- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2000

Alexandria, Va., police have officially closed the case accusing U.S. Rep. James P. Moran of assault on an 8-year-old boy, whom the congressman had accused of trying to carjack him outside a recreation center last month.

City police spokeswoman Amy Bertsch said last night they closed the month-old case late Monday after they received a final report from police detectives and supervisors that no warrants and no charges will be filed in the case.

"It's officially done and over with," Ms. Bertsch said yesterday. "There will be no warrants, no charges and no further investigation into the cases. It's closed."

The boy's attorney, Ted Williams, said last night he is pleased with the latest move, although the magistrate's office never officially informed him of its decision not to proceed with the parents' complaint.

"Michael Green has been vindicated," Mr. Williams said last night. "I firmly believe that if the Alexandria Police Department had any evidence, that they would have charged Michael in order to support Mr. Moran's bogus allegations."

Mr. Moran's office yesterday declined to comment on the closure of the case.

The boy's parents filed a complaint with the Alexandria Magistrate's Office on April 10, claiming Mr. Moran grabbed their son by the neck after the boy told the congressman he liked his car.

On April 7, Mr. Moran a Democrat and former Alexandria mayor told police he restrained the second-grader outside Cora Kelly Recreational Center only after the 4-foot-7 boy demanded his car keys and threatened to shoot him if he refused. The boy's mother later said her son had a miniature baby bottle full of candy in his pocket.

After hearing about the parents' complaint, Mr. Moran, 54, considered pressing charges against the boy, although he initially had decided against it.

The case remained technically open for several weeks after the incident, even though many court and police officials treated it as though it were closed.

The highly publicized case had caused some confusion for the police, the boy's family and Alexandria's commonwealth's attorney, who as recently as a week ago was not certain about whether it had been resolved.

Magistrate Carl Cassel, who had handled the complaint from the boy's parents, retired April 30 and moved out of the area without issuing a warrant or notifying the boy's family of his decision.

Alexandria Commonwealth's Attorney S. Randolph Sengel said last week 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 had been made on the outcome of the case, until yesterday.

Magistrates from around the state said yesterday the Alexandria Magistrate's Office should have informed the parents about its decision not to go forward with the case when it was concluded the magistrate found no probable cause that Mr. Moran attacked their son outside the recreation center.

"I hope to believe that the magistrates are more responsible than that," said Betty S. Wood, the chief magistrate in Accomac, Va., on the Eastern Shore. "A person needs to know, I think, whether their case will go to court or not. It's the ethical thing to do."

David L. Glass, chief magistrate in Lynchburg, agreed. "I don't see where there could be any reason not to notify the party, not even by phone," Magistrate Glass said. "You need to get a hold of the complaining party some way because if you don't, you're basically leaving them out."

The magistrates said, however, they don't know of any written policy that would require a magistrate to formally inform the parties of his or her decision. In some offices, they said, it's up to the individual magistrate to decide how to communicate a decision, if at all.

Officials with the Alexandria magistrate's office said last week 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.

The magistrate's duty is to decide whether there is "probable cause" that a crime was committed and that the accused is the person who committed the crime. If the magistrate finds probable cause, he issues a warrant. If a magistrate does not find "probable cause," those who filed the complaint are usually told.

Magistrate Wood said she requires that her five magistrates notify each complainant of their final decision. She said one magistrate no longer works in her office after he failed to notify a victim about the status of a complaint.

"I always tell my magistrates to please make a phone call or drop a note," Magistrate Wood said. "That's my policy."

Alexandria police said they were waiting for a final review of the case by court and police officials to ensure, as in any other case, that all necessary paperwork was completed and signed by proper authorities.

"They were making sure that nothing more could be done with this case," Ms. Bertsch said.

At one point, Mr. Williams had asked Mr. Sengel to investigate whether a "high-ranking police official" had tried to interfere in the investigation against Mr. Moran.

Mr. Williams said when the police official, identified later only as a captain, learned the magistrate found there was a possibility that assault charges could be lodged against Mr. Moran, that official tried to persuade the city's chief judge to intervene on behalf of Mr. Moran.

Mr. Sengel, however, found no wrongdoing.

Despite Mr. Williams' satisfaction with the outcome, the case may still not be over on the family's part. Mr. Williams said the parents are considering filing a lawsuit against Mr. Moran.

A former boxer, Mr. Moran is in his fifth congressional term, and his district covers Alexandria, Arlington and the southeastern parts of Fairfax County. He has, in the past, lost his temper in some well-publicized outbursts. Among them:

• Last June, his wife, Mary, called police to their home because he pushed her. Mr. Moran told police he pushed her in self-defense when she came toward him, but Mrs. Moran disputed that version of events. There was no evidence of assault, and charges weren't filed. The day after the incident, Mrs. Moran filed for divorce. Mr. Moran filed for divorce about three weeks later.

• In 1998, during the revelations about the president's infidelities, he reportedly told the first lady that if he were her brother, he would have punched President Clinton in the nose.

• In 1995, he had to apologize after pushing Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, California Republican, out of the House floor into a cloakroom.

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