Opinion writer

Who in the hell is Don?

Sure, there are other things in this brief and transitory life that would also be nice to know, such as: Why does the D.C. mayoral race at times resemble a contest for student council president? Is disparate treatment of black D.C. youths the real reason behind the push to decriminalize marijuana use? And why would the leader of the free world sit still on Super Bowl Sunday for a clumsy grilling by a bloviating and patronizing Fox News personality?

But a man called Don commands our attention.

Don appeared in the Dec. 10 arrest warrant issued for Linwood Barnhill Jr., a 24-year D.C. police veteran charged with two counts of pandering a minor. The 300-pound Barnhill is accused of forcing a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl to engage in prostitution in our nation’s capital.

The 15-year-old told police investigators, according to the warrant, that Barnhill said he had a guy who wanted to see her. The girl mentioned that she had gone to Barnhill’s apartment four days earlier, accompanied by an adult female relative, and that while her relative stayed in the living room area, Barnhill took photos of her in the bedroom, both clothed and naked, with his cellphone.

Four days after the photography session, she said, Barnhill picked her up in his truck and drove her to his apartment on Stanton Road SE, where she met “Don.”

The girl described Don as a white man in his 40s or 50s. He was tall and wore business attire and glasses, she said.

No need for me to describe what police said went on in the bedroom, except that Barnhill collected money from Don and paid the 15-year-old a portion of the money once she was finished with the “date.”

According to the warrant, the teen said she did not feel comfortable after having sex with Don and told Barnhill that she was not interested in “escorting” in the future.

Again, who in the hell is Don?

It should also be asked whether other “Dons” trekked over to Barnhill’s apartment, which is in the jurisdiction of the 7th Police District, where Barnhill was assigned as an officer. Barnhill has been on non-duty status since September 2012, according to news reports.

It seems that other Dons may have paid Barnhill to have sex with girls in the District.

In two searches of Barnhill’s residence in December, police recovered a container and a bag filled with condoms, multiple pairs of women’s high-heeled shoes and a mirror with female names written on it. According to the 16-year-old girl, those were the names of others who had engaged in prostitution for Barnhill.

Who were their Dons? How were they lured to the Southeast apartment?

Barnhill’s attorney, Joanne D. Slaight, would not discuss the case with me this week, but she said that Barnhill is being held in jail without bond and that he has not been indicted by a grand jury. A status hearing is scheduled for March 14.

Asked about the lack of grand jury action, William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said this week, “The case involving Officer Barnhill remains under active investigation, and we have no further comment at this time.”

Here’s hoping that the Barnhill case isn’t cooling on a back burner while all attention focuses on the D.C. corruption probe.

Trafficking of minors is a heinous offense.

If Barnhill is guilty — and that can be determined only in a court of law — it would mean that a cop was prostituting teenage girls in the police jurisdiction where he was assigned. Could that happen without the knowledge of law enforcement in the part of the city that the 7th District covers?

Police Chief Cathy Lanier told me that her Internal Affairs Bureau had not uncovered any other D.C. police officer involved in prostitution.

But a serious inquiry into child prostitution should not be limited to pimps and their girls. Buyers deserve their day in the spotlight, too.

It is the Dons, after all, who are demanding young teens. Dons do the buying. They violate the girls. They perpetrate prostitution.

If there is any justice, the Dons should get busted and assigned to their rightful places on a ­sex-offender registry.

If care and protection are warranted, it should be for the girls in our city who are being exploited by sex traders and abused by men old enough to be their fathers.

Sex trafficking in our nation’s capital deserves at least as much attention as campaign rhetoric, trolley cars and pot.

So, too, do johns like Don.

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