The D.C. Court of Appeals yesterday upheld the conviction of City Council member Douglas E. Moore (D-at Large) for assaulting a tow truck driver in 1975 and agreed that Moore must undergo a psychiatric examination as a condition of his probation.
In a brief, unsigned opinion, the three-judge appeals panel noted that a probation officer, in a presentence report, had "suggested that a psychiatric examination would be helpful in determining whether there were problems in the area of (Moore's) self-control."
Moore, 50, a candidate for City Council chairman in next September's Democratic primary, was convicted of simple assault by a D.C. Superior Court Jury in July 1976 in connection with an incident involving a driver whose tow truck was blocking the entrance to the parking lot at the District Building.
According to testimony at the trial, Moore and the driver, Thomas L. Smith, struggled when Smith went to move the truck. During the struggle, Moore bit Smith three times on the back, the testimony said.
Moore contended at his trial that he had acted in self-defense after Smith made a motion toward him. Moore testified that the motion made him think of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and that he feared that Smith was an assassin.
Judge Milton D. Korman sentenced Moore to pay a $500 fine, placed him on two years' probation and ordered Moore to undergo a mental examination, and if necessary to receive psychiatric or psychological treatment. Both the probation and the examination order were delayed by Korman to allow Moore time to appeal, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Moore can now ask the three-judge appellate panel to review its decision or ask the entire nine-member appeals court to review the case. If those reviews are denied, Moore can petition the U.S. Supreme Court to consider his appeal.
Moore could not be reached for comment late yesterday.
The appeals court decision comes at a time when Moore, an ordained Methodist minister and a maverick member of the City Council, faces a stiff challenge from council member Arrington Dixon (D-Ward 4) for the Democratic nomination for the council chairmanship. The primary election in Sept. 12.
Dixon declined to comment yesterday on the appeals court decision.
The appeal court rejected Moore's argument than the order for the psychiatric examination was beyond Judge Korman's authority.
Conditions of probation are up to the judge's discretion, the appeals court said, and/are limited by a requirement that the terms "be reasonably related to the rehabilitation of the convicted person and the protection of the public."
The appeals court cited Moore's presentence report that, the court said, described Moore as a "well-educated professional" who has attained "both recognition and significant government responsibility . . ."
But, the appeals court said, the same report detailed incidents, both before and after the assault, that "reflect out of the ordinary behavior for a person of (Moore's) background and achievements."
In early 1976, More paid a $200 fine, instead of spending three days in jail, after he was convicted of using dealer's license plates on his personal automobile. In February 1976, Moore was named in an arrest warrant in connection with a complaint by a Prince George's County woman who claimed she had been assaulted. The woman later declined to press ctarges after an out-of-court financial settlement was reached with Moore.
Considering the contents of the presentence report, the wide discretion of the sentencing Judge, and the appellate court's own limited power to review sentencing decisions, the appeals court said, "We cannot say the terms of the probation imposed here are unlawful."
Participating in the decision for the appeals court were Judges Catherine B. Kelly, John W. Kern III and J. Walter Yeagley.
The appeals court also rejected Moore's claim that Korman had erred when he refused to allow the jury to hear a tape-recorded conversation that Moore contended contained a threat on his life and testimony from a defense witness that she quit her job with Moore because she had received threats to her life and Moore's life.
Neither piece of evidence would have helped resolve the issues in the case and might have confused the jury, the appeals court said.
Moore was the leading vote getter among at-large candidates in 1974, but since has fallen out of favor with his council colleagues and most local party members. In 1977, Moore was tripped of his chairmanship of the powerful budget committee by a council-approved reorganization plan and also was removed from the largely honorary position of council chairman pro tempore.