By Keith L. Alexander
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 16, 2008
A Virginia man convicted of carrying a loaded shotgun near the Capitol and stashing explosives in a pickup was sentenced yesterday to 22 years in prison.
Michael S. Gorbey, 38, was arrested Jan. 18 when authorities caught him with the shotgun and a sword in the 300 block of First Street NE. Gorbey, who told police that he had an appointment with U.S. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., was wearing a bullet-resistant jacket and carrying 31 rounds of ammunition.
In sentencing Gorbey, D.C. Superior Court Judge Gregory E. Jackson said that, with the shotgun and rounds of ammunition Gorbey was carrying, he was "prepared for a fight or a war."
"But it was by the grace of God nobody, including yourself, was injured or that this didn't turn into a major gun battle," Jackson said.
The judge echoed prosecutors' concerns that Gorbey, of Rapidan, had some mental issues, although Gorbey disputed such assertions during his three-week trial this spring.
"There is a dangerous side to you, a very dangerous side to you. This could have been an ugly and very violent scene," Jackson said.
A jury convicted Gorbey of 14 charges, including one of attempting to make and possess a weapon of mass destruction. For Gorbey, it was the latest in a series of brushes with the law. He has been in and out of prison since 1991 and has previously been convicted of larceny, domestic violence, and drug and firearm offenses.
Under federal guidelines, Gorbey has to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before he's eligible for release.
The explosives in the pickup initially escaped detection by Capitol Police, who searched the vehicle soon after it was found on D Street NE, between the Capitol and Union Station. A follow-up search Feb. 8 turned up a can of gunpowder duct-taped to a box of shotgun shells and a bottle of BB's behind the driver's seat. Police also found 750 rounds of ammunition in the truck.
Gorbey -- who got a GED after dropping out of high school -- acted as his own attorney during his trial. At times, he appeared somewhat informed of legal practices, but his overall lack of knowledge of the law made for tense, drawn-out arguments and interrogations of witnesses.
Yesterday, for nearly 45 minutes before sentencing, Gorbey tried to delay the hearing, arguing that his court-appointed attorney, Donald L. Dworsky was not doing a sufficient job. Dworsky is the third court-appointed attorney to assist Gorbey since the case began. Gorbey had already sought two delays in his sentencing.
At one point, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff turned her back to Gorbey and rubbed her forehead in frustration.
The judge also had enough. "I am not going to delay this . . . anymore," he said. "You have impeded justice from moving forward with this case. You continue to insist that you know more than anyone else in the room. You have had every opportunity to have competent counsel to assist you."
Before Jackson rendered Gorbey's sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cummings, who worked with Kerkhoff on the case, argued that Gorbey showed signs of mental issues.
Cummings said the conviction gives Gorbey even more of a reason to believe the government had a conspiracy against him. That, Cummings said, will make Gorbey a threat when he is released from prison.
"If he didn't get what he wants, he was going to declare war on Washington. There is no doubt he will be more dangerous when he does get out of jail."
Dworsky, arguing on behalf of Gorbey, asked Jackson to show leniency because "nothing violent did happen." Dworsky said his client was "delusional." At that point Gorbey, standing beside his attorney, objected.
Gorbey insisted that the government and police planted the ammunition and that they altered a police video that showed him being arrested with the sword and shotgun. "Prosecutors are covering it up. They want me to look insane," he said.
Before U.S. marshals escorted Gorbey off in handcuffs and leg shackles, Gorbey made one more plea. "Can I say something?"
The judge cut him off. "No, Mr. Gorbey, you're through."