Monday, March 7, 2011

Pershing Park lawyers fees top $2M

The D.C. government has shelled out more than $2 million in attorneys fees to lawyers representing former top D.C. police officials involved in a long-running lawsuit accusing them of ordering unfounded arrests of hundreds of protesters in 2002.

The tally came in a filing late Thursday in the District's federal court by lawyers representing four bystanders who were among those swept up and arrested in Pershing Park during demonstrations against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. "The District continues to seek to drive up costs and prolong litigation in this case," lawyers Daniel C. Schwartz and Jonathan Turley wrote in court papers, adding the city has "spared no expense" in defending former Chief Charles H. Ramsey and Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham.

The government has already settled a class-action suit brought by the bulk of the nearly 400 protesters arrested in Pershing Park on Sept. 27, 2002, for $8.25 million -- just one of several expensive settlements reached by the District over bad arrests over the years. But the city was not able to settle with four bystanders arrested by D.C. police in Pershing Park and that legal fight has turned into an investigation led by a federal judge into why D.C. police either destroyed, lost or edited key pieces of evidence, including radio recordings, command logs and videotapes.

Last year, a federal judge heard testimony from 21 witnesses, including Ramsey and other top police officials, to account for the loss of that evidence. The investigation by U.S. Magistrate Judge John F. Facciola is on-going.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's office did not return a call seeking comment.

By Del Quentin Wilber

Source: The Washington Post

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