Page 2 of 2   <      

D.C. police testify about 2002 World Bank arrests

Sullivan said the department's conduct raised the question of "when, if ever, can anyone trust their government?" And Facciola said that witnesses could face criminal investigation by the Justice Department for perjury, obstruction of justice or destruction of evidence.

Carl Messineo, founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice, called the case an important example of court oversight of the $500 million-a-year D.C. police department and its 4,000-plus officers.

"This is a proceeding about restoring personal accountability and making clear if there are persons identifiable as being individually culpable for the loss of evidence, that they be made to answer for that misconduct," said Messineo, who has secured a separate $8.25 million class-action settlement for 386 plaintiffs.

He added, "If this is occurring in this case, when they know everyone is watching, what is going on unearthed, undiscovered in all the other cases - which are perhaps low-profile but life-altering cases - for people entering the justice system?"

New technology

In Facciola's second-floor courtroom in U.S. District Court, witnesses have cast a window back to the anxious days of fall 2002, when memories of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the anthrax scare and protests aimed at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were fresh and police in Washington took aggressive steps to maintain order. Police infiltrated protest groups, ramped up the use of closed-circuit TV cameras and bridled at Internet boasts by anarchists that they would shut down the capital.

But they also struggled to introduce new technology and provide resources to a three-lawyer shop facing 200 cases at any given time.

Sgt. Douglas A. Jones said Trugman asked him to provide - by written note and not e-mail, which would have left an electronic trail - the computer address of the master log. He said that one version of the log might have accidentally been overwritten during the D.C. area sniper case, which erupted days later.

But Jones said that he found it inexplicable that it did not remain on a back-up server and that he told technical employees to store all data on it before it was replaced years later.

Then-police inspector James O. Crane has given contradictory explanations of gaps in police radio recordings at critical moments during arrests. And police officials have struggled to explain how one of the few videotapes they did produce jumps back and forth in time, given their account that it was unedited.

On Friday, Harris said that it "was a mistake on my part" that Ramsey and top city lawyers misled the D.C. Council in November 2003 in response to a subpoena, saying that a less-detailed report was the master police log, which Harris knew was missing.

Police did not report the error or launch a deeper computer forensic search because, Harris said, he did not realize the mistake until a council investigation was over. Thomas L. Koger, the D.C. assistant attorney general who was assigned off the case because of breakdowns in turning over evidence, is set to appear Monday.

The D.C. Council approved new limits on police practices in 2005, ending "trap and detain" tactics in demonstrations and requiring training to protect free speech rights and retain related evidence.

<       2

© 2010 The Washington Post Company