Four protesters who have wrangled in court with the District since they were arrested during a demonstration more than a decade ago asked a U.S. District judge this week to sanction several city officials for their handling of the case.
In their court filing, the protesters allege that the officials, including D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan, deliberately withheld or tried to destroy evidence related to the 2002 protest.
The filing brought a strong response from the attorney general’s office. “Their relentless attacks continue despite a complete absence of any proof that any evidence was destroyed or altered or that our lawyers acted inappropriately in any way,” spokesman Ted Gest said in an e-mail.
The plaintiffs were among about 400 people arrested in Pershing Park in September 2002 during a demonstration against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Most of the others have settled suits with the District.
The protesters’ attorneys asked in their filing that the court recommend that the bar pursue sanctions and even criminal penalties against several of the city’s attorneys.
The complaint alleges that the District concealed or obliterated audio, video and written evidence of the 2002 incident. It contends that during the discovery process, the protesters received an audio recording that they concluded had been tampered with because parts of the tape appeared out of order.
The plaintiffs’ filing and a statement of fact submitted by the attorney general’s office Tuesday gave different accounts about one key piece of evidence — a record of law enforcement actions on the day of the 2002 protest.
The document seems to have disappeared long ago — the plaintiffs have said it was deleted on purpose — but a police officer happened to come across a binder in October 2009 that he thought contained it. He reported it to higher-ups.
The plaintiffs have alleged that one of those supervisors, the D.C. police general counsel, Terry Ryan, deliberately swapped the binder that the officer found for a different one rather than reporting the finding to the plaintiffs.
The attorney general’s office has countered that the binder never contained the document in question, that it held the record of a different anti-IMF protest, one that occurred in April 2002.
“The record in this case shows that the Office of the Attorney General remains both unrepentant and unreformed, after years of criticism by judges and attorneys,” said Jonathan Turley, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “With this filing, we have laid bare the full record in the case. This filing contains obviously serious allegations of misconduct.”
The plaintiffs also asked the court to order the District to pay fees incurred during the years-long discovery process.
In his response, Gest, the attorney general’s spokesman, attributed the entire filing to financial motivations on the part of the plaintiff’s attorneys.