NY Times: 'Inquiry Raises More Questions in Case of Arrests After '02 Protest in Capital'
Retired federal judge Stanley Sporkin has issued an investigative report on the disappearance of evidence related to the false mass arrests at the September 2002 IMF / World Bank protests in Washington, D.C.
As publicized by the New York Times on Dec. 8 (see full article below), the report states: “We are particularly disturbed by the fact that not only have we been unable to retrieve a hard copy of the running résumé, but also that the electronic copy was purged from the system … We have no way of knowing whether this was an act of intentional mischief or reflects a benign action. We do not believe it was the latter.”
In addition to the running résumé, which is a comprehensive log of police activity on the day of the arrest, the missing evidence includes deleted segments of taped audio transmissions from police radio communications at the time of the arrests.
The fact of the missing evidence was uncovered by attorneys from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF), who represent the plaintiff class of nearly 400 individuals falsely arrested at the September 2002 demonstrations.
Reacting to the report, Washington, D.C., Councilwoman Mary Cheh stated, “This disappearance of documents appears to be an extraordinary cover-up.”
In addition to those mass arrested in September 2002, the PCJF also represents plaintiffs in other major protest-related cases. These cases have exposed and challenged police tactics that violate free speech activities, including mass arrests of peaceful protesters and passerbys, police beatings, arresting individuals for wearing black clothes, FBI video interrogations of the political views of those in custody, hogtying of protestors in custody, and the subsequent destruction of evidence in an apparent effort to cover-up police misconduct.
Reprinted from the New York Times, Dec. 8, 2009
Inquiry Raises More Questions in Case of Arrests After ’02 Protest in Capital
WASHINGTON — On a September morning in 2002, the police monitoring protests at the I.M.F./World Bank meetings descended on Pershing Park here and arrested, hogtied and confined for hours hundreds of peaceful protesters, innocent bystanders and other people on their way to work.
Those actions led to federal lawsuits that have already cost the city more than a million dollars in legal fees and settlements. They also elicited a sharp reprimand this summer from a federal judge handling one of the cases after it was revealed that city officials lost, destroyed or possibly doctored records relating to the arrests.
In hopes of drawing the matter to a close, city officials last week released an investigative report about the missing documents. But the report, which was produced by Stanley Sporkin, a retired federal judge, called for a further inquiry and raised more questions than it answered.
Charged with explaining the mysterious gaps in audiotapes from the period surrounding the arrests, Judge Sporkin had also sought to investigate the disappearance of the “running résumé,” a detailed log of police activity from the day of the arrests.
But the report concluded that the only thing certain was that the running log existed at some point, and it suggested that the city try other ways to find a backup copy.
“We are particularly disturbed by the fact that not only have we been unable to retrieve a hard copy of the running résumé, but also that the electronic copy was purged from the system,” the report said. “We have no way of knowing whether this was an act of intentional mischief or reflects a benign action. We do not believe it was the latter.”
For some City Council members, the findings left much to be desired.
“This disappearance of documents appears to be an extraordinary cover-up,” said Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who helped conduct the City Council investigation in 2004 of the Pershing Park arrests.
Adding that she welcomed the United States Attorney’s Office or the Department of Justice to investigate the missing documents, Ms. Cheh said, “Somebody ought to be held accountable.”
For Peter J. Nickles, the city’s attorney general, the Pershing Park arrests have been a scandal that refuses to go away.
“I don’t like what happened,” said Mr. Nickles, who took office in 2008 and inherited the Pershing Park cases. “It happened years ago, and we have done everything we can to settle these cases and make reforms.”
The city has already spent more than $1 million for private lawyers representing the police chief at the time, Charles H. Ramsey, and another top police official, Peter J. Newsham, who has said he ordered the arrests.
Mr. Nickles said that he had settled two of the four civil cases and that he hoped to settle the remainder in the next few months.
The City Council report, released in March 2004, concluded that Chief Ramsey did not have probable cause to arrest anyone in Pershing Park in Northwest Washington and failed to give people in the park proper warning that they were risking arrest. It also questioned whether Chief Ramsey had lied to the Council in testimony about the event.
Pressure to settle the cases was stepped up in July when Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Federal District Court lambasted the city attorney general’s office for its handling of the litigation. While threatening “severe” monetary sanctions and saying he was considering the opening of an independent investigation into the matter, Judge Sullivan voiced his annoyance with the city.
“Mr. Nickles, you’re playing games with the wrong judge,” he said, adding that he wanted Mr. Nickles to submit a sworn declaration detailing his office’s shoddy work and the steps he was taking to fix the problems.
“Settle this case soon,” Judge Sullivan added.
In November, the city agreed to pay $450,000 to eight war protesters to settle a civil lawsuit in which they accused F.B.I. agents of detaining them in a Washington parking garage and interrogating them on videotape about their political and religious beliefs.
For years, the city police and the F.B.I. said that the interrogation had never happened and that they had no records of such an incident. The police also said no F.B.I. agents had been present when officers arrested the protesters for trespassing.
But as lawyers for the protesters were preparing for the trial, which was scheduled to begin in federal court Nov. 30, they unearthed police logs that confirmed the role of a secret F.B.I. intelligence unit in the incident.
The city soon settled and agreed to pay each of the protesters $25,000 with the rest of the money going to legal fees and litigation costs. Chief Ramsey was also required to send a letter of apology to each those who sued.