Loose Lips

Defense: Bribery Suspect Ted Loza Wasn’t Read His Rights

Ted Giovanny Loza did what no bribery suspect should ever do. He spilled.

When the former D.C. official landed at  Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta Georgia for a layover on Aug. 17, 2009, he got an unusual greeting. Loza, then the chief of staff to four-term D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham, was on his way back to the District after visiting Ecuador, his native country, when he was halted by an armed customs agent. Moments later, Loza would find himself in a back room being grilled by FBI agents about his relationship with D.C. cab companies.

But now in a Dec. 5 motion in the legal case that followed, Loza's lawyers contend that that day and the next, the feds "relentlessly questioned Mr. Loza for nearly twelve straight hours, including multiple hours in a small eight-by-ten private room, about alleged public corruption involving the D.C. taxicab industry." Loza talked during those interviews without ever being read his rights, the motion argues. As a result, none of the statements he provided within those two hot summer days should count. The motion reads: "Telling, the government has failed to produce any evidence of Mr. Loza's intentional and knowing waiver of his rights, which is not surprising considering he was never informed of his rights." As a result, the filing says, Judge Paul Friedman should suppress them.

During an "epic twelve-hour" interrogation, FBI agents Patrick Westerhaus and Jay Greenberg played hardball. "The agents informed Mr. Loza that if he refused to cooperate and assist law enforcement in their investigation they would make sure that he went to prison for many years, after which he would be deported from the United States." The g-men told Loza that if he didn't talk, he'd be indicted, and that would equal a one-way ticket back to Ecuador for the immigrant.

He'd be separated from his family, they explained, deported. "The agents then instructed Mr. Loza to list every instance in which he had taken money—whether in the form of cash, gifts, a meal, or a coffee—since 2004. Mr. Loza, intimidated and believing that he had no choice, complied with the agent's instructions."

In other words, even if only briefly and narrowly, he sang.

As proof that Loza was under arrest and not just palling around with the FBI—and so should have been given the standard "you-have the-right-to remain-silent" Miranda warning—the motion points out that Loza was constantly accompanied by agents during his interview, even when nature called. "In fact, on all but one occasion the agents actually accompanied Mr. Loza into the bathroom and supervised his use of the bathroom." There would be even more escorting:

At the conclusion of the [first day] of interrogation, the FBI agents escorted Mr. Loza to a hotel near the airport, even though the agents never asked Mr. Loza if he was "willing" to spend the night in Atlanta away from his family. The agents simply checked him into the hotel and escorted him to his room.

The feds then searched the hotel room before escorting Loza inside. They left, but returned to escort Loza to dinner. After dinner, they escorted him back to his room, where they snagged Loza's credit card, passport, and license. The agents then escorted themselves out. Early the next morning , the escorting began all over again.  FBI agents escorted Loza to their hotel room, where they asked him more questions. Afterward, the agents pressured Loza to sign a statement saying he'd taken bribes. Perhaps because he'd finally gathered his wits, he refused.

The interrogation ended, but—still without having read Loza his rights, Loza's lawyers say—there would be a little more escorting. The FBI escorted Loza to an 11 a.m. flight to Washington. Arriving in the city, Greenberg even escorted Loza from the airport to his place of work by giving him a ride. In September, Loza was officially arrested and charged for accepting trips and money to influence legislation that would have allowed "green" taxi cab companies to score much sought after and limited hack business permits.

The introduction of Mr. Loza's unwarned statements at trial would constitute a Miranda violation, the motion argues. It'll be ruled on by Jan. 20. Loza's trial will begin March 7.

But even if this new argument wins out, it might not help Loza out all that much—since in an indictment the prosecution says it has recordings of Loza talking to a briber, and saying incriminating things like, "You know I need it. That's why I take it, you know."

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Viet.

    Another crook hiding behind I didn't know the law. Let me see if I have this right, this guy was Ms Graham's Excutive Assistant, his right and left hand man, I guess you have to not be that smart to hold such position. Maybe he graduated from the same school as ex-county exc. Jack Johnson. Big Bubba is waiting for you!!

  • Ward 1 Voter

    "Perhaps because he'd finally gathered his wits, he refused." Perhaps he finally had a chance to talk to Nanny Graham to find out what to do do since both their arses were about to fry.

    Can anyone who knew and observed Graham and Loza over the years possibly believe that Loza acted without Graham's intimate knowledge?

    I mean Graham used his personal credit card to pay for an abortion done against the will of the mother to get Loza off the hook. These two were like oleagenous slime puddles that had all oozed together.

  • Truth Hurts

    Doesn't sound like a custodial interrogation to me. Sounds more like Loza was buying time, hoping to weasel out of it all.

    If they held him in jail -- or a locked interrogation room -- then maybe he'd have a legit argument. Still, they should've had him sign a rights waiver card to protect against a claim like this.

    Bottom line: the guy's a sleazebag and will go down anyway.

  • Ric

    Will Lhoza be subject to deportation if convicted? Is he in the US illegally?

  • DCexpat

    I bet they took him into custody before he entered the country / passed ICE, that way they can pretty much do whatever they want to him since he's not a US citizen. There's tens of thousands of immigrants in detention facilities right now who have not had due process at all. I bet the FBI agents jumped with joy when they learned he was traveling internationally. Basically, they threatened him with deportation to get him to talk about everything else. No Mirandizing needed...

  • Pingback: Loose Lips Daily: You’re Fired Edition - Loose Lips - Washington City Paper

  • EP Sato

    Ric- Loza's a Legal Permanent Resident, so he's not an illegal alien/ undocumented worker.

    However, Legal Permanent Residents don't vote, and don't have the same rights as citizens. On the basis that a federal crime is committed, they are usually kicked out of the US. After serving time in prison first of course.

  • Graham Corrupts Again @ City Council w Gray

    Let it be known, Graham almost lost reelection in Ward 1 because he turned his back on Loza, who does not have advance political skills and must be accountable for all of his actions to his personal and professionak boss JM.

    DC Loza does not have a green cardm, who earned DC tax payers funds as the Chief of Staff in CC, who first was on the Democratic Party. We must not allow those w/o citizenship to acquire such opportunities that Graham knew did not exist.

    Because Graham wants to be a woman with full domant control needs to be sanctioned by Council. Graham needs to get the hell out of our city's Legislative Branch, the lawyer who hires staff he MUST control that consist of Latinos.

  • karlitos’ guey

    Este guey was in Ecuador helping elect, as was said in the many newscasts where he was portrayed as a returning hero, the left winger Chavez loving candidate as president of Ecuador. Why hasn't anybody checked on that and how the newscasts portrayed this fulano's ''smiling'' self after he was ''interviewed'' por el FBI? I would've been unnerved and would not have done any interviews if the FBI was checking me out. Algo raro esta pasando.

  • http://www.obscure.org/~pburris Peter Burris

    Reading these comments, I can't help but observe that those who accuse Graham and Loza of indecency and sleaze are the first to employ ad hominem attacks. What hypocrisy!

    I recommend such proponents of smear revisit Cicero's Catalinian Orations for a refresher course in proper rhetoric.

  • fabyan drake

    Is Ted Loza still on $100,000 per year paid vacation? I mean "administrative leave". Does anyone still believe anything Jim Graham has to say about any subject anymore? Meanwhile, DC Taxi Drivers are still stuck with the lowest fares in the nation. Where was the outcry about this violation of Home Rule when Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich) decided that he was the DC Taxicab Commissioner? Or was this another dirty backroom DC political deal for which we are infamous? Hello Eleanor Holmes Norton. I'm talking to you! Speaking as a lifelong big city Democrat, I cannot wait until the new Congress takes office. Maybe they can bring some Glasnost to this one-party state. As they say; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • incredulous

    A clear finding of fact and reasonable suspicion is more valuable now than a criminal conviction.

  • TheresaUglyDudley

    We in Pee Gee County are stupid voters ,like some of you in DC and I am Black and female and love and support all white men arrested for corruption. Richard Delabrer, white PG Cop, arrested along w Jack and Leslie Johnson has my support precisley cause he is white. Johnson's do not worry I ain't supporting your kind and sorry I have 2 kids by a black dude.

    They fired me, Theresa Dudley,because I ran in the GREEN PARTY for Congress, teach kids dumb stuff at Drew-Freeman Middle School in PGC, and I am overwieght so it was not a good look and I promise to quit stalking Jacques Chevalier, a fine redbone married w children.

  • Crackheads4Jesus

    Graham Corrupts,

    Are you fucking stupid? Jim Graham won the election convincingly. Jeff Smith and Bryan Weaver votes combined still didn't put a dent in Jimmy's double digit victory.

    Ted Loza was a piece of shit and he can eat a snatch.

  • Pingback: ECUADOR GUIDE | Defense: Bribery Suspect Ted Loza Wasn’t Read His Rights