Vendor Recounts Foggy Bottom Beating

By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 2, 2006

The elderly vendor who was beaten to the ground outside her Foggy Bottom apartment building spoke publicly about the attack for the first time yesterday, testifying in D.C. Superior Court and attaching a voice to the silent, startling images of her ordeal.

Captured on surveillance video, the assault last spring on the woman, who was then 83, was replayed again and again on the local news, searing the unsettling spectacle into the minds of many people who otherwise knew nothing of the victim.

Vasiliki Fotopoulos, who came to the United States from Greece in 1966, has lived on 24th Street NW for the past 20 years and has become something of a fixture as a vendor near the Metro station in her neighborhood.

Wearing a flowered dress and a navy cardigan and leaning on a walker, Fotopoulos wheeled her way to the witness stand yesterday to tell her story of heading home after a full day and seeing a man lurking near a secluded side entrance to her building.

"I was scared," she recalled.

Her instincts were all too right.

Suddenly, she said yesterday, the man set upon her.

"He started boom, boom, boom on my head," she said in Greek as a court interpreter provided the English version. "And after that, I couldn't take it anymore."

James A. Dorsey, 47, who prosecutors say attacked Fotopoulos on May 3, 2005, is on trial before D.C. Superior Court Judge Herbert B. Dixon Jr., charged with armed robbery and other offenses in an attack so widely seen that the defense sought a change in venue.

Early on, it seemed that the case might not go to trial.

Arrested within days of the mugging, Dorsey implicated himself in a video-recorded interview with detectives. Dorsey, something of a drifter, has a criminal record dating to 1984 and has used several aliases in his dealings with the authorities over the years.

But since his interview with police, Dorsey has maintained that he is not guilty. His lawyer, Larry Kupers of the D.C. Public Defender Service, said last week in his opening statement that Dorsey was pressured by the police and that he is not, in fact, on the video.

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