City Paper is not for tourists
This morning, Attorney General Peter J. Nickles appeared on WTOP’s Politics Program with Mark Plotkin to discuss a variety of matters.
Mark Segraves, who also questioned Nickles, already posted an item about Nickles’ strong statements on Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry. Asked if not paying your taxes should disqualify a person from public office, Nickles said his “personal view” is that it should.
But what really caught the ear of LL is statement Nickles made about the DeOnte Rawlings case. Asked by Segraves about the Fenty administration’s commitment to transparency, Nickles raised the subject of the Washington Post‘s in-depth investigation of the Rawlings case published last Sunday.
That article, by Cheryl W. Thompson, he says, contained an illegal leak. Nickles says the article names an individual who provided grand jury testimony indicating that Rawlings shot first at officers James Haskel and Anthony Clay.
Now it’s unclear who that might refer to. The article cites Haskel’s “recorded statement to police” in which he says “I thought he’s trying to scare us and then out comes the gun….And I’m like, oh, my God, he has [inaudible] because he’s standing there with the gun there and I’m like, okay, I get my gun out [inaudible] the gun out the window, he fires. I bang off two rounds. He runs off.” Thompson also mentions Clay’s statements to police, including that he saw the “muzzle flash” of DeOnte’s gun.
Said Nickles, “That material should never have been disclosed. It put the life of that individual in jeopardy. I’ve talked to the Post, we’re going to pursue that matter vigorously….It is inappropriate in the name of freedom of the press or whatever to disclose grand jury material. That is the law.”
Segraves asked Nickles if he was planning to bring legal action against the Post.
“Probably not against the Post because the law is not as good as it should be when something like this happens in a criminal grand jury matter, but I think I know how that was leaked, and I intend to pursue the leaker.”
Segraves asked if he suspects it was a D.C. government official.
“I’m not going to discuss the evidence I have indicating the inappropriateness of putting a life in jeopardy in get a story in the paper. Completely inappropriate and beyond bounds.”
If Nickles is claiming that the leak and the Post‘s disclosure are putting Clay or Haskel in jeopardy—-the only two persons named in the articles as having seen Rawlings fire a shot—-he has no leg to stand on, seeing as their names have been in rightfully in the public record since shortly after the incident happened in fall 2007. And yet he is going to pursue a witchhunt for a leaker?
The other possibilities are that he’s concerned about the naming in the article of a heretofore unnamed party.
That might be D.C. cops Anthony Fucci, Daniel Egbert, or Jeremy Bank—-who responded to the scene that night. But their statements are included based not on grand jury testimony but on depositions given earlier this year for a civil case—-and those depositions are part of a public court record.
Or perhaps he’s speaking of Bobby McNair or “Fat Stink”, who are named based on “[r]ecords obtained by The Post.” Neither of them, however, are said to have seen the shooting, only that they helped track down the missing minibike well afterward.
Or maybe he’s talking about Clifton Coleman, the 18-year-old who told police, after being arrested for shooting his girlfriend a month after the Rawlings incident, that DeOnte had shot twice at police. If he told a grand jury that, it was no surprise: “Sources” told Examiner‘s Scott McCabe that much, naming Coleman, back on Oct. 18, 2007. And at that time, Coleman had also spoken to Gregory Lattimer, the lawyer representing Rawlings’ family in the current civil case (and, LL suspects, the person Nickles has in mind as the leaker).
If the leak of that information is such a big deal, and it’s putting Coleman’s life in danger, why not pursue the leaker back then?