Last week, the man accused of being responsible for a spate of sexual assaults in Dupont Circle was arrested. And while Oscar Mauricio Carnejo-Pena stands charged with four counts of misdemeanor sexual assault, he may well be responsible for a number of other gropings — some of which he admitted to when detained by D.C. police.
But when we — like many other media outlets — first reported on his arrest, we were stuck with little to work with by way of a picture: Either we could use a stock image of a police officer, or, as we originally chose to do, an image of Liz Gorman, one of Carnejo-Pena’s alleged victims who went public after being groped in the heart of Dupont Circle.
Readers and friends alike asked me why we didn’t have a mugshot of Carnejo-Pena to share; police say the man is responsible for a number of sexual assaults, after all, and he was only sent to a halfway house after an initial court appearance. The implication seemed obvious: We’d at least like to know what this man, known to hang around Dupont Circle, looks like. Sadly, it’s not that easy.
Unlike many surrounding jurisdictions — just check out these mugshots from all around the region — neither MPD nor prosecutors release mugshots unless a suspect is wanted or until after they are convicted. Even if we asked really nicely or filed a Freedom of Information request, D.C. police and the offices that prosecute offenders would most likely turn us down.
The reasons for why dates back to the late 1960s. In 1967, a report commissioned by the D.C. Board of Commissioners — the precursor to our elected mayor and D.C. Council — found that arrest records, including mugshots, were widely disseminated. In an era of civil disobedience, this was bad news: A single arrest for protesting the government could land an otherwise honest citizen’s mugshot in a local paper, endangering their job and livelihood. It could also mean that the FBI could get a hold of the information, starting a file on that person.
[Continue reading Martin Austermuhle’s post at DCist.com.]