'I Almost Got Killed,' Brazil Tells D.C. Judge

Who Threw Punch At Shop Disputed

 Harold Brazil.
Harold Brazil.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Former D.C. Council member Harold Brazil told a judge yesterday that he was the one who got attacked in a scrape at a Georgetown tattoo parlor in October, taking issue with prosecutors who charged him with assault.

"I almost got killed," Brazil declared, testifying in his own defense in D.C. Superior Court.

Brazil, a lawyer who was a four-term council member, has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor assault charge stemming from an Oct. 9 brawl at the Jinx Proof Tattoo parlor in the 3200 block of M Street NW. Three employees were "trying to kill me," he said in court.

The trouble began after Brazil, 60, entered the shop with his secretary and a female friend after having drinks at Smith & Wollensky that evening. The friend went to the back of the store for a tattoo. When Brazil's secretary tried to check on her, the shop's manager objected and pointed to a sign that said only patrons getting tattoos were permitted in that area.

Brazil testified that he tried to come to the aid of his secretary when he was attacked, thrown to the floor, punched, kicked and put in a chokehold. Brazil, complaining of pains in his head, neck and right knee, was taken to a hospital.

"One guy came over and started pounding on my head. I couldn't move or duck," Brazil said. "Then another guy was having target practice on the side of my head. I didn't have a chance to push anyone."

Brazil, who is black, said the shop's manager, who is white, also called him a racial epithet.

The manager, Francis Bradley Payton V, testified last week that he did not use the epithet. Neither Brazil nor his friends who were at the shop referred to one in their reports to police.

According to prosecutors, Brazil, in a drunken rage, attacked the manager, which caused co-workers to jump in. Police arrested Brazil that night. Brazil yesterday denied being drunk and said he had had two glasses of white wine.

During testimony yesterday, it was the words of Brazil's friend and defense witness, Petra Ann Nikolow, that Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin Dillon highlighted as evidence that Brazil was at fault.

Nikolow, who was having her name tattooed on the back of her shoulder, described watching the tattoo shop's employees push Brazil and then "hogtie" him by pushing him to the floor after he stood up to see about her.

"They were choking him, and Harold kept saying, 'I can't breathe,' "she said.

But under cross-examination, Dillon reminded Nikolow of her statement to police at the time of Brazil's arrest. She told police that Brazil had "overreacted" and that he "did not think before reacting."

Judge Jennifer M. Anderson, who is overseeing the non-jury trial, asked Nikolow why she didn't tell police at the time of Brazil's arrest that it was the shop's employees, not Brazil, who shoved first. Nikolow said she did not know why she did not speak up.

If convicted, Brazil, who represented Ward 6 and then the District at large in a council career that ended in 2005, faces a minimum sentence of probation and a maximum of 180 days in jail. The judge said she would announce her decision at a May 1 hearing.

Outside the courtroom, defense attorney G. Allen Dale said that Brazil was not guilty and that the only reason the case went to trial was because of his prominence.

"If you are a public figure, there is a higher standard," Dale said. "And that's not fair."

© 2009 The Washington Post Company