I finally reached AG Peter Nickles.
I had called him multiple times on Friday without getting through to the big man. But today, he finally picked up his cellphone. I had hoped he would provide insightful and erudite commentary on the issue before his desk—-his office’s utter failings in the Pershing Park case. Last week, a U.S. District Court judge slammed the OAG for multiple discovery violations. The judge promised that his sanctions would be painful.
The most disturbing problems in that case: the D.C. Police Department’s command center’s running resume documenting the events at Pershing Park has gone missing (despite 12 hard copies and two electronic backups at one time floating around), and the major gaps in radio run recordings of that day. The tapes go to static in the critical moments when 400 people were rounded up in the park and arrested without warning or probable cause.
Last Friday, Councilmember Mary Cheh called for Nickles to resign.
So let’s just say I was excited to hear what Nickles had to say. Nickles is after all our top law enforcement officer, and came to the job with an impressive resume. Every issue usually ends with a reporter’s phone call to Nickles whether it’s the Fire Truck Scandal or Erika Peters’ murder or Fenty’s mysterious travel to Dubai.
Instead of insight, Nickles gave me this:
“I’m in a big meeting and I will not return your call.”
Look, I don’t normally write up blog posts devoted to no comments or variations on no comments. But his no comment just struck me as comical and, well, wimpy.
The attorney general should take questions from the press. And if he can’t take the heat, he doesn’t deserve to keep collecting a city pay check.
Nickles did talk to Legal Times about the case. He provided them with a steaming pile of nonsense:
“Nickles blamed a poor document management system for the city’s inability to track down and timely produce certain police records from the mass arrest of nearly 400 people. Nickles said he doesn’t think there was any intentional destruction of documents. ‘Our document management system is not up to the document management system I knew at Covington,’ Nickles said. He is urging city leaders dedicate more funding for document management in agencies across the city ‘so we can keep up with the large private law firms’ in class action cases.
‘There are probably missing documents. When you deal with tens of thousand of documents, that happens,’ Nickles said.”
Document management problems do not account for the missing stretches on those radio tapes. They also do not account for how the running resume could go missing when so many redundant copies were made. The running resume is even more troubling because the same problem came up in another protest case. After several years, and the deposition testimony of an honest cop, the running resume suddenly appeared. It had been found in the police department’s general counsel’s office.
The District Court judge addressed other discovery issues as well. The city attorney had sent over a huge number of e-mails that directly go to the heart of the plaintiffs’ case. These e-mails were extremely old e-mails and date back to the weeks just after Pershing Park. Some of the e-mails had come from the OAG. The office just never turned them over until now.