- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2006

Douglas Jemal’s real estate empire won’t be affected by his one guilty verdict for wire fraud yesterday, according to local developers and real estate groups.

Mr. Jemal was acquitted yesterday of more-serious charges of bribing a city official for favorable leases and conspiracy.

His sentence, which could be up to 20 years in prison or fines, will be determined by a federal judge in April. Mr. Jemal’s attorney said yesterday he plans to challenge the rulings and he is optimistic the verdict will not stand.

In any event, the charges and trial aren’t expected to hurt Mr. Jemal’s reputation as a tough and successful real estate developer in the city.

“I hope he puts this behind him and gets back to work,” said Steve Moore, president and chief executive officer of the Washington, DC Economic Partnership, a public-private organization charged with bringing business to the District.

Mr. Moore said he doesn’t expect Mr. Jemal’s verdict to hurt his credibility with the city, other developers or brokers.

“I didn’t meet anyone who wanted him to go down for this,” he said.

Tried with him, Mr. Jemal’s son, Norman, vice president of Douglas Development Corp., was cleared on all counts against him. Leasing director Blake Esherick was found guilty on two counts of tax evasion.

Many city developers rallied behind Mr. Jemal, citing the good he has done for the city.

Mr. Jemal, known for wearing cowboy boots to work and decorating his office with moose or deer heads and relics rescued from historic buildings, has garnered a reputation for buying and reviving dilapidated buildings before any other developer would even look at the site and before the District’s real estate boom.

His Douglas Development, with other developers and Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, was instrumental in redeveloping downtown’s Chinatown. Mr. Jemal owns the entire west side of the 700 block of Seventh Street, across from the recently renamed Verizon Center.

He also has tried to revive retail activity on F Street, which in the early 20th century was home to retail giants Woodward & Lothrop, Garfinckel’s and until recently, Hecht’s. He purchased the former Woodie’s building in 1999 and has since leased part of it to H & M clothing store and West Elm furniture store.

He also has cultivated a reputation for buying gifts and lavish dinner for clients.

“He’s the kind of guy who’s always giving presents to people, doing things for people. Any number of times that could have been misconstrued,” said a District developer speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Len Harris, vice president of retail leasing and project development at Vanguard Realty Group in Potomac, said he expects developers to continue to do business with Mr. Jemal.

“My dealings with him have always been successful and honorable,” he said. “I’ll continue to do business with him. I wouldn’t ever even think not to.”

Mr. Jemal is still involved in a number of high-profile projects, such as the Woodie’s building on F street, the Atlantic building down the street and a parcel of land in Southeast.

“I think it’s a good thing for the city that this is resolved and Doug is out from under the enormous level of uncertainty,” said Jim Abdo, president and chief executive officer of Abdo Development in the District.

“I’ve known Doug for many a year. I think he’s a good man,” Mr. Abdo said. “Regardless of people’s individual opinions, Doug has controlled some very important properties. That will, in and of itself, give people reason to conduct business with him.”

Even a witness from Morgan Stanley, which according to the prosecution’s case was defrauded by Mr. Jemal, told the jury he would do business with the developer again.

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