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A week ago Tuesday at about midnight, two eyewitnesses spotted D.C. political operative Matthew Schneider ripping down signs touting Ward 1 candidate Jim Graham. Schneider, they report, jumped up at each lamppost and tore down Graham signs on the sidewalks around 13th and Kenyon Streets NW. His political consulting firm, Field Strategies, has done contract work with several candidates in District races (including Ward 1 candidates Graham, Frank Smith, and Todd Mosley). Asked about his alleged midnight marauding, Schneider denies that he was engaged in political sabotage. He says he had put up signs earlier in the day on those streets for At-Large D.C. Council candidate Bill Rice and, when he returned later that night, found that all the Rice signs had been replaced with Graham’s. Schneider says he then contacted Graham’s campaign office and told them of his plans to correct the situation; he insists that Graham’s office agreed. “I took down the signs after [Graham’s workers] took down our signs,” says Schneider. But Graham disputes Schneider’s story. “We have lost, in a conservative estimate, 50 percent of our signs. There’s been wholesale destruction,” says Graham. “I don’t know what Matt’s talking about. If he’s been caught red-handed, then there you have it.”
Walk This Way Anise Brown thought she had the right of way last Thursday morning when she looked across the K Street and Connecticut Avenue intersection and spotted a green light in her direction. She crossed, as did a dozen or so other commuters from the Farragut North Metro station. When they were less than halfway across Connecticut, the crosswalk sign started flashing amber, and when they reached the other side, an on-duty Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officer ticketed everyone for the most noxious of D.C. offenses: jaywalking. The fine? Ten dollars and a bit of their dignity. “We had to line up [to receive our tickets]; we had to show ID,” Brown recalls. “I was livid.” MPD officials did not return calls about the jaywalking caper.
Criminal Arrears Attorneys roaming the halls of D.C. Superior Court are more surly than usual these days. In an effort to close an $8 million budget shortfall (attributed largely to the fact that Congress underestimated the costs of shifting the criminal justice system to federal jurisdiction), court officials have squeezed the
paychecks of court-appointed attorneys.
The last payroll was a quarter to a third of its normal size, according to a court source. Veteran court-appointed defense attorney Dennis Braddock says the court currently owes him $16,000 for about 26 cases. He did get a check yesterday, the first he’d seen in a month, but rumor has it that no one will see any more money until Oct. 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year. “It’s a typical, cynical maneuver of the Superior Court to pick upon that group which is least likely to make a fuss,” says attorney Colin Dunham, who is running for president of the court’s Trial Lawyers Association and has made the late payments a campaign issue. If you don’t feel sorry for the lawyers, feel sorry for their disadvantaged clients, Dunham says. “Court-appointed attorneys will be compelled to place their clients and the court in second place.” D.C. Superior Court Executive Officer Ulysses Hammond says that the court will continue to make payments “to the extent feasible.” “If a complete cessation of payments becomes necessary, the Courts will make an appropriate announcement,” notes Hammond.
Massacre The murder scene at Dumbarton Oaks Park in Georgetown was grisly enough to sicken even the most hardened investigator: Chain saw-wielding killers had completely dismembered the elderly victim, leaving severed limbs scattered about as if to mock the otherwise pastoral setting. Over the past two months, this heinous crime has been repeated several times in the Maryland suburbs. All the victims have been paulownia trees, prized in Japan for their soft, exquisite wood, and used for religious artifacts and dowry chests. Known for their violet-blue blossoms and heart-shaped leaves, paulownias can fetch thousands of dollars for their trunks. Department of Natural Resources officials believe the incidents are linked to the same poaching ring, and they warn D.C.-area paulownia owners to beware.
Reporting by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Eddie Dean, Paula Park, and Amanda Ripley.