Hearing for Metro’s ‘banana peel man’ postponed — again!

The hearing for the man who has become known as Metro’s banana peel man for claiming he slipped and fell on a peel from the fruit on a Metro elevator was postponed yet again.

Maurice Owens, 42, of District Heights was charged with second-degree fraud after he said he slipped on a peel as he was getting off an elevator at the Potomac Avenue Metro stop in August. He said he injured his leg and hip. Owens sued Metro for $15,000 — in part to cover $4,500 in chiropractor bills.

But a security camera on the elevator recorded something different.

It showed Owens getting into an empty elevator at the station. He paces around a bit, then glances up into the elevator’s camera. More pacing. Another glance at the camera. In fact, in the video, which is about 90 seconds long, Owens is seen looking into the camera at least three times.

Toward the end of the video, before the elevator doors open, Owens can be seen flipping something onto the floor in front of him. According to a Metro Transit Police report, “this object was later identified as a banana peel.”

In a dramatic gesture, Owens falls to the ground, half his body inside the elevator, half outside.

Owens reported his injuries to the station manager, Metro Transit Police were called, and Owens was taken to Howard University Hospital for treatment.

About two weeks later, Owens filed his claim against Metro.

In the past several months, Owens has had several hearings continued in D.C. Superior Court on the fraud charges. He was scheduled to go before a judge in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday but that hearing was postponed.

The latest delay came about because his lawyer, Aleta Clayton, recently withdrew from the case citing her own health issues. Owens has a new attorney, Henry Escoto, as of late last week. A prosecutor on the case said she believes the new defense lawyer for Owens would need some time to get familiar with the case before a hearing can be held.

A judge set a new hearing date of Feb. 4.

Metro said it wasn’t buying the story Owens presented about falling on the banana peel.

“What you will see in the camera footage is that the elevator, just prior to Mr. Owens boarding, shows there’s nothing on the floor,” said Metro spokesman Dan Stessel.

“He is then seen with what appears to be a banana peel in his hand, looking in the direction of the camera,” Stessel said.

“An object can be seen on the ground, and then when the elevator doors open, he steps on the object, thrusts himself forward and falls out of the elevator.”

In an interview with Metro officials, Owens had reportedly asked why a custodian for the station had “not cleaned up the banana peel prior to his entering the elevator,” according to the police report.

Metro presented its case to the U.S. attorney’s office in the District. A warrant was issued accusing Owens of fraud, and he was arrested.

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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