An attorney for a Capitol Police officer accused of starting a fire in the Dirksen Senate Office Building is hoping to use hours of videotape related to a dozen other fires in Senate office buildings, a tactic the prosecutor derided as a “fishing expedition.”
Karen Emory was charged in December with starting a small bathroom fire in Dirksen on Nov. 2. Her attorney, Ron Machen, said in a pre-trial hearing Thursday that he would file four motions by the end of the day, including one to exclude evidence from another fire and another to view the videotapes.
Before the hearing, Machen and prosecutor Angela Schmidt heatedly discussed Machen’s request for hours of videotape. Schmidt said during the hearing that the government already had provided everything necessary.
The discussion was part of a larger debate over what should be allowed during Emory’s trial, slated to begin on March 17 in U.S. District Court.
During the hearing, Machen said he would agree to a trial that only focused on the Nov. 2 fire and did not include a burned toilet paper roll from a separate fire — evidence the prosecution wants to include.
But he said that if the prosecution insists, then he should be allowed to use evidence from any of the 13 fires that occurred in two Senate office buildings from Sept. 26 to Nov. 5.
While some officials have said Emory could be connected to the other fires, she has not been charged and those cases officially remain under investigation. No one was hurt in any of the fires.
“If we could just limit this to the crime being charged in the early morning incident, then we are ready to go,” Machen said.
U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina cautioned against throwing too wide a net for the trial. “We don’t want to have two or three trials inside one trial,” he said. “That would not be acceptable.”
If convicted, Emory faces up to a year in jail. She is currently suspended from the Capitol Police department.
The case appears headed to trial; Schmidt said at the hearing that the prosecution’s previous plea offer has been withdrawn.