Talk about making a federal case of it.
When a gray Dodge Caravan collided with a white Toyota 4Runner in May while looping around Sheridan Circle in Northwest Washington, it appeared to be a run-of-the-mill fender bender that occurred during the morning rush hour.
The only damage was to the Toyota’s left rear bumper. D.C. police Officer Jenae Ross wrote the Caravan’s driver a $100 ticket, citing “changing lanes without caution.”
But the driver of the Caravan, Benjamin Huff, works for the FBI as a civilian investigative specialist, and he was on the clock when the accident occurred. Either he or his bosses decided to fight the ticket.
But the federal government doesn’t like its agents tried before local judges. Not even, it turns out, for a traffic ticket. A case against a federal agent has to be, well, a federal case.
And so Friday, an assistant U.S. attorney filed in U.S. District Court case 14-cfv-01399, a “notice of removal” in what has become the District of Columbia, Office of the Attorney General v. Benjamin Huff, Federal Bureau of Investigation. In essence, the papers “remove” the case from the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles’ Adjudication Services office — which had scheduled a hearing on the matter for this coming Friday at 7:30 a.m. — and put it into the hands of the federal court.
It was done, the filing says, “to ensure that federal officers or agents shall not be forced to answer for conduct assertedly within their duty in any court except a federal court.”
Bill Miller, the chief spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District, declined to comment, a stock phrase good enough, it turns out, for high-level corruption cases as well as lowly traffic citations. Ted Gest, the spokesman for the D.C. attorney general’s office, representing the DMV, wouldn’t speak on the matter, either.
Just what is all the fuss about?
The driver of the Toyota, Mark Andrew McCoy, of Alexandria, told police that the Caravan, driven by Huff, tried to move from the right lane to the left lane, striking his car. The officer issued Huff a ticket but wrote in the report that she had cited McCoy.
The U.S. attorney’s office contends in its court filing that the report is one-sided, giving only McCoy’s account of the accident. It also mentions the officer’s notation about who was cited, arguing she ticketed the wrong person.
Huff’s version of the accident isn’t provided, but his government attorney assures the court that “after conducting its own internal investigation, the FBI finds no basis for the Notice of Infraction. Therefore, based on the above facts, the U.S. Department of Justice authorized representation of Huff.”
A court date hasn’t been scheduled.