- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

The director of the D.C. Office of Property Management said yesterday she is waiting to hear from city attorneys on whether the indictments of top Douglas Development Corp. executives on bribery charges will alter the District’s leasing arrangements with the company.

“So far, I’m not aware of any impact this is going to have on our leases and operations,” said Carol J. Mitten. “We’re waiting for an analysis from the [D.C.] attorney general’s office that will tell me if they have any concerns. But, so far, I haven’t gotten any word of that sort.”

A key part of the federal indictment against Douglas Jemal, 62, president of Douglas Development, and two of his top executives involves the D.C. government’s lease of office space at 77 P St. NE.

Prosecutors say Mr. Jemal, his son Norman Jemal, 36, and Douglas Development leasing director Blake C. Esherick, 42, bribed D.C. Office of Property Management’s former deputy director, Michael Lorusso.

Prosecutors argue that Douglas Jemal and the two other men gave Lorusso $25,000 in cash and gifts in exchange for favorable leasing arrangements. Lorusso pleaded guilty in the case last fall.

It is not clear whether the indictment, which became public Tuesday, will affect the District’s leasing arrangement with the company.

A spokeswoman for the D.C. attorney general’s office said city attorneys are reviewing the matter.

The District is already involved in a civil lawsuit over the lease of 77 P St. office space.

The city is suing Lorusso, saying he was involved in a scheme to submit phony invoices. The District has settled its lawsuit against Douglas Development over the same lease deal.

However, the city’s civil case against Lorusso has been complicated by his guilty plea to a conspiracy charge in the federal bribery investigation.

According to civil case records filed in D.C. Superior Court, Lorusso had refused to answer questions from city attorneys during a deposition earlier this year in the case.

Lorusso cited “my rights under the Constitution” at a deposition in March, refusing to say even where he lived, where he was born or whether he had ever heard of Douglas Development, court records show.

D.C. attorneys have objected to Lorusso’s refusal to answer questions, saying he doesn’t need to worry about incriminating himself because he already has pleaded guilty in the criminal case.

However, Lorusso’s attorneys say the criminal case remains active and that his guilty plea has been only “provisionally accepted.”

Lorusso has not been sentenced in the criminal case, and a status hearing is scheduled for November.

Lorusso, who has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of his plea deal, faces nearly six years in prison.

Douglas and Norman Jemal each face 40 years in prison and Mr. Esherick faces 45 years if convicted in the criminal case, prosecutors have said.

Douglas Jemal said that he, his son and Mr. Esherick dispute the charges and look forward to going to trial. They will be arraigned in U.S. District Court next month.

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