The bond for a 25-year-old Oxon Hill man was revoked and charges against him were increased yesterday, in connection with what prosecutors called a racially motivated shooting spree in Southeast Washington Oct. 11.
During a hearing yesterday in D.C. Superior Court, the defense attorney for Ian James Blair said the U.S. attorney's office had "bowed" to community outcry after the man's release from D.C. Jail last week.
Hearing Commissioner Andrea Hartnett ordered Blair held without bond after a prosecutor announced that Blair was now being charged with first-degree murder and assault with intent to kill rather than the original charge last week of second-degree murder. Blair had been out on a $10,000 bond set by Hartnett last week.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra Long-Doyle explained to the commissioner that the government decided to take the unusual step of bringing new charges against Blair after discovering additional evidence, including 291 rounds of ammunition in Blair's car and "conclusive" ballistic tests allegedly linking a gun found in Blair's car to two of the shooting victims.
This new evidence, the prosecutor said, constituted proof of premeditation, a required element of first-degree murder and one that was missing last week when Blair originally was charged.
One man died and two were seriously injured during the early-morning shootings on Oct. 11 that Long-Doyle said were specifically aimed at "black people." Shots were fired at nine people, she said.
Long-Doyle said that moments after the gunman shot one man, he said "live or die, nigger."
Greta Van Susteren, Blair's lawyer, however, accused the U.S. attorney's office of succumbing to the "terrific outcry in the community" after Blair's release and disputed the government's characterization of the additional evidence as new. Blair has pleaded not guilty.
She said news reports last week indicated that the police already had found a cache of ammunition and that she had been told at Blair's original court appearance last week that ballistics tests had been conducted. "It is a sham the way the government has rebrought this case back into court," she said, standing next to Blair, whose face was badly scratched. His left arm in a cast. Blair was arrested by police after he crashed his car after a chase.
Community leaders, including D.C. Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), have expressed concerns that Blair was being given preferential treatment because he is white. Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) is scheduled to hold a community meeting tonight to discuss crime in the area.
The community criticism has surprised judges and prosecutors, who pointed out out yesterday that far more blacks in the District are released on bond in first-degree murder cases than whites.
Hearing commissioner Hartnett also stressed that when a person is charged with second-degree murder as Blair was, a judge or hearing commissioner is barred from considering dangerousness when setting a money bond. Only the possibility of flight is supposed to be considered, she said. Blair had no previous convictions.