City Paper is not for tourists
At a hearing on Monday about whether nightclub DC9’s liquor license should continue to be suspended, those in attendance seemed to get a glimpse of the sort of courtroom ugliness that might emerge later.
Though the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) hearing had no baring on the upcoming DC9 criminal case regarding what happened to Ali Ahmed Mohammed after he was chased by five men for shattering their club’s window, DC9 lawyer Andrew Kline suggested cops had botched the investigation into Mohammed’s death by finding crackhead witnesses.
ABRA investigator Erin Mathieson wrote a report based on a police account that said there were two witnesses vouching for the fact that the men caught up to Mohammed in order to deliver a thrashing that eventually killed him.
While questioning Mathieson, Kline insinuated that the witnesses might not be his sort of people. (It was easy to get away with, as the witnesses are being kept under wraps, and Mathieson had no idea who they were.)
Kline: You don’t have any sworn statements from either of these witnesses, do you?
Mathieson: No, I do not.
Kline: And you have already said you don’t know the names of the witnesses?
Kline: So you don’t know if these witnesses are crackheads, drug addicts, or panhandlers, do you?
At that point, city lawyer Lousie Phillips objected, but it was already out in the air. Kline was perhaps playing off the insights of DC9 bartender Damon Dixon. In aChannel 7 interview that was played during the proceeding, Dixon also doubted the credibility of MPD’s witnesses. “They said that they interviewed witnesses,” Dixon said of police,”but if you know these buildings, the only people who hang out here are—you know, no offense—crackheads, you know, drug addicts, homeless people. A lot of the time we have to shoo them away.”
Though a good defense lawyer will always challenge the veracity of the prosecution’s witnesses, that Kline chose to play this card seems problematic and insensitive in a situation already fraught with political and cultural peril. (Besides, there’s not necessarily a connection between being a crackhead—or, especially, a panhandler—and whether the witnesses are telling the truth about what they saw.) Whether it continues will be clear soon: The first hearing in the criminal case against the DC9 defendants comes Monday.