We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Charges have been dropped—for now—against five men accused of beating a man to death outside DC9.
Police contended that witnesses informed them that DC9 co-owner Bill Spieler and now-former employees Darryl Carter, Reginald Phillips, Evan Preller, and Arthur Zaloga tore after Ali Ahmed Mohammed when the 27-year-old broke a window belonging to the club on Oct. 15.The men allegedly beat Mohammed, who might have been drunk when he pitched two bricks at the establishment. But others told a different story—Mohammed hadn’t been beaten when he was caught, just restrained, and was fine when the police showed up to respond to a destruction of property call and took him away.
The men involved were arrested and, originally, charged with homicide. The charges were then downgraded to aggravated assault. Now the U.S. Attorney’s office has dropped the charges completely.
But a source familiar with the case says that things may not be as they seem, and prosecutors could be dropping the charges merely because the autopsy report from the medical examiner’s office is still pending. In that case, the office might bring charges against the men again, once the report comes out.
UPDATE: Here’s a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which makes it sound like this won’t be the last word on the case:
Our work is not done. The tragic death of Ali Ahmed Mohammed demands that we undertake a careful and comprehensive investigation to determine precisely how he died. Today’s action was taken after a detailed examination of the evidence gathered during the first three weeks of the investigation and a determination that we need more information before moving forward. Our investigation will be informed by pending forensic analyses and the ruling of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on the cause and manner of death, important factors in any death inquiry.
The search for justice cannot be rushed, and we will continue to pursue an active and vigorous inquiry. This is a time of unbearable grief for Mr. Mohammed’s family and friends. We thank them for their patience and understanding as we continue our work.
UPDATE 2: The notice of dismissal tells us more about the situation and what may happen going forward.
“The government has determined that, given the current state of available evidence, there is an insufficient basis to proceed on the current charges at this time, and the government therefore is dismissing them. In doing so, the government reiterates that its investigation is not yet complete and that it will continue actively. That investigation will be informed by the ruling of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on the cause and manner of death. This dismissal does not prejudice the government’s ability to file charges arising from this incident against one or more of the defendants in the future.”
UPDATE 3: Talking to DC9 defense lawyers, it’s clear they see the dropping of charges as an exoneration of their clients.They also seem to be very angry at Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier for having earlier accused their clients of being vigilantes.
Preller’s attorney, Danny Onarato, stated moments ago: “As we said from the outset, Mr. Preller committed no crime. Chief Lanier and the Metropolitan Police Department were wrong and did not conduct a full investigation before improperly jumping to incorrect conclusions. They trumpeted those incorrect conclusions to the press and that’s wrong. We applaud the decision of the U.S. Attorney to dismiss the case.”
Spieler’s lawyer, Steven McCool, says, “Cathy Lanier owes Bill Spieler an apology for falsely blaming him for this tragedy.”
Billy Martin, an attorney for Mohammed’s family, however, thinks this is no time for backpedaling. “Ali Mohammed was alive and suffering with no problems until thrown to the ground by one or more of the people charged,” he says. “This is not an acquittal. This is not over.”