City Paper is not for tourists
Talk about sending the lamb to the slaughterhouse. On January 7, Office of Unified Communications employee Denise Alexander sat down for a deposition in the last remaining Pershing Park case. Let’s just say she was ill-prepared for any questioning.
But first a little background on Alexander: Two years ago, she had submitted an affidavit [PDF] swearing that the radio dispatches between D.C. cops at Pershing Park were in perfect order. A police official soon gave a deposition [PDF] stating that the radio dispatches did appear to contain gaps; most notably, the tapes went dead during the actual mass arrests on Sept. 27, 2002. Plaintiffs had then argued repeatedly that Alexander had submitted a false affidavit.
Alexander could be on the hook for a perjury charge.
When Ret. Judge Stanley Sporkin tried to question her during his own investigation into the evidence abuses, his staff was told that she was unavailable. This reporter reached her shortly after the report was released.
With a perjury charge still a possibility, Alexander appeared before the attorneys in the Chang case. A transcript of the proceedings shows that Alexander just wasn’t ready. The OAG clearly did not brief Alexander or at least failed to make her understand the personal stakes involved in her deposition.
The deposition got bad enough, quickly enough that at one point Alexander asked the plaintiffs attorney for legal advice.
Alexander believed that she was being represented by OAG lawyer Monique Pressley. Pressley jumped in and said she was not Alexander’s attorney. This became the issue of the day as plaintiffs attorney Jonathan Turley tried to sort through the confusion.
Turley: “Are you represented by counsel today?”
Turley: “And who would that be?”
Alexander: “Ms. Pressley.”
Turley: “Just to confirm, Ms. Pressley, you had told us yesterday that you weren’t representing this witness. Has that now changed?”
Pressley: “I’m not her personal counsel…”
Turley: “Do you understand that you do not have personal counsel today?”
Moments later, Alexander didn’t seem to grasp the importance of her previous affidavit.
Turley: “Are you aware that that declaration has been challenged as containing false statements?”
Alexander: “I learned of that fact.”
Turley: “When did you learn of that fact?”
Alexander: “Tuesday…This week.”
Turley: “How did you learn of that?”
Alexander: “Talking to Ms. Pressley.”
Turley: “Are you aware that you have been specifically referenced in open court as having potential criminal liability in this matter?”
Turley: “Are you aware that Judge Sullivan, who is the presiding judge in this case, has indicated that he may refer this case for criminal investigation?”
Turley: “Do you understand that you have a right to have your own counsel advise you today?”
Alexander: “I’m understanding that as we speak now.”
Turley then asks her if she understands the concept behind the Fifth Amendment.
Alexander went on to explain: “Ms. Pressley did mention that I could have a lawyer, but I felt as though I didn’t need—-I didn’t know that I would need a lawyer for this. But should I go find a lawyer?”
Turley asks Alexander if she wants her own lawyer. Alexander says yes.
In a surprising move, Pressley, the government’s own attorney, presses for the deposition to proceed. She even appears to contradict Alexander’s testimony.
Turley: “I am not sure how to proceed, Ms. Pressley. The witness was unaware that allegations have been made about her personally?”
Pressley: “No, she wasn’t.”
Turley: “She was not aware of that?”
Pressley: “She was not unaware of that.”
After the break, Alexander had something she wanted to say: “Yesterday I felt comfortable with going forward with the deposition, but since the beginning of this, I want to have a lawyer present.”
And that was the end of Alexander’s deposition. What a mess!