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An affidavit filed today in U.S. District Court raises questions as to whether former D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey may have committed perjury in his sworn testimony about the Pershing Park fiasco. Ramsey had repeatedly stated in depositions that he had not ordered the mass arrest of approximately 400 people during the Sept. 27, 2002, World Bank/IMF protests.
Yet the affidavit, by Det. Paul Hustler, a 22-year D.C. Police veteran, maintains that Ramsey indeed ordered the arrests.
Hustler’s affidavit, taken Nov. 16, [PDF] is just the latest shock in a pair of Pershing Park class-action civil suits in U.S. District Court. In recent months, the case has been dogged by allegations of massive discovery violations. Judge Emmet Sullivan has called for an outside investigation into how basic evidence in the cases had gone missing.
On the day of the protests, Hustler’s squad had been dispatched to Pershing Park to assist with crowd control. At the time, the police had surrounded anyone in the park whether they were IMF protesters or innocent bystanders. Hustler states in his affidavit that officers were ordered to funnel people into the park. Hustler was standing near Ramsey and various police officials at the time. He then goes on to state:
“As I walked closer, about five or six feet away from them, I heard Chief Ramsey say, ‘We’re going to lock them up and teach them a lesson.'”
Hustler’s testimony had been the subject of an intense legal war between plaintiffs attorneys and AG Peter Nickles. Last week, Hustler’s deposition was postponed. Nickles immediately filed a motion in U.S. District Court to bar Hustler from testifying in the nearly seven-year old case.
Yesterday, Judge Sullivan ruled that not only should Hustler’s deposition go forward but that it had to be taken in the presence of either U.S. Marshals or a magistrate judge.
By then Hustler had already given a sworn affidavit to the plaintiffs lawyers. It is easy to see why Hustler’s testimony is so explosive, given the light it sheds on Ramsey’s credibility.
The former chief had plenty of opportunity to give his side of the story:
*On Feb. 25, 2003, Ramsey testified before the D.C. Council’s Judiciary Committee. Then-Councilmember Kathy Patterson asked if Ramsey had been in on the decision to make the mass arrests. Ramsey replied: “No. When I came up on the scene, actually, that was already practically in progress.”
*On Dec. 18, 2003, Ramsey conceded during a D.C. Council investigatory hearing that he did approve of the decision to arrest everyone in Pershing Park.
*On Sept. 18 and 19, 2007, Ramsey was deposed as part of the class action lawsuits stemming from Pershing Park [see video]. He reverted back to previous denials. He stated: “I did not order any arrests at any scene during the course of that day.” Even when confronted with his testimony before the D.C. Council, Ramsey stuck with his denial that he had approved the mass arrests.
Hustler’s affidavit was filed in U.S. District Court this morning. The Pershing Park matter has long been an embarrassment for the police department as well as the attorney general: The false arrests of hundreds of innocent citizens, the missing evidence and discovery abuses, and now the possibility of the former chief lying under oath.
As part of their filing, plaintiffs lawyers wrote: “The affidavit has obvious relevance to the missing evidence and any motivation for alleged destruction of such evidence.”
Hustler’s testimony also reveals the unease among authorities who were on the scene that day:
“Officers started to surround the park and push people back into the park. At this time I along with Sgt. Buethe started to walk away. A man from the press stopped me and said, ‘Hey I’m from the press and I want to leave.’ I called Chief Jordan over and said ‘Hey Chief, this guy is from the press and he wants to leave.’ Chief Jordan came over and said ‘nobody leaves.’ At this time Sgt. Buethe told me, let’s go this isn’t right. And we went to the truck and watched as the crowd was pushed back into the park. At this time, a U.S. Park Police Lieutenant also stated that they were not going to participate in this, and that they were going to pull out.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery