The District of Columbia seems not to want the public to know what it did — if anything — while investigating NBC News’ David Gregory for possession of an illegal 30-round magazine. The police refuse to turn over the public documents in the case, and the city council is allowing them to stonewall.
Mr. Gregory wielded the “high capacity” magazine on his Dec. 23 “Meet the Press” show. Afterwards, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) said that it had been asked by NBC if the multi-million dollar TV anchor could possess the illegal component and refused him. The police said it was investigating the matter, but would not release any further information. (Click here to read more about the police matter.)
On Jan. 9, I emailed Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier’s spokesman Gwendolyn Crump and top strategic advisor Kelly O’Meara for the case number for Mr. Gregory. By law, the police are required to turn over to the public a copy of the initial police incident/offense report, called the PD-251, which is identifiable by the six digit case number.
The next day, Mrs. Crump emailed that she would send the document when it was prepared. She ignored my request for the simple case number. As the incident report is the standard document to open a case, I asked how it was possible that it wasn’t prepared when Mr. Gregory committed the offense on Dec. 23. She did not reply.
Kristopher Baumann, the head of MPD’s police union told me that, “The incident, like all potentially criminal incidents, should have been investigated and documented in the normal course. There is no valid explanation for not having the documents available for the public.”
On Jan. 11, after a three week police “investigation,” the attorney general for the District of Columbia, Irvin Nathan, announced that his office would not press charges against NBC or Mr. Gregory. (Click here to read more about that decision.)
Mr. Nathan wrote the high-priced lawyer hired by NBC that he made the decision because “under all of the circumstances here a prosecution would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust.”
After the case was closed, I asked Ms. Crump and Ms. O’Meara three more times asking for the case number, but neither responded.
Finally, on Jan. 15, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request — even though MPD’s own website says the information is public and does not need to go through that process. The request was confirmed the next day and verified that it will follow District law, which is to respond within 15 business days.
After waiting 20 work days, the only avenue was to appeal to those who have oversight of the police department: Phil Mendelson, chairman of the city council, and Tommy Wells, chairman of the council’s judiciary committee. Staff for the two offices emailed that they would look into the matter, but have not given me any further information.
I also asked the District’s office of the attorney general how the police turned the case over without an investigative document. A spokesman said he would get back to me, but never did.
Washington politicians are apparently attempting to hide their two systems of justice. “This is a perfect example of what is wrong with local D.C. politics,” said Officer Baumann. “There are two sets of rules; one set for us common people; and a second set for the politically connected. It is indefensible that the criminal justice process could be manipulated to protect one individual. It undermines public confidence in the District, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system.”
The longer Chief Lanier and her allies in the city council drag out this case, the more attention is put on the ridiculous gun-control laws in the city. It’s time to come clean.
Emily Miller is senior editor of the opinion pages for The Washington Times. Her “Emily Gets Her Gun” series on the District’s gun laws won the 2012 Clark Mollenhoff Award for Investigative Reporting from the Institute on Political Journalism. Click here to follow her on Twitter and Facebook.