Federal court hearings on obstruction of justice allegations
After eight years of litigation on behalf of the nearly 400 people who were arrested illegally in September 2002, the Pershing Park mass arrest case has entered a new phase as 15 key police officials and lawyers, including former D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey, have been summoned to appear before week-long hearings in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.
The class-action lawsuit brought by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) resulted in a truly historic settlement of $8.25 million that included major and substantive reform in police policies and practices in the handling of mass demonstrations in Washington, D.C. and evidence handling.
Magistrate Judge John Facciola was appointed as Special Master by Federal Judge Emmet G. Sullivan to investigate the destruction and loss of evidence by government and police officials uncovered by attorneys from the PCJF during their class action litigation.
In a major article in the Washington Post today, Carl Messineo, co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice addressed the significance of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department’s mishandling, loss and destruction of evidence uncovered and exposed in the course of the litigation and these hearings:
“This is a proceeding about restoring personal accountability and making clear if there are persons identifiable as being individually culpable for the loss of evidence, that they be made to answer for that misconduct,” said Messineo.
He added, “If this is occurring in this case, when they know everyone is watching, what is going on unearthed, undiscovered in all the other cases – which are perhaps low-profile but life-altering cases – for people entering the justice system?”
The Pershing Park case received national and international media attention after it was revealed by the PCJF attorneys that the District had engaged in widespread destruction, loss and withholding of evidence. In the course of extensive litigation and discovery, PCJF attorneys uncovered and exposed that the running resume, which is a comprehensive log of police activity on the day of the arrest, had been destroyed. The destruction included not only the database and electronic backup but at least a dozen hard copies of the information. PCJF attorneys also uncovered that segments of taped audio transmissions, known as radio runs, appear to have been erased. The data missing was from the time the arrests were being ordered and executed.