By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 19, 2007
A Prince George's County judge ruled yesterday that there is sufficient evidence for a grand jury to investigate an allegation that a former high-ranking county official threatened a real estate appraiser with a handgun last month, but the judge also said there are "numerous weaknesses" in the case.
After a hearing that lasted about 20 minutes, District Court Judge Hassan A. El-Amin made his ruling regarding Keith A. Washington, who until recently was the county's deputy homeland security director. Even though El-Amin allowed the case to go forward, he said "there are numerous weaknesses in the state's case." He did not elaborate.
Prosecutors now have 30 days to seek an indictment against Washington, 45, who is also a county police corporal. Washington is charged with first-degree assault, second-degree assault and use of a handgun during a violent crime in connection with the April 5 encounter at his home in Accokeek. He has denied wrongdoing.
Washington also remains under investigation for shooting two Marlo Furniture movers who were making a delivery to his house Jan. 24. Washington shot Brandon D. Clark, 22, and Robert White, 36, with his police-issued 9mm Beretta after a dispute over a bed set, police said. Clark died of his wounds Feb. 2. Washington has said he shot the men in self-defense.
During yesterday's hearing, county prosecutors called one witness, a police internal affairs investigator. Washington, who has been suspended from his police job, did not testify, and his attorney called no witnesses.
Sgt. Aaron Ajani testified that Kevin King, who works for ONCE Appraisals in the District, told police that he mistakenly went to Washington's home the morning of April 5. Washington's address differs from the address King intended to go to by one digit, Ajani testified.
King, 39, of Columbia, alleged that when he knocked on Washington's front door, Washington opened it and immediately became belligerent, Ajani said.
"As soon as he opened the door, he pointed a gun in his face," Ajani testified, referring to King's statement. King said Washington swore at him, "I know what the [expletive] you're here for. You're not here to do an appraisal," Ajani testified.
King told police that he backed away, got into his car, checked his paperwork and realized he was at the wrong house. King drove to the correct home, 10 houses away, and used the homeowner's phone to call 911.
Ajani testified that his commanders told him to meet King at a court commissioner's office. Ajani said he was told to advise King that if he wanted charges filed against Washington, he would have to file them himself.
Ajani also said King was unable to describe the handgun, other than to say that it was dark in color. The sergeant said there were no major inconsistencies between the statement of charges King wrote and the statement he gave to internal affairs investigators.
Washington's defense attorney, Michael Worthy, argued that charges against his client should be dismissed because of King's inability to describe the weapon. Worthy also told the judge that he believes the case against his client is "political" in nature, an allegation he reiterated at a news conference outside the courthouse after the hearing.
During the news conference, Worthy also alleged that King is not a licensed appraiser. However, officials with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation said King is licensed as an appraiser trainee and holds a real estate license.
Washington stood next to Worthy during the news conference but did not speak.
State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, at his own news conference, dismissed Worthy's accusation that politics played a role in the charges against Washington. "I don't have any political motive in this case," Ivey said. "The issue is whether a crime was committed here."
Worthy told reporters that though he was disappointed with the judge's decision, it was a "major victory" that King was unable to describe the gun in detail.
In response to a reporter's question, Ivey said that in general, crime victims who are suddenly confronted with a gun often are unable to describe the weapon in great detail.
Washington was appointed to the homeland security position in 2004 by County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D). He was once Johnson's driver.
Staff writer Candace Rondeaux contributed to this report.