City Desk

Pershing Park Case: District Witness Pleads Ignorance

Peter Nickles

Talk about sending the lamb to the slaughterhouse. On January 7, Office of Unified Communications employee Denise Alexander sat down for a deposition in the last remaining Pershing Park case. Let's just say she was ill-prepared for any questioning.

But first a little background on Alexander:  Two years ago, she had submitted an affidavit [PDF] swearing that the radio dispatches between D.C. cops at Pershing Park were in perfect order. A police official soon gave a deposition [PDF] stating that the radio dispatches did appear to contain gaps; most notably, the tapes went dead during the actual mass arrests on Sept. 27, 2002. Plaintiffs had then argued repeatedly that Alexander had submitted a false affidavit.

Alexander could be on the hook for a perjury charge.

When Ret. Judge Stanley Sporkin tried to question her during his own investigation into the evidence abuses, his staff was told that she was unavailable. This reporter reached her shortly after the report was released.

With a perjury charge still a possibility, Alexander appeared before the attorneys in the Chang case. A transcript of the proceedings shows that Alexander just wasn't ready. The OAG clearly did not brief Alexander or at least failed to make her understand the personal stakes involved in her deposition.

The deposition got bad enough, quickly enough that at one point Alexander asked the plaintiffs attorney for legal advice.

Alexander believed that she was being represented by OAG lawyer Monique Pressley. Pressley jumped in and said she was not Alexander's attorney. This became the issue of the day as plaintiffs attorney Jonathan Turley tried to sort through the confusion.

Turley: "Are you represented by counsel today?"

Alexander: "Yes."

Turley: "And who would that be?"

Alexander: "Ms. Pressley."

Turley: "Just to confirm, Ms. Pressley, you had told us yesterday that you weren't representing this witness. Has that now changed?"

Pressley: "I'm not her personal counsel..."

Turley: "Do you understand that you do not have personal counsel today?"

Alexander: "Yes."

Moments later, Alexander didn't seem to grasp the importance of her previous affidavit.

Turley: "Are you aware that that declaration has been challenged as containing false statements?"

Alexander: "I learned of that fact."

Turley: "When did you learn of that fact?"

Alexander: "Tuesday...This week."

Turley: "How did you learn of that?"

Alexander: "Talking to Ms. Pressley."

Turley: "Are you aware that you have been specifically referenced in open court as having potential criminal liability in this matter?"

Alexander: "No."

Turley: "Are you aware that Judge Sullivan, who is the presiding judge in this case, has indicated that he may refer this case for criminal investigation?"

Alexander: "No."

Turley: "Do you understand that you have a right to have your own counsel advise you today?"

Alexander: "I'm understanding that as we speak now."

Turley then asks her if she understands the concept behind the Fifth Amendment.

Alexander went on to explain:  "Ms. Pressley did mention that I could have a lawyer, but I felt as though I didn't need—I didn't know that I would need a lawyer for this. But should I go find a lawyer?"

Turley asks Alexander if she wants her own lawyer. Alexander says yes.

In a surprising move, Pressley, the government's own attorney, presses for the deposition to proceed. She even appears to contradict Alexander's testimony.

Turley: "I am not sure how to proceed, Ms. Pressley. The witness was unaware that allegations have been made about her personally?"

Pressley: "No, she wasn't."

Turley: "She was not aware of that?"

Pressley: "She was not unaware of that."

After the break, Alexander had something she wanted to say: "Yesterday I felt comfortable with going forward with the deposition, but since the beginning of this, I want to have a lawyer present."

And that was the end of Alexander's deposition. What a mess!

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  • Carl

    As a District employee, is she entitled to a District lawyer? Or is that because this is a criminal matter, she's on her own?

  • Jason Cherkis

    If she is a union employee, she can request through her union representation. It's not required; she's just a witness and not an named defendant in the case.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    Hold this liar & perjurer in contempt, put her in jail until she testifies truthfully.

    She never should have gone in their without a lawyer from the union. Good point, JC.

    Union solidarity forever!

  • jf1

    Well, she's finding out what it means to be a sacrificial lamb. The hard way.

  • ogden

    This woman does not sound smart enough to work as a dispatcher. That or she's playing dumb in an attempt to obfuscate the proceedings.

  • Truth hurts

    This is nothing more than SOP for the city. But it's good that somebody's reporting it.

  • Terry Miller

    The District does represent employees, even when they are sued in their individual capacities, for actions that occurred on the job. BUT, they will not if there is a conflict.

    The District saying they saying they are not representing the witness means they DO have a conflict and they are probably going to take some sort of action against her. It might be criminal or it might be a personnel action, or it might be both...

  • MysticMan

    It's whoever wrote that affidavit and shoved in her face to sign that should be held accountable for perjury. She probably understood it as "sign this important paper now" and didn't really understand its meaning.

  • Jason Cherkis

    MysticMan makes a great point. I want to know who wrote that affidavit and how did they present it to Ms. Alexander.

  • MysticMan

    Her "testimony" was likely what someone else wrote in the form of an affidavit. Can she be said to have really sworn to all that was printed on it if she didn't have legal advice as to what it meant?

  • Im With Mystic

    Why didn't anyone ask her questions about who did write the affidavit? If a superior did do that, and put it in front of her to sign, and she really had little say in the matter or even didn't understand what she was signing, wouldn't that help "exonerate" her from criminal liability? Why didn't the attorney ask questions of her, to find out? We'd all like to know the answers.

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