City Paper is not for tourists
The day’s proceedings in United States v. Harold Brazil wrapped up shortly before 5 p.m. today, with the trial to continue Monday in Judge Jennifer Anderson‘s courtroom.
Read up if you missed the earlier coverage. The afternoon’s testimony introduced the two women who accompanied Brazil to the rowdy night at the tattoo parlor. First to testify was Elena Mirsayapova, 30, who has served as Brazil’s assistant since last July. A native of the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, Mirsayapova first met her boss when she was working at Spezie restaurant downtown, where the former at-large councilmember was a regular. In case you were wondering: No, she denies ever having had a romantic relationship with the married Brazil. They’re friends “on a limited basis,” she says. The other woman, the person who was actually getting the tattoo, was Petra Nikolow, 53, a Capitol Hill resident and dental assistant who is a friend of Brazil’s.
Together, the two filled in details of the fateful evening. “That was a crazy day,” Nikolow testified.
It began around 5 p.m., when Brazil and Mirsayapova met Nikolow at West End steakhouse Smith & Wollensky for drinks and apps. What kind of apps? Two large seafood platters, both ladies testified. In order to establish that Brazil was operating on a full stomach, attorney G. Allen Dale asked Mirsayapova what her boss had eaten. “He had all the claws!” she said. As for drinks, it went like this: Nikolow had a vodka tonic; Mirsyapova had a “glass of red wine and a splash”; and Brazil had two glasses, tops, of white wine.
“Harold always has white wine,” Nikolow said.
During the course of the meal, Nikolow, recently separated, persuaded her friends to join her that Thursday night as she got her first-ever tattoo; they didn’t want to, initially—-Mirsayapova said she wanted to go pick up her young son, and Brazil planned to go back to work. But, Nikolow explained, “I said I needed some moral support.” She’d done her research and settled on Jinx-Proof in Georgetown; the three shared a cab over to the shop. There, Nikolow signed the necessary paperwork—-including a certification that she was not intoxicated—-and paid cash for her tattoo, on her shoulder. She went to the ink booth in the back of the shop while Brazil and Mirsayapova waited on a bench out front.
The trouble began, and the stories diverge, when the artist inking Nikolow started up his equipment. The buzzing sound alarmed Mirsayapova, who walked back to check on her friend. That’s when counterman Francis “Tad” Peyton told her to get back out front, per store policy. Whether he did that in a polite or some other tone of voice, and how many times he did it, was debated to no particular end. But virtually all parties agree that Brazil’s crime began when he objected to Peyton’s order. When the conflict began in earnest, Nikolow was still in the back and Mirsayapova was either coming back into the waiting area or already there. Nikolow claimed that she was able to see an employee push Brazil “really hard.” As the melee ensured, Mirsayapova said, “I heard the N-word.” Both her and Nikolow testified that Jinx-Proof employees took Brazil to the floor and starting choking and punching him, first on his back, then on his stomach. Both said Brazil said he had trouble breathing and asked to be let go, and both testified as to seeing bruises and other injuries on Brazil afterward.
How credible was their testimony? Prosecutor Justin Dillon cross-examined only Mirsayapova before proceedings recessed for the day; he was able to establish a measure of confusion, if not contradiction, in her version of events, especially in her location during the melee and her identifications of which shop employees were involved. Dillon also pointed out that nowhere in a statement she gave to police short after the incident did she mention the “N-word” being spoken. Mirsayapova replied, credibly, that she told cops much more than what they chose to write down in the one-page statement. That, however, does little to support Dale’s contention, presented in his opening argument, that Brazil was riled to the point of violence by the epithet.
On Monday, Dillon will begin by cross-examining Nikolow. She testified last today that Brazil is both a truthful and peaceful man.
“Harold’s a teddy bear,” she said.