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Posted at 04:17 PM ET, 10/03/2012

D.C. Council challengers have had police encounters


Grosso, right, says 1993 marijuana arrest was a “turning point” in his life. (Macy L. Freeman - The Washington Post)
As at-large D.C. Council candidates step up their attacks on incumbent Michael A. Brown, his supporters are raising questions about his leading opponents’ police encounters.

Candidate David Grosso, Brown’s best-financed opponent, was arrested in May 1993 in Okaloosa County, Fla., on a misdemeanor marijuana charge, according to public records.

“It’s absolutely true,” Grosso, 42, acknowledged Wednesday. He said he was caught with less than two grams of marijuana while on a camping trip when he was 22.

Grosso said he pleaded no contest and paid a fine.

The arrest, Grosso said, was a “real turning point” in his life. Before then, he said, he’d been working in D.C. bars and had no plans to go to college. But around the time of his arrest, he met his future wife, who persuaded him to go back to school.

Grosso went on to graduate from Georgetown University law school and work as a top aide to D.C. Council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6). He later worked in government affairs for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

Grosso said he disclosed the arrest on his law school and bar applications and has not used marijuana since that period. “Tell them to keep looking,” he said. “They’re not going to find anything in the 20 years since then.”

Incidentally, Grosso said he supports the city’s medical marijuana efforts. Asked whether he would consider legalizing marijuana, Grosso said “certainly all these types of things need to be considered on a regular basis.”

“I would consider it, of course,” he said, “but I would also not consider legalizing it at the same time.”

A.J. Cooper, another Brown opponent, was arrested early on New Year’s Day 2008 and charged with carrying a dangerous weapon, a felony.

The “dangerous weapon,” records show, was a flare gun. The charge was dropped two weeks later.

The charging document states that officers were near the 4800 block of Georgia Avenue NW investigating a fireworks complaint when they heard “a loud boom.”

Police then discovered Cooper, who is now policy director for the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy, in a nearby alley. A short distance away, officers discovered a “camouflage flare gun/gas launcher” and a backpack with Cooper's name on it containing a live 37-millimeter round as well as two spent rounds, records show.

In an interview Wednesday, Cooper said he was at his Petworth home on New Year’s Eve when he heard some neighbors shooting off fireworks. Noting that many kinds of fireworks are legal in the District, Cooper said he went outside to watch.

But when police arrived, he said, the neighbors ran and dropped the fireworks launcher.

“They all ran, but I didn’t see any point of running because I didn’t do anything, so I stayed,” said Cooper, 31, the nephew of former board of education chairwoman and philanthropist Peggy Cooper Cafritz. “So I stayed, and I got arrested.”

Cooper said he spent an hour in police custody and was told within days that the charge was being dropped. “It turned out the flare gun wasn’t even illegal,” Cooper said. “And the fact it wasn’t even mine, they dropped all the charges.”

Both Grosso and Cooper have pressed Brown on his personal and campaign issues, which include unpaid taxes, unpaid rent and the alleged theft of more than $100,000 from his current campaign. In 1997, at age 32, Brown pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge that he made $4,000 in illegal campaign contributions to the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D).

This week, in a series of tweets, Brown said the media “should vet everyone equally.”

“Let’s not have a double-standard,” he said.

This post has been updated since it was first published.

By and  |  04:17 PM ET, 10/03/2012

 
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