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Destroyed or lost? More in the Pershing Park arrests saga

Pershing Park just won't die.

Late Friday, the D.C. government released a report by a retired federal judge who investigated allegations that police or other city officials destroyed evidence that may shed light on the controversial 2002 mass arrests in Pershing Park.

Lawyers for nearly 400 people are suing the District over their arrests during World Bank protests on Sept. 27, 2002. The attorneys have accused the government of destroying a key report and deleting portions of radio dispatch tapes that would help prove that the police illegally rounded up everyone.

The government has acknowledged that the report and recordings have vanished. But they do not concede they were destroyed or hidden away. Under pressure from a federal judge, Attorney General Peter Nickles enlisted retired U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin to look into the problem.

Those hoping for a smoking gun or exoneration of the District are likely to be disappointed by Sporkin’s 19-page report.

Despite interviewing more than a dozen officials and reviewing scores of records, Sporkin wrote he could find no proof the report or tapes were destroyed or altered as part of a cover-up.

He urged the city to examine back-up computer files to see if officials could find the missing report. He also recommended they hire an expert to examine the audio recordings to see if the gaps “were intentional or caused through negligence or accident.”

Sporkin does seem a bit skeptical that the report could simply have vanished. The document, known as the running resume, is a log of police actions that day. It was on computer files and at least one officer reported seeing a hard copy of it.

“We are particularly disturbed by the fact that we have been unable to retrieve a hard copy of the Running Resume but also that the electronic copy was purged from the system. We have no way of knowing whether this was an act of intentional mischief or reflects a benign action,” Sporkin wrote. “We do not believe it was the latter.”

The D.C. Attorney General’s Office filed Sporkin’s report on the public docket in the federal lawsuits late Friday. It is just the latest action in the long, complicated history of the Pershing Park arrests and litigation.

I was going to try to sum up the history of the case but realized it has already been done by a competitor. The Washington City Paper has created a webpage dedicated to the topic. It is loaded with original documents and photographs.

Keep in mind, however, that the City Paper has a definite editorial viewpoint about the arrests.

-- Del Quentin Wilber

By Del Wilber  |  December 7, 2009; 9:51 AM ET
Categories:  Del Quentin Wilber , Document Room , From the Courthouse , The District  
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"Keep in mind, however, that the City Paper has a definite editorial viewpoint about the arrests"

That's an understatement. The City Paper hardly qualifies as a newspaper and the Post would do well to not refer intelligent readers to that rag.

Posted by: PepperDr | December 7, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Peter Nickles pays a retired judge to varnish over the obvious and we are supposed to accept the report at face value?

"Sporkin wrote he could find no proof the report or tapes were destroyed or altered as part of a cover-up."

No proof? MPD can produce a theft from auto report taken in 1982 in about fifteen minutes, they can tell you who was working a footbeat on a particular day in the 1950's. But all of these records, reports and recordings disappear in this very high profile incident involving the highest levels of command?

Isn't this the very same case where a whole cart full of boxes and boxes of MPD emails was lost going from the basement IT department to the fifth floor?

Hopefully Judge Sullivan will take this report for exactly what it is worth.

Posted by: lefande | December 7, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I think the headline ought to reflect the article, that Sporkin believes that the files were destroyed. He was hired to render judgement, and he did: destroyed.

Why is the headline a question?

Posted by: emrj | December 7, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

scratch my back and I will scratch yours.

Posted by: loneranger1937 | December 7, 2009 8:31 PM | Report abuse

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