COURT RECORDS disclosing the sexual assault of a 27-year-old man being held in a cell at D.C. Superior Court, allegedly by another defendant, raise obvious — and troubling — questions. The attack occurred last Friday morning, lasted an agonizing 12 minutes and was partially captured on security cameras. So what exactly were the U.S. marshals who were supposed to be guarding these men doing? And have steps been taken to ensure that something like this does not recur?
Officials at the court and with the U.S. Marshals Service refused to provide any information. That gives credibility to long-standing complaints that the myriad local and federal agencies that make up the city’s unique criminal-justice system have resulted in a lack of accountability and transparency. “Beyond broken” was the characterization used by then-Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier in her final weeks on the job.
It is only because of reporting by The Post’s Keith L. Alexander that the horrific events of Nov. 11 became known to the public. The victim, who had been arrested for allegedly assaulting a liquor store employee with a box cutter, had finished a court hearing dealing with his mental competence and was in a courthouse cellblock with another defendant, both awaiting transport back to the D.C. Jail. He was, according to court documents citing video surveillance footage and a witness in another cell, choked, punched, and forced to perform oral sex and anal sex. Found naked and curled in a fetal position, he was taken to a hospital. A 36-year-old man has been charged with first-degree sexual abuse in the incident.
Among the questions a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service refused to answer were how often marshals are required to check on the holding cells, were protocols followed, has anyone been disciplined and — most critically — have changes been made to improve security? Officials cited the “ongoing investigation” in refusing to provide any information. But there’s no reason some of the questions can’t be answered now. What safeguards exist to protect the safety and security of people who go through the doors of D.C. Superior Court? The public is entitled to answers now.