In retrial of 2005 beating of elderly Foggy Bottom vendor, District man found guilty

For the second time in eight years, a District man has been convicted in the 2005 beating and robbery of an 84-year-old street vendor.

After three weeks of testimony and three days of deliberations, a D.C. Superior Court jury found James A. Dorsey, 54, guilty of robbery and assault while armed in the May 3, 2005, attack on Vasiliki Fotopoulos.

Fotopoulos, who sold umbrellas, caps and other items from a stand near the Foggy Bottom Metro station, continued to work for several years. In recent years, her health declined, and she moved into a nursing facility. Two weeks before the second trial was to begin, she died at 92.

Dorsey was first convicted of the attack in 2006 and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. But last year, the D.C. Court of Appeals overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial. The appellate judges ruled that Dorsey’s rights were violated when detectives handcuffed him to a chair for 13 hours and questioned him repeatedly after he said he did not want to talk and asked for an attorney.

The judges also ruled inadmissable a confession obtained from Dorsey during the interrogation because he had not waived his rights to remain silent and to speak to an attorney. In the new trial, the taped confession was not allowed, nor were any comments Dorsey made to detectives after he asked to speak to an attorney.

Dorsey’s new team of attorneys, Eugene Ohm and Lula Hagos of the District’s Public Defender Service, argued that police and prosecutors rushed to charge the wrong man.

A surveillance camera captured images of an assailant punching and kicking Fotopoulos, who was affectionately known in Foggy Bottom as “Grandma.” Fotopoulos was knocked to the ground and robbed of about $300, authorities said.

Dorsey was arrested a few days later after authorities made the surveillance tape public in an appeal for help in solving the crime.

The second trial had been scheduled to begin in February. But prosecutors told the court that they had found information in boxes from the previous trial that identified two witnesses who said the attacker might have been a homeless man. That information was not given to Dorsey’s attorneys during the first trial.

Judge Anita Josey-Herring, who presided over the new trial, delayed it until May to give Dorsey’s new attorneys time to investigate.

The new prosecutors assigned to the case, Ann Carroll and Clayton O’Connor, continued to assert that Dorsey was the assailant. A new DNA test of the sock that the assailant allegedly wrapped around a hand before attacking Fotopoulos had Dorsey’s DNA on it, authorities said. Also, three witnesses identified Dorsey as the attacker.

Dorsey is scheduled to be sentenced in August.

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Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.
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