City Desk

Peter Nickles: I Will Not Call You Back

Peter Nickles

I finally reached AG Peter Nickles.

I had called him multiple times on Friday without getting through to the big man. But today, he finally picked up his cellphone. I had hoped he would provide insightful and erudite commentary on the issue before his desk—his office's utter failings in the Pershing Park case. Last week, a U.S. District Court judge slammed the OAG for multiple discovery violations. The judge promised that his sanctions would be painful.

The most disturbing problems in that case: the D.C. Police Department's command center's running resume documenting the events at Pershing Park has gone missing (despite 12 hard copies and two electronic backups at one time floating around), and the major gaps in radio run recordings of that day. The tapes go to static in the critical moments when 400 people were rounded up in the park and arrested without warning or probable cause.

Last Friday, Councilmember Mary Cheh called for Nickles to resign.

So let's just say I was excited to hear what Nickles had to say. Nickles is after all our top law enforcement officer, and came to the job with an impressive resume. Every issue usually ends with a reporter's phone call to Nickles whether it's the Fire Truck Scandal or Erika Peters' murder or Fenty's mysterious travel to Dubai.

Instead of insight, Nickles gave me this:

“I’m in a big meeting and I will not return your call.”

Look, I don't normally write up blog posts devoted to no comments or variations on no comments. But his no comment just struck me as comical and, well, wimpy.

The attorney general should take questions from the press. And if he can't take the heat, he doesn't deserve to keep collecting a city pay check.

Nickles did talk to Legal Times about the case. He provided them with a steaming pile of nonsense:

"Nickles blamed a poor document management system for the city’s inability to track down and timely produce certain police records from the mass arrest of nearly 400 people. Nickles said he doesn’t think there was any intentional destruction of documents. 'Our document management system is not up to the document management system I knew at Covington,' Nickles said. He is urging city leaders dedicate more funding for document management in agencies across the city 'so we can keep up with the large private law firms' in class action cases.

'There are probably missing documents. When you deal with tens of thousand of documents, that happens,' Nickles said."

Document management problems do not account for the missing stretches on those radio tapes. They also do not account for how the running resume could go missing when so many redundant copies were made. The running resume is even more troubling because the same problem came up in another protest case. After several years,  and the deposition testimony of an honest cop, the running resume suddenly appeared. It had been found in the police department's general counsel's office.

The District Court judge addressed other discovery issues as well. The city attorney had sent over a huge number of e-mails that directly go to the heart of the plaintiffs' case. These e-mails were extremely old e-mails and date back to the weeks just after Pershing Park. Some of the e-mails had come from the OAG. The office just never turned them over until now.

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  • monkeyrotica

    Nickles needs to resign. He's an embarrassment to his office and to the District and I know embarrassment. I voted for "Faith." Twice.

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Nickles is running scared. Pls keep pursuing this story JC; it has the potential to change DC gov't far more than the Barry scandal - we may see constitutional change, to an elected AG, as well as several lawyers disbarred & sent to prison, along with some cops sent to prison. Of course we may also see nothing change, but with a Federal judge on this case, odds are change will happen. We need a receiver appointed to run the AG office, like with the DFSA.

  • J.Con

    1. CP, please keep on this story! The Post inexplicably is not reporting it at all. It's ridiculous. A council member--who is a law professor at a well-regarded law school--is calling for the city's AG to resign and the Post won't report it. Pusillanimous pansies.

    2. Monkey, you can't vote for Faith from a voting booth in Maryland.

  • Ward 5

    I actually had to laugh at this (though its really no laughing matter. Nickels is just unbelievable. And like the group above me I’m praying for the same thing, that someone stays on this matter. I tirelessly looked in the Washington post for any mentioning of this - found absolutely nothing. Unreal... yet they thought it was important to do a story about Fenty being in a fender bender (no one was hurt)...I cant for the life of me understand why that would even be considered newsworthy. I’m starting to hate the Washington Post!

  • Jamie

    1) The Washington Post is completely useless. It is rare that they say anything at all about local politics, and when they do, they usually have done such bad reporting that it's something like an op-ed for the wrong side. Marc Fisher is the only person there who sometimes gets it right but there's no heat coming from that rag. To think they broke Watergate open once upon a time. I don't think the Post could investigate a parking ticket today.

    2) Agree totally on Nickles. The whole administration, really, is just one unbelievable flaunting of the law after another. Unfortunately, nobody seems to care except this judge. At least that's a glimmer of hope.

    Nickle's very appointment is a huge conflict of interest given his relationship with the mayor. It just goes downhill from there.

  • Wrack

    Al, you're such an optimist. Jail time for District attorneys? No way. I mean, I wish....

  • SaveDC

    Please put the lower level DC police and Unified Communications employees under oath by DC City Council hearings or Federal Grand Jury. A DC GOVERNMENT employee or employees intentionally erased the tapes. By D.C Code statutes that’s a criminal offense.

    22-2402. Perjury
    a) A person commits the offense of perjury if:

    (1) Having taken an oath or affirmation before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in a case in which the law authorized such oath or affirmation to be administered, that he or she will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by that person subscribed is true, wilfully and contrary to an oath or affirmation states or subscribes any material matter which he or she does not believe to be true and which in fact is not true; or

    (2) As a notary public or other officer authorized to take proof of certification, wilfully certifies falsely that an instrument was acknowledged by any party thereto or wilfully certifies falsely as to another material matter in an acknowledgement.

    (b) Any person convicted of perjury shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.

    22-2404. False swearing
    (a) A person commits the offense of false swearing if under oath or affirmation he or she wilfully makes a false statement, in writing, that is in fact material and the statement is one which is required by law to be sworn or affirmed before a notary public or other person authorized to administer oaths.

    b) Any person convicted of false swearing shall be fined not more than $2,500 or imprisoned for not more than 3 years, or both.

    22-2405. False statements
    (a) A person commits the offense of making false statements if that person wilfully makes a false statement that is in fact material, in writing, directly or indirectly, to any instrumentality of the District of Columbia government, under circumstances in which the statement could reasonably be expected to be relied upon as true; provided, that the writing indicates that the making of a false statement is punishable by criminal penalties.

    (b) Any person convicted of making false statements shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 180 days, or both.

    22-1805a. Conspiracy to commit crime.
    (a) If 2 or more persons conspire either to commit a criminal offense or to defraud the District of Columbia or any court or agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, each shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both, except that if the object of the conspiracy is a criminal offense punishable by less than 5 years, the maximum penalty for the conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum penalty provided for that offense.

    (b) No person may be convicted of conspiracy unless an overt act is alleged and proved to have been committed by 1 of the conspirators pursuant to the conspiracy and to effect its purpose.

    (c) When the object of a conspiracy contrived within the District of Columbia is to engage in conduct in a jurisdiction outside the District of Columbia which would constitute a criminal offense under an act of Congress applicable exclusively to the District of Columbia if performed therein, the conspiracy is a violation of this section if:

    (1) Such conduct would also constitute a crime under the laws of the other jurisdiction if performed therein; or

    (2) Such conduct would constitute a criminal offense under an act of Congress exclusively applicable to the District of Columbia even if performed outside the District of Columbia.

    (d) A conspiracy contrived in another jurisdiction to engage in conduct within the District of Columbia which would constitute a criminal offense under an act of Congress exclusively applicable to the District of Columbia if performed within the District of Columbia is a violation of this section when an overt act pursuant to the conspiracy is committed within the District of Columbia. Under such circumstances, it is immaterial and no defense to a prosecution for conspiracy that the conduct which is the object of the conspiracy would not constitute a crime under the laws of the other jurisdiction.

    22-2403 Subornation of perjury
    A person commits the offense of subornation of perjury if that person wilfully procures another to commit perjury. Any person convicted of subornation of perjury shall be fined not more than $5,000 or imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.

    22-704. Corrupt influence; officials.

    (a) Whosoever corruptly, directly or indirectly, gives any money, or other bribe, present, reward, promise, contract, obligation, or security for the payment of any money, present, reward, or thing of value to any ministerial, administrative, executive, or judicial officer of the District of Columbia, or any employee, or other person acting in any capacity for the District of Columbia, or any agency thereof, either before or after the officer, employee, or other person acting in any capacity for the District of Columbia is qualified, with intent to influence such official’s action on any matter which is then pending, or may by law come or be brought before such official in such official’s official capacity, or to cause such official to execute any of the powers in such official vested, or to perform any duties of such official required, with partiality or favor, or otherwise than is required by law, or in consideration that such official being authorized in the line of such official’s duty to contract for any advertising or for the furnishing of any labor or material, shall directly or indirectly arrange to receive or shall receive, or shall withhold from the parties so contracted with, any portion of the contract price, whether that price be fixed by law or by agreement, or in consideration that such official has nominated or appointed any person to any office or exercised any power in such official vested, or performed any duty of such official required, with partiality or favor, or otherwise contrary to law; and whosoever, being such an official, shall receive any such money, bribe, present, or reward, promise, contract, obligation, or security, with intent or for the purpose or consideration aforesaid shall be deemed guilty of bribery and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not less than 6 months nor more than 5 years.

    (b) Whosoever corrupts or attempts, directly or indirectly, to corrupt any special master, auditor, juror, arbitrator, umpire, or referee, by giving, offering, or promising any gift or gratuity whatever, with intent to bias the opinion, or influence the decision of such official, in relation to any matter pending in the court, or before an inquest, or for the decision of which such arbitrator, umpire, or referee has been chosen or appointed, and every official who receives, or offers or agrees to receive, a bribe in any of the cases above mentioned shall be guilty of bribery and upon conviction thereof shall be punished as hereinbefore provided.
    22-722. Prohibited acts; penalty.

    (a) A person commits the offense of obstruction of justice if that person:

    (1) Knowingly uses intimidation or physical force, threatens or corruptly persuades another person, or by threatening letter or communication, endeavors to influence, intimidate, or impede a juror in the discharge of the juror’s official duties;

    (2) Knowingly uses intimidating or physical force, threatens or corruptly persuades another person, or by threatening letter or communication, endeavors to influence, intimidate, or impede a witness or officer in any official proceeding, with intent to:

    (A) Influence, delay, or prevent the truthful testimony of the person in an official proceeding;

    (B) Cause or induce the person to withhold truthful testimony or a record, document, or other object from an official proceeding;

    (C) Evade a legal process that summons the person to appear as a witness or produce a document in an official proceeding; or

    (D) Cause or induce the person to be absent from a legal official proceeding to which the person has been summoned by legal process;

    (3) Harasses another person with the intent to hinder, delay, prevent, or dissuade the person from:

    (A) Attending or testifying truthfully in an official proceeding;

    (B) Reporting to a law enforcement officer the commission of, or any information concerning, a criminal offense;

    (C) Arresting or seeking the arrest of another person in connection with the commission of a criminal offense; or

    (D) Causing a criminal prosecution or a parole or probation revocation proceeding to be sought or instituted, or assisting in a prosecution or other official proceeding;

    (4) Injures any person or his or her property on account of the person or any other person giving to a criminal investigator in the course of any criminal investigation information related to a violation of any criminal statute in effect in the District of Columbia;

    (5) Injures any person or his or her property on account of the person or any other person performing his official duty as a juror, witness, or officer in any court in the District of Columbia; or

    (6) Corruptly, or by threats of force, any way obstructs or impedes or endeavors to obstruct or impede the due administration of justice in any official proceeding.

    (b) Any person convicted of obstruction of justice shall be sentenced to a maximum period of incarceration of not less than 3 years and not more than 30 years, or shall be fined not more than $10,000, or both. For purposes of imprisonment following revocation of release authorized by § 24-403.01, obstruction of justice is a Class A felony.

    22-723. Tampering with physical evidence; penalty.
    (a) A person commits the offense of tampering with physical evidence if, knowing or having reason to believe an official proceeding has begun or knowing that an official proceeding is likely to be instituted, that person alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, or removes a record, document, or other object, with intent to impair its integrity or its availability for use in the official proceeding.

    (b) Any person convicted of tampering with physical evidence shall be fined not more than $5,000, imprisoned for not more than 3 years, or both.

    It’s time to hold DC GOVERMENT employees accountable. This multi-million dollar PershingGATE alleged crimes created by “Ramsey, Lanier and Newsham, LLP ” must be investigated criminally to result in indictments and guilty pleas.

    Plus, disbarments for AG’s office and MPD General Counsel’s Office attorneys.

    The Honorable Councilmembers Cheh and Mendelson please investigate immediately the corruption that occurred with PershingGATE. Please do not allow the DC GOVERNMENT employees involved in this massive cover-up to continue receiving a paycheck from the District of Columbia.

  • JB

    I'm surprised he didn't claim "the bitch set me up".

  • dbrighthaupt

    @Ward 5 & Jamie - Boy oh Boy do I Agree!

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  • Q™

    SAVEDC, all are applicable, so what's next? Sounds like the judge is simply going to sanction them, not get them to admit to any wrongdoing to right-size this? What's a few million dollar, when we are already 600+ behind?

  • DCBob

    In addition to firing Nickles, we need an independent investigation of Nickles'and the OAG's actions.

  • fentygottado!

    The city has spent over ONE million in fees to PRIVATE attorneys for both Chuck Ramsey and Peter Newsham. I guess the city attorneys weren't good enough! Cathy Lanier was the SD Commander at the time of the Pershing park arrests.

    Ms. Boss Hogtie

    Lanier has spent the majority of her career as a disciple of Chief Ramsey. On matters of everyday policing, that means hitting crime hot spots and making the most of technology. And on the question of handling the protesters who routinely alight on Washington, it means no mercy.

    Prior to the much-anticipated April 2000 IMF/World Bank demonstrations, Lanier, by now an experienced white shirt, was charged with preparing a plan for “prisoner control,” according to a deposition she would later give in a civil case. Among the measures that Lanier & Co. developed during the planning exercise was a method of prisoner restraint known as “hogtying,” in which the detainee's left wrist is cuffed to his right ankle.

    Lanier justified hogtying as a sound way to prevent arrestees from escaping, assaulting police officers, or assaulting other arrestees. The tactic, she said in a deposition, had “met all of those goals.” It was also a painless way of containing the much-hyped globalization activists, at least based on the 10- to 15-minute hogtying beta test to which Lanier submitted herself. “[I]t was not uncomfortable. In fact, I recall sitting on a couch in the commander's office with my cuff to my ankle and to my wrist, and was able to not only sit and stand but could also lay down with relative ease.”

    Lanier claims that she received no complaints over the hogtying issue in 2000.

    Then came the events at Pershing Park. In September 2002, another round of anti-globalization protests hit D.C. Everything was going smoothly until several hundred people assembled in Pershing Park at 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. Ramsey and his top deputies panicked, ordering the arrest of everyone in the park without giving any warnings.

    The roundup netted not just protesters but also passersby, tourists, and others. They were hogtied, and some of them remained restrained for up to 18 hours. They would dispute Lanier's “not uncomfortable” assessment of hogtying, pointing out that the restraints hampered their circulation and left them numb in places.

    The policies that Lanier helped to put in place caused the District bad publicity and steep legal costs. Ramsey, Mayor Anthony A. Williams, and other city officials refused to admit to any wrongdoing, claiming that they were merely protecting the city in the age of terrorism.

    Court proceedings and D.C. Council hearings led by Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson would eventually force out the truth and spur new legislation to prevent such incidents from ever happening again. In January 2005, the city paid out $425,000 to seven Pershing Park victims, part of a settlement that also required a letter of apology from Ramsey to the plaintiffs.

    Ward 3 Councilmember-elect Mary Cheh plans to probe Lanier's involvement in the demonstrations when she comes before the council for confirmation. “I do want to return to that whole event,” says Cheh, who served as a special counsel when the Judiciary Commmittee investigated the mass arrests in Pershing Park. She has a few questions for Lanier: “Did anything about those processes strike you as unusual or inappropriate?” As for Lanier's boast that she tried the hogtie on herself, Cheh isn't overly impressed. “Did she put them on and sit on a mat for 12 or even 24 hours?” Cheh asks.

    The Pershing Park experience, though, didn't sour Lanier on mass arrests. During a march on the occasion of President George W. Bush’s second inauguration, police officers under Lanier's supervision swept up roughly 70 protesters in Adams Morgan following a spasm of vandalism. Plaintiffs in a January 2006 federal lawsuit claim that the cops repeated the sins of Pershing Park in failing to issue orders to disperse. They claim they were arrested despite the fact that they were attempting to break from the protest and had not committed any of the alleged property crimes.

    In an affidavit on the Adams Morgan roundup, Lanier admitted that no orders were issued prior to the arrests. But she justified her actions by playing up the threat posed by the protesters: “Members of the group were carrying pipes and torches.”

    (Courtesy of City Paper, 11-29-06)

    Nickles has been in office since Fenty has and has had PLENTY of time to clean the mess up, but has failed to do so, by obstructing justice and tampering with evidence. If Nickles didn't do it, he needs to find out who did!!! It

    ain't no different that you getting a red light ticket on your car and someone else was driving it! Even Nickles would tell you, "if you weren't driving, who was?? You gotta find out or you're gonna get blamed!"

    The Judge needs to have DOJ-Civil Rights Division and Public Corruption Unit investigate this case from top to bottom and hold all Public Employees, to include those that have left for other jobs, accountable. To include being fired and jail time.

  • Truth Hurts

    Agreed that WAPO sucks at investigating/reporting DC govt wrongdoing. It wasn't always that way, but since Serge Kovaleski and Yolanda Woodlee left, CP consistently puts WAPO to shame on reporting important local issues.

  • dcblackdaddy

    Nickles ain't leaving unless he is convicted of a crime and ditto for Barry, Lanier,and flaming Fenty.