WASHINGTON — D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier may be asked to testify in a lawsuit stemming from mass arrests of hundreds of protesters 10 years ago, according to a federal judge overseeing the case.
U.S. Magistrate John Facciola said in a written order that he wants to hold a hearing, likely early next month, and that Lanier may be needed as a witness.
The suit concerns the arrests of some 400 protesters who were corralled at a city park during 2002 protests of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank meeting.
Facciola has been serving as special master in the case, which has been consumed by allegations of evidence tampering by the police department. Though the D.C. government has reached multi-million-dollar settlements to resolve most protesters’ claims, several former George Washington University students who were arrested during the demonstrations still have pending cases.
At issue now is a directive by Lanier and the head of internal affairs on who would investigate an apparent effort to delete electronic recordings in the case.
Facciola said he would take testimony from the department’s general counsel, Terry Ryan, and expected him to testify that Lanier and the head of internal affairs, Michael Anzallo, told him that the police department would investigate the allegations. The FBI later conducted an investigation and found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Other testimony has indicated that Lanier wanted representatives of the federal government to handle the investigation.
“I will hear from Ryan as to his recollection of any such directive and then decide whether any additional witnesses, including the Chief of Police, are necessary,” Facciola wrote in his ruling, later adding, “I may be able to resolve this by stipulation if, as seems the case, all agree that Anzallo gave such a directive to Ryan, even though Ryan may testify that he does not recall it.”
He said the hearing could take place in the first week of November.
“These are very serious questions that will be explored in the upcoming hearing,” said Jonathan Turley, a GW law professor and one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs.
D.C. officials said they learned in May 2011 of the attempt to delete the data, which was a backup to an electronic system that produced the “running resume” — or a log of the day’s events and the police response to them.
Facciola also said he would require testimony from Monique Pressley, a lawyer who used to represent the city, about the “now-famous” status conference where lawyers for the plaintiffs learned for the first time about the effort to delete the audio files. Pressley, who has since left the office of attorney general, declined to comment Wednesday and the office also said it would have no comment.