A U.S. Department of Transportation employe who allegedly punched his boss in the jaw last September after she attempted to fire him was acquitted yesterday of assault charges by a D.C. Superior Court jury.
After the jury announced its verdict, the defendant, Vincent T. Oliver -- who had sat confidently during the lengthy, emotional trial -- accepted the congratulations of the jurors, kissing one while his attorney, Harry T. Alexander, shook the hand of another who approached him.
Alexander did not present evidence to counter the prosecution's charges that Oliver struck Feingold. Rather, through intensive questioning of government witnesses, Alexander attempted to show that his client was the victim of a racial and political vendetta.
Oliver, who was deputy director of the DOT office of civil rights, was charged Sept. 22 with punching and kicking his boss, Ellen Feingold, the director of the office of civil rights, after Feingold notified Oliver that she intended to fire him.
At the time of the incident and again during questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Spencer during the eight-day trial, marred by frequent objections and bench conferences. Feingold said that Oliver had hit her in the face with his fist and then kicked her in the pelvic area.
"I was standing at the desk of a staff member when Mr. Oliver walked by," said Feingold. "I said to him, 'Good morning!' He didn't answer. ... The next thing I knew I had been hit. I sailed through the air and crashed to the floor."
Before she could get up from the floor, Feingold said, Oliver gave her "a tremendous blow to the crotch." She said a secretary helped her into another office and later she was treated for her injuries at the department's Coast Guard medical facility and sent home.
Henri Baron, an equal employment opportunity officer, testified that he was also punched by Oliver when he came to Feingold's rescue during the indident.
Feingold could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Oliver, who was fired in June 1976 by then-DOT secretary William T. Coleman for alleged incompetence, took his case before an appeals view board. He argued his own case and was reinstated last March 24, shortly after Feingold was appointed civil rights director by new DOT Secretary Brock Adams.
During Oliver's misdemeanor trial, Alexander maintained that his client was the victim of a conspiracy by Feingold, who is white, and her staff to "get rid of a strong, black man."
Alexander did not make a statement in his client's defense at the beginning of the trial before Judge Robert A. Shuker, but used sometimes repetitive questioning of prosecution witnesses to "tear down the lie that the government's case was boaed on."
Feingold testified that she had sought to fire Oliver because "he refused to carry out any duties I assigned to him to do." Feingold testified that she would have liked to have picked her own deputy director.
"I wanted a person who was a fighter," Feingold testified. "I did want my own person. But Mr. Oliver was reinstated. It was not a question of whether I wanted him or not."
Alexander said he will file a $10 million civil suit against the D.C. Police Department and the federal government for malicious prosecution, false arrest, illegal imprisonment, libel and slander.