- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

The State Department is awaiting a decision from Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler on whether to request a waiver of diplomatic immunity for a Liberian teenager arrested over the weekend on assault, carjacking and robbery charges.

“Right now, the ball is in the prosecutor’s court. We’re waiting for them to make their recommendation,” said Brenda Greenberg, a State Department spokeswoman.

The decision by Mr. Gansler would affect Thomas K. Kollie, 18, who was arrested Friday night on criminal charges then released by Montgomery County police to the custody of his father, Aaron B. Kollie, the charge d’affaires at the Liberian Embassy in Washington.

As a child of a diplomat, Mr. Kollie is entitled to immunity from prosecution in connection with criminal offenses committed in the United States.

“Over the next few days, we’ll make a determination on whether to prosecute the case,” Mr. Gansler said yesterday.

If the State Attorney’s Office decides the case merits prosecution, it will recommend that the State Department request a waiver of immunity from Liberia.

“What makes this case unusual is the number of suspects that were involved,” said Mr. Gansler, who was poring over the paperwork he received from police yesterday.

Mr. Kollie was in a group of about 13 men who attacked three men in a car in a parking lot near Domer and Glenview avenues in Silver Spring, throwing bottles until all the car windows were broken, police said. One of the suspects wielding a knife then approached the victims, took the vehicle and drove it into two cars in the same parking lot.

“We have to determine what role this suspect [Mr. Kollie] had in the incident. Was he the ringleader?” Mr. Gansler said.

The two others arrested in the incident, Bryan Boley, 17, of Takoma Park, and David Alvarado, 19, of Silver Spring, do not have diplomatic immunity.

Mr. Boley was released late Saturday after posting a $20,000 bond. Mr. Alvarado had not posted bond and remained in jail yesterday.

Police think the three men in the car, who escaped unharmed, and three of the suspects had been involved in a fight earlier Friday evening. The victims were unable to provide police with descriptions of the 10 other suspects.

Mr. Gansler said he will make his decision during the next few days, likely before the weekend. He said of the eight to 10 cases his office receives per year involving diplomats, few cases are as complicated because they usually involve domestic violence.He also said most countries don’t waive immunity for theirdiplomats.

But the Georgian government waived immunity in one high-profile case in 1997. Gueorgui Makharadze, a former Georgian diplomat, was accused of killing a 16-year-old Kensington girl in a drunken-driving collision at Dupont Circle.

The government waived immunity, and Mr. Makharadze was sentenced to seven to 21 years in a Tblisi prison for involuntary manslaughter, serving only about 3 years before being released, State Department officials said.

“But that is very rare,” Mr. Gansler said of the Georgian government’s decision.

If authorities decide to prosecute because the charges are deemed “serious,” and if Liberia refuses to waive immunity, Mr. Kollie would be required to leave the country, the State Department said.

At that point, Mr. Kollie’s name would be placed on the visa and Immigration and Customs Enforcement lookout systems, the State Department would require that a warrant be issued for his arrest, and he would be barred from returning to the country without addressing the charges.

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