- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 4, 2016

It’s been nearly five years since Dwayne Hogue, a former special police officer, pleaded guilty to a gun possession charge that stripped him of his livelihood.

Mr. Hogue, a Maryland resident, was pulled over in March 2011 while driving through the District and charged with possession of an unregistered firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition after a U.S. Park Police officer discovered his handgun and ammunition in the car.

On the advice of his court-appointed attorney, Mr. Hogue pleaded guilty to avoid jail time, a decision he now regrets. With the gun charge on his record, he has been unable to return to the type of security work that had provided him a steady income for 16 years.

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Every day since his arrest, Mr. Hogue thinks about the incident. Replays it in his head. Wonders how things could have worked out differently.

“I have a major blemish on my record,” he said. “I think about coming back to work, but not until I get this thing behind me.”

Mr. Hogue had hoped there was a chance to withdraw his guilty plea on the grounds that his attorney hadn’t provided him effective counsel or by reasserting a defense under the federal Firearm Owners’ Protection Act.

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On Thursday, D.C. Superior Court Judge Ronna L. Beck dashed those hopes and rejected Mr. Hogue’s motion to withdraw his plea.

“I am not unsympathetic to the situation you find yourself in,” Judge Beck said. “This was a valid plea.”

The District has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, requiring handgun registration for residents and prohibiting the carrying of firearms unless a gun owner has one of only several dozen concealed carry permits that have been issued or unless the gun owner is transporting the firearm to and from locations where the carrying of a firearm is allowed.

During Thursday’s hearing, Judge Beck didn’t allow for any evidence to be presented. Mr. Hogue had hoped an evidentiary hearing would have allowed for his new public defender, Roderick Thompson, to question his former attorney Steven Polin about the representation he provided. Or perhaps, given Mr. Hogue, who is black, the ability to raise questions about what he believes was a racially motivated traffic stop that got him into the situation in the first place.

Instead Judge Beck played back a recording of Mr. Hogue’s initial plea hearing, which she oversaw in July 2011, in which she asked him specifically if he understood that by pleading guilty he was giving up his right to an appeal.

“I specifically advised him that he was giving up his right to appeal, and he acknowledged that,” Judge Beck said Thursday after she played the audio from the nearly five-year-old hearing.

Mr. Hogue said Thursday after the ruling that he would like to appeal the decision, but it is unclear whether he has legal grounds to do so.

Since his arrest, the D.C. Council adopted legislation that was meant to provide some relief for residents from other states who unwittingly may violate the city’s gun laws.

The legislation, signed into law in 2013, would allow prosecutors to resolve some gun cases through an administrative disposition in which criminal charges are not brought against violators, and individuals instead are allowed to resolve their cases by paying a fine. The law was meant to give the Attorney General’s Office a way to resolve cases in which gun owners may lawfully possess a firearm or ammunition in another state but may have unknowingly transported the items into the District in violation of the city’s gun laws.

Since the law was enacted, the Attorney General’s Office has not once put it to use.

Attorney general spokesman Robert Marus said his office prosecutes an average of 150 misdemeanor gun crimes committed by adults a year. So far, Mr. Marus said, the office hasn’t used an administrative disposition to resolve a single case.

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