50,000 people, according to Tricia Redeker Hepner, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Tennessee who has researched the Eritrean diaspora, although that’s an educated guess—seem to have been affected. Their home country has long suffered from poverty and political oppression, but the kidnappings are relatively new, intensifying in frequency over the last few years and gaining occasional media attention.

Read more How an African Kidnapping Crisis Has Terrorized D.C.’s Eritrean Immigrants

District Line Daily: The Great Divide

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to

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The Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design is expected to essentially dissolve itself this spring. In our latest cover story, Kriston Capps poses 22 questions (and answers them) that the institution should address before it hands over the art collection and some museum space to the National Gallery of Art and the college and building to George Washington University.


  • Could a spiffier waterway help Georgetown attract retail? [Housing Complex]
  • Ousted Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham is mulling a D.C. education board run. [Post]
  • D.C. farmers' markets are now more heavily regulated and face more government oversight than ever before. [Young & Hungry]
  • After this week's shooting outside the National Zoo, Woodley Park residents want answersand a possible end to the Easter Monday event. Police still haven't made an arrest in the shooting that injured two teenagers. [Post]

Read more District Line Daily: The Great Divide

The Needle: Veto This

#ThisTown: This save-the-date card, which was written in the style of a Congressional bill, could be the reason why D.C. gets a bad rap. -5

Chi-What-What?: Arlington County police are looking for a man who allegedly pulled a machete on someone whom his Chihuahua bit. And with that, Arlington just got a whole lot more exciting. +3

Read more The Needle: Veto This

Garrett Graff Is Leaving Washingtonian

Washingtonian editor Garrett Graff, who took over in 2009, will leave the magazine in June, publisher Cathy Merrill Williams announced today.

Hired at only 28 to replace his 75-year-old predecessor, Jack Limpert, who'd run the place for decades, Graff presided over a reinvention of the monthly magazine's front-of-the-book section, which he'd edited before taking over. Washingtonian won a Livingston Award for national reporting last year and is up for more than a dozen awards from the City/Regional Magazine Association this year; it won for "general excellence" and "online excellence" last year.

"Garrett has made a huge and positive impact on our business, our people and on all of our products," Merrill Williams says in her email to staff. "As only the third editor in our 49-year-old publication, he will always be part of the Washingtonian family."

"Cathy and I agreed this was a good time for me to step down, after five years as editor and nine years at the magazine," Graff says. "I'm amazingly proud of the work that we've done in the last five years, both in terms of the print magazine and all of our digital efforts."

What's next? "I don't have any concrete plans at this point, but am looking forward to a new challenge, wherever that may lie," he says. "I'm under contract to Simon & Schuster for my third book, a Cold War history, so I'm sure that'll take up a chunk of my time too."

Staffers Sherri Dalphonse and Kristen Hinman will be acting co-editors while Washingtonian searches for a new editor.

News of Graff's departure was first reported by the Huffington Post's Michael Calderone.

Read Merrill Williams' full memo below: Read more Garrett Graff Is Leaving Washingtonian

D.C.’s Assessment Says Sustainability Plan Is Off to a Good Start

In the past year, 100 D.C. police cruisers were equipped with anti-idling devices, slashing idling time by 60 percent in these vehicles, Mayor Vince Gray wrote in Sustainable DC's first year progress report, released today.

That's the kind of stuff in both the report and the plan. The ambitious and broad Sustainable DC plan, which specifically aims to make D.C. the greenest city in the country, lists goals that the District plans to hit by 2032, including creating three times as many small businesses, five times as many jobs providing green goods and services, and cutting the city's obesity rate by 50 percent.

So what has the city done this year (specifically between Earth Day 2013 and Earth Day 2014) to be more sustainable? In addition to the police cruisers, there are, of course, the much-touted larger recycling bins. And there's now an environmental literacy pilot curriculum in eight schools. Gray also proposed legislation to create a formal literacy program in schools.

D.C.'s population has continued to grow by about 1,000 residents each month and, according to the internal progress report, the city still decreased its overall use of energy while increasing community-wide electricity from renewable sources to 12.1 percent. In 2013, the District government, community partners, and private developers installed more than 300,000 square feet of green roof last year, which is more than any other city, according to the report. Read more D.C.’s Assessment Says Sustainability Plan Is Off to a Good Start

District Line Daily: Pulling Weeds

A morning roundup of news, opinion, and links from Washington City Paper and around the District. Send tips and ideas to

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A House Oversight subcommittee is scheduled to examine the District’s recently passed legislation to decriminalize marijuana. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton warns this could be the first step of Congress overturning the local act.


  • The Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls in overtime last night, giving the team a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series. Game 3 is Friday in D.C. [ESPN]
  • Police are still searching for the suspect who shot two people outside the National Zoo Monday. The zoo says it's reviewing its safety procedures following the shooting. [News4]
  • A new app, OurDCSchools, allows people to enter their D.C.  address and see how proposed school boundary changes would affect them. [WAMU]
  • Anacostia Park is now home to the District's first outdoor gym. [WJLA]

Read more District Line Daily: Pulling Weeds

The Needle: Metro Karaoke

Get Low: This great video of a very drunk man in a suit performing (that's a generous description) Lil' Jon & The East Side Boyz' "Get Low" on the Metro resurfaced today. It's only Tuesday, so this is definitely worth a watch and a guaranteed laugh. +3

LOLZ: A new, presumably accurate list ranked D.C. as the fourth funniest city in the country, estimating that there is one top comedian per 158,000 residents. D.C. has about 632,000 residents. That means there are about four really funny people in the city. -4

Read more The Needle: Metro Karaoke