Attorneys for suspended D.C. personnel director George R. Harrod have asked that an assault charge against Harrod be dropped, contending that procedural errors by D.C. Superior Court clerks have invalidated the charge.
Harrod was indicted April 4 for allegedly choking and hitting a female staff worker after she tried to end an alleged sexual relationship with Harrod. Harrod, who was placed on administrative leave following the indictment, was arraigned on the misdemeanor charge five days later and pleaded not guilty.
The dismissal request stems from the U.S. Attorney's unusual procedure of asking for a grand jury indictment on a misdemeanor charge. Unsually grand juries inidct only in felony cases and the prosecutors simply file misdemeanor charges.
But since Herrod was a high city official, the prosecutors decided to let the grand jury charge him instead.
At Harrod's arraignment April 9, the prosecutors learned that the indictment had been given a felony number by a court clerk. On April 12 the presecutors asked for and received a dismissal of the felony case, but a second clerk noted that the dismissal was "with prejudice," according to court papers filed in the case. The "with prejudice" means the prosecutors cannot bring a charge again without a D.C. Court of Appeals ruling.
Harrod's attorneys, Dovey J. Roundtree and John A. Shorter, now contend that since both the felony and misdemeanor cases spring from the same indictment. The felony dismissal "with prejudice" means all charges against Harrod have been dropped.
"This is only one case," said Roundtree, who argued the dismissal motion before judge Edmond T. Daly on Thursday. "If it is dismissed, it is dismissed. Presently there is no case against George Harrod. The case is over forever and connot be reinstated," she said yesterday.
"The dismissal with prejudice serves as an adjudication on the merits of the case and bars, prohibits the right to bring or maintain an action on the same claim," the defense attorneys stated in court papers.
The U.S. attorneys disagree.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Nussbaum told Judge Daly that the misunderstanding involved "two clerical errors."
A court clerk "erroneously" gave the misdemeanor charge in the indictment a felony number and a second clerk "again made an error" April 12 by noting the dismissal was "with prejudice," Nussbaum said.
Judge Daly has said he will rule on the dismissal request July 13.