A dozen Capitol police officers swept into three Senate office buildings yesterday afternoon and arrested six low-level Senate staff aides who, they said, had smoked marijuana on their lunch break.
The six men, all of whom were arrested as they were working, were seen smoking pot at various times over the past month in a lunch room on the ground floor of a Senate annex at 128 C St. NE, according to Capitol Police Inspector Gilbert H. Abernathy.
Although arrests in government buildings are rare, Abernathy described yesterday's as "not some big deal."
"There were complaints [about the marijuana use] and we instituted an investigation," Abernathy said. "We have a duty to look at it and it was there. We're not talking about a French connection."
Abernathy said that the number of arrests in a single foray was unusual.But he added that his department does not receive many complaints about drug use on Capitol Hill.
"Whatever precentage of society is using [marijuana], we'd hope we have no more than that," he said. "We're dealing with an important issue, but minor in comparison to [drug] cases elsewhere."
He said the six arrested had been watched since late February by Capitol police both in uniform and in civilian Clothes.
One of the six arrested, Christopher J. Provost, 22, of 6713 Furman Parkway, Riverdale, was immediately fired from his four-year job as a mail clerk for Sen. Richard S. Schweiker (R-Pa.), according to Schweiker's administrative assistant, David Newhall.
Provost, who was charged with posession of marijuana, was arrested in the Russell Senate Office Building.
Four of the arrests were made in the annex at 128 C St. Those Senate staffers were identified as Thomas Patrick Hughes, 22, of 3335 Pumphrey Dr. Forestville; Toney L. Epps, 21, of 4447 E St. SE; James R. Woodland, 27, of 2010 Houston St., Suitland, and Sam Winfred Battle, 23, of 1018 Hamlin St. NE.
Hughes, Epps and Battle work for Lewey Caraway, superintendent of the Senate office buildings, while Woodland works for the service department of the Senate office buildings. Caraways said he had no comment on the arrests and hung up on a reporter's call.
Hughes was charged with possession of marijuana and PCP, Epps and Battle with two counts each of possession of marijuana, and Woodland with one count of possession of marijuana.
The sixth man, Warren George Reid Jr., 27, of 2414 Colebrook Dr., Hillcrest Heights, was arrested in the Dirksen Senate Office Building and charged with possession of marijuana. He also works for the service department.
All the charges are misdemeanors that carry penalities of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.