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A Superior Court judge has trouble trusting the District’s Office of the Attorney General to prosecute its cases fairly, according to a stinging court order issued earlier this month.
The order from Judge Stuart G. Nash aims to put an end to the attorney general’s case against John Barbusin, an sergeant in the District’s Protective Services Police Department who was prosecuted for possessing an AR-15 assault rifle. Barbusin, whose department provides security for District government buildings, claimed that he was authorized to buy the rifle for his work.
During the trial, it was revealed that OAG attorneys hadn’t disclosed an email that confirmed Barbusin’s claim that he had permission to buy the gun. Nash threw the case out, on the grounds that the e-mail should have been shared with the defense. The OAG prompty asked Nash to reconsider, but maybe they shouldn’t have—-Nash’s order refusing the request contains a whole new round of slams for the attorney general.
It’s hard to pick which one of Nash’s remarks is most likely to give attorney general Irv Nathan indigestion.
Nash argues that dismissing the case shows that “no arm of law enforcement should exist above the law,” including the attorney general. There’s his assertion that the prosecutors admitting they should have disclosed the email restores only “some of this Court’s faith in prosecutions pursued by the Office of the Attorney General. And there’s Nash calling the OAG “oblivious” to the irony that, even as they were trying to pursue a law enforcement official for breaking the law, they could be breaking the law themselves.
J. Michael Hannon, Barbusin’s attorney, compares the case to the federal pursuit of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, which resulted in sanctions against two federal prosecutors for withholding evidence. “Sgt. Barbusin almost had his life and his career ruined had this document not surfaced,” Hannon tells LL.
There’s a bit of bureaucratic intrigue at play here, too. Hannon claims his client was pursued as part of a turf war between the Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of Protective Services, which is part of the Department of General Services. A DGS spokesman declined to comment on the alleged turf war, while an MPD spokeswoman referred questions to the OAG. Ted Gest, a spokesman for the OAG, declined to comment on whether prosecutors would attempt to retry the case.