- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2000

The Alexandria, Va., magistrate handling dueling accusations between Rep. James P. Moran and a 8-year-old boy has retired and moved out of the area, spurring questions about the status of the investigation.

Magistrate Carl Cassel had handled the April 12 complaint from the boy's parents, who claimed Mr. Moran grabbed their son by the neck after the boy told him he liked the congressman's car.

A week earlier, Mr. Moran, a Democrat, told police he restrained the second-grader after the boy demanded his car keys and threatened to shoot him if he refused.

But Magistrate Cassel retired April 30 and no one including Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel and city police officials seems to know whether the case has been resolved.

"No warrants have been filed in either case at this time," said Lt. John Crawford, a city police spokesman.

Officials with the magistrate's office, who asked not to be identified, said yesterday a magistrate is assigned a case once it comes into the office and typically sees it through until it's filed in court. It is not customary to transfer cases between magistrates, they said.

Mr. Sengel said Monday he did not know whether Magistrate Cassel made an official finding, but assumed the magistrate had decided not to issue a warrant because Magistrate Cassel told him he intended to make a decision before he retired. However, no public announcement has been made about whether a conclusion was reached in the case.

Officials with the magistrate's office declined to comment on the status or a possible outcome of the investigation.

Meanwhile, Ted Williams, who is representing the 8-year-old boy, Michael Green, said yesterday he wants the Alexandria magistrate's office to hand over information uncovered in an investigation of the criminal complaint filed against Mr. Moran in the case.

Mr. Williams said he wants to see what information the magistrate had in the case against Mr. Moran before a police official talked to a judge about it a circumstance that prompted Mr. Williams to ask Mr. Sengel to investigate.

"I want the magistrate's office to provide the public the information of the allegation that the magistrate was supposed to have made against Mr. Moran," Mr. Williams said yesterday. "Somebody needs to explain this."

An official with the magistrate's office said yesterday that kind of information is not public and would not be provided to anyone, unless a warrant is issued in a case and is filed in court.

"It's just not something our office would release. It's not public record until it's filed in court," the official said.

Mr. Williams' latest request comes a day after Mr. Sengel concluded there was no evidence that the police official, who has not been identified, violated the law by talking to a Circuit Court judge about the case.

The police official told Mr. Sengel he talked to the judge after he became concerned that the magistrate, who was not identified by name, investigating the complaint might have lacked objectivity to consider the case.

Mr. Sengel told Mr. Williams in a letter earlier this week that the judge called the magistrate and suggested he consult with another magistrate or the commonwealth's attorney before reaching a final decision in the matter.

The magistrate's duty was to decide whether there was "probable cause" that Mr. Moran attacked the boy April 7 outside Cora Kelly Recreation Center. If he found there was probable cause, then he would issue a warrant, which Alexandria police would serve and investigate. If a magistrate does not find "probable cause," those who filed the complaint are told. Mr. Williams said last night he has not been informed of any outcome.

Local attorneys not affiliated with the case said yesterday they agreed with Mr. Sengel's finding that the police official did not interfere with the investigation.

"I don't think it even comes close to a criminal violation," Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said.

"It's perfectly proper for a police official who thinks that someone investigating a case has a beef with Mr. Moran to talk to a judge about it. And it's also proper for that judge to call the magistrate to talk about that," Mr. Horan said.

Mr. Williams said yesterday he is weighing every option to get to the bottom of the investigation into his client's case against Mr. Moran. He said he is considering asking Virginia Attorney General Mark L. Earley to review his complaint against the police official.

David B. Botkins, a spokesman for Mr. Earley, said yesterday his office has not received Mr. Williams' request for a review of the complaint.

The case began on April 7, when Alexandria police were summoned to the Cora Kelly Recreation Center. Mr. Moran told police he restrained the boy after the boy threatened him and implied he had a gun in his pocket. The boy's mother later said he had a miniature baby bottle full of candy with him.

The boy's parents filed an official complaint against Mr. Moran the following week, saying he attacked their son. Mr. Moran later conceded he had grabbed the boy, but only in response to the threat.

After hearing about the parents' complaint, Mr. Moran considered pressing charges against the boy, although he initially had no plans to do so. He has not yet pressed charges.

Just days after the complaint was filed, the boy's mother said they would consider dropping the matter if Mr. Moran apologized for grabbing Michael and accusing him of the carjacking attempt. Mr. Williams also said he would look into accusations that Mr. Moran might have been intoxicated when the confrontation occurred, claims Mr. Moran denied.

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