Case continued for Metro’s ‘banana peel man’

December 16, 2013

A judge Monday granted a continuance in the fraud case of a 42-year-old District Heights man who has been dubbed Metro’s “banana peel man.”

Maurice Owens was charged with second-degree fraud after he said he slipped on a peel as he was getting off the 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.

Owens’s claim against Metro was thrown out, and he was charged with fraud.

It isn’t his first time in court.

On Dec. 2, Owens had a hearing in D.C. Superior Court, but it was continued until Dec. 16 so that Owens’s attorney could have more time to prepare, according to prosecutors. On Monday, a judge scheduled a preliminary hearing for Jan. 14.

Owens’s lawyer, Aleta Clayton, declined to comment Monday.

He faces up to three years in jail and $3,000 in fines — or up to three times the amount he was trying to claim from Metro.

Here’s how the scene played out on the video that caught the banana peel incident:

About 9 p.m. on Aug. 8, Owens could be seen going 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, as the elevator doors open, Owens can be seen flipping something onto the floor behind 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.

“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.

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Dana Hedgpeth is a Post reporter, working the early morning, reporting on traffic, crime and other local issues.
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