- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Alexandria, Va. police are awaiting a magistrate's ruling on whether to proceed with the case against an 8-year-old boy accused earlier this month of trying to carjack U.S. Rep. James P. Moran outside a recreation center.

Lt. John Crawford, a city police spokesman, said yesterday the detectives completed their investigation into the April 7 incident late last week and have since handed their findings to the magistrate.

Police said the boy tried to carjack Mr. Moran, a Virginia Democrat, in a parking lot outside Cora Kelly Recreation Center and threatened to shoot the congressman if he refused to hand over his car keys.

However, the boy's parents, Melanie Gaitwood and Alonzo Griffen said Mr. Moran attacked their son, Michael Green, after the boy told the congressman he liked his car. They filed a complaint against Mr. Moran with the magistrate.

"The detectives had gathered information and facts of the case and presented those facts to the magistrate," Lt. Crawford said. "We're now in a holding pattern. We're just waiting to give the magistrate an opportunity to review all the facts in the case."

Ms. Gaitwood said Mr. Moran took hold of her second-grade son by the neck and began cursing at the boy before dragging him into the center. Mr. Moran said he restrained the 4-foot-7, 85-pound boy and took him to recreation center authorities because the boy claimed to have a gun in his pocket and threatened to shoot Mr. Moran if he didn't hand over the keys to his black 1999 Toyota Avalon.

As of last night, no charges had been filed in either case.

The magistrate, Carl Cassel, will review the findings and determine whether there is "probable cause" that the incident occurred. Lt. Crawford declined to discuss the results of the police investigation.

Lt. Crawford said that if the magistrate finds that sufficient probable cause exists, the police will still need Mr. Moran's cooperation to file an attempted-robbery charge against the boy.

So far, Mr. Moran has declined to press charges. But he has said he may do so if Michael and his parents persist in what he called their "false" accusations.

The parents' attorney, Ted Williams, said yesterday he has little faith in the police, who, he says, have already convicted his client of a crime he didn't commit.

"I have no trust in the Alexandria Police Department," Mr. Williams said. "The Police Department has prejudged my client and have already determined a verdict in this case."

Mr. Williams said he will not allow the case to rest until Michael is "vindicated."

He also confirmed yesterday that he is looking into whether Alexandria Police Chief Charles E. Samarra and his department have any ties with Mr. Moran.

"We're looking into what close associations Mr. Samarra has with Mr. Moran that would allow him and his department to favor Mr. Moran over an 8-year-old boy," Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Moran's political career began in 1979 when he was first elected to the Alexandria City Council. He served as vice mayor from 1982 to 1984 and was elected mayor in 1985. He was re-elected mayor in 1988.

In 1990, Mr. Moran was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia's 8th District. He is in his fifth two-year term, and his seat is up for re-election this year.

Chief Samarra came to Alexandria from the District's Metropolitan Police Department in 1990 after interviewing with senior city officials for the job. He received an endorsement from a panel of community leaders and another made up of police management and union representatives when he won the appointment.

Before coming to Alexandria, Chief Samarra was one of four assistant chiefs on the District's force of 4,355 officers. He joined the D.C. force in 1967.

Magistrates are appointed to serve indefinitely by the chief Circuit Court judge, in this case Chief Judge Donald M. Haddock.

Judge Haddock was appointed by a Democrat-controlled state legislature in 1984. Prior to his appointment, Judge Haddock was a partner in the now-defunct Thomas and Fiske law firm. He also ran a private law practice before taking the bench.

Like circuit judges who are appointed by the state legislature, magistrates are not to be affiliated with political parties. As magistrate, Mr. Cassel is a member of the Virginia Commission on Family Violence and Prevention, and serves on a subcommittee for community response.

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