On the soft and pleasant evening of June 21, 1976, Ira Abney, 28, went home from his construction job, put on a new suit with a vest and a new black shirt, and went out for a ride with his friend, Thomas L. McKnight, also 28, in McKnight's car.
Toward 2 a.m., the two were still riding around. McKnight was doing the driving and talking on his CB radio to another CB operator whose call sign was "Blue Haven." He arranged to meet "Blue Haven" outside a drug store at Thomas Circle NW.
That is how it happened, McKnight told a D.C. Superior Court jury this week, that he pulled his car over to the curb on 14th Street just north of Thomas Circle in the very heart of the district where the city's prostitutes ply their trade. He wanted to make a U-turn so he could get down to the drugstore and meet "Blue Haven."
The time was 1:55 a.m., according to police records.
Within a few minutes, Ira Abney found himself in the back of a police cruiser on the way to being booked on three counts of assaulting police officers and one count of soliciting for purposes of prostitution.
That is why he was in court this week. McKnight was not charged with anything. He was there merely as a witness in his friend's defense.
Abney who said he is 6 feet 1 1/2 inches tall and weighs 207, testified that as soon as McKnight stopped at the curb, a girl came up to the car and said, "How much are you spending?"
"Hey, I'm a poor man, what are you giving up?" he said he replied.
After another few moments of conversation Abney told the jury, "a big white duce" had reached in the car and grabbed him by the vest. "I thought I was being robbed," he said.
He said he got out of the car to protect himself and "the white dude fell on top of the car." At the same time, he said, "five or six girls started beating me. I was hollering for the police and screaming for mercy."
The "girl" who approached the car turned out to be Dolores Massey, 28, a D.C. police officer assigned to plainclothes duty. She testified that her job was to arrest men who solicited her for purposes of prostitution.
Massey said police regulations forbade her to approach men unless they summoned her. She said Abney waved her over to the car and offered her $15 for a specific sexual act, thereby providing the elements that make up the misdemeanor of soliciting for purposes of prostitution.
"I took my badge out and told him he was under arrest," Massey testified. "Abney informed me he was not going to let me put him under arrest." Massey said she then scratched her ear -- the signal to her partner to radio for help.
Officer Gregory Shelton responded in a marked police cruiser. Shelton, who said he was in plain clothes at the time, testified that Abney "picked me up by the groin area and the neck and threw me on top of the car. He bit me on the forearm. He still had me by the arm with his teeth when he pulled me off the car."
Officer Beatrice Evans, Massey's partner, said she tried to subdue Abney by jumping on his back, but that he threw her to the ground.
Officer James Corcoran, a uniformed member of the K-9 patrol, then joined the fray. "I grabbed the man and he bit me on the left arm. I struck him in the mouth," Corcoran testified.
After deliberating for 20 minutes, the jury found Abney guilty of assaulting officers Shelton and Corcoran, and innocent of assaulting Officer Evans.
Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio found him guilty of soliciting for purposes of prostitution. He ordered Abney jailed pending sentencing. The maximum penalty for assaulting a police officer is five years.
Abney and McKnight are both awaiting trial on a rape charge arising from an incident that allegedly occurred 10 weeks earlier.