Acting Atty. Gen. Peter Nickles
Acting Atty. Gen. Peter Nickles

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Ret. Judge Stanley Sporkin‘s investigation into the missing and/or botched evidence in the Pershing Park case has been released. The 18-page report is not a whitewash as we  had speculated it would be (mea culpa, Judge Sporkin). While the judge failed to name names and definitively conclude what exactly happened to the running resume and the erased radio dispatches concerning the mass arrests on Sept. 27, 2002, the report has much to offer.

For too long, the Office of the Attorney General—-and AG Peter Nickles—-had downplayed the evidence problems in the Pershing Park cases. Sporkin does no such thing. He suggests that in the case of the now missing running resume that it may have been destroyed on purpose.

“I try to be as surgical as possible,” Sporkin tells City Desk. “Just [follow] the facts where they are and at the end of it just look at them. Does it make sense?”

Sporkin says that the D.C. Police were willing participants in his endeavor. “There is nobody that didn’t talk to me straight,” he says, but added: “There’s inconsistencies. What can I say?”

Sporkin notes in his report that he believes the running resume at one time existed. At various times during the court cases, the OAG had contended that it did not exist. The retired judge also wrote that there were gaps in the radio runs but called for an outside expert to examine the audio tapes. Again, the OAG had suggested in court filings that the radio tapes did not contain gaps.

Sporkin could not find any direct order to destroy the running resume or erase the tapes. He suggests that the city investigate further to see if a back-up copy of the running resume could be located. He also suggests the District hire an outside expert to see if the radio tapes were intentionally doctored.

“While the evidence is not overwhelming, we believe there was a Running Resume,” Sporkin states. “We find quite troubling some of the contradictory evidence that surfaced during the inquiry. We are particularly disturbed by the fact that not only have we been unable to retrieve a hard copy of the Running Resume but also that the electronic copy was purged from the system. We have no way of knowing whether this was an act of intentional mischief or reflects a benign action. We do not believe it was the later.”

Sporkin says he can not rule out “the possibility of untruthfulness or something worse. We are particularly troubled by the fact that the group electronic recordation system was purged. It is difficult to understand how something like this could occur innocently.”

On the radio runs, Sporkin says the parties in the Pershing Park litigation should agree to hire an outside expert to examine the tapes.

“Once again mistakes were made which we hope will not be repeated,” Sporkin concludes. “We found no one giving any orders to erase, destroy or otherwise mutilate the tapes. If it should turn out this conclusion is in error, very severe sanctions should be imposed on the perpetrator(s).”

Sporkin had launched his pro-bono inquest after U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan had slammed the Office of the Attorney General in July. He interviewed many of the same officials well known to the case from former Chief Charles Ramsey to officials within the D.C. Police Department’s general counsel office.

Sporkin was not able to speak with Denise Alexander, the official the OAG used in the Pershing Park cases to attest that the radio runs contained no gaps. He was told she was on “personal leave.”

Sporkin says the issue of the radio runs was difficult. “These were tough to deal with,” he explains. I don’t have the technology. I’m surprised nobody got a specialist in there.”

Was he surprised that nobody from the District investigated these evidence problems years ago?

“I’m not going to say that,” Sporkin says.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery