Gorbey Still Intends to Represent Self

Posted April 15, 2008 at 6:40pm

Michael Gorbey, the man charged with carrying a loaded shotgun and possessing an explosive device near the Capitol in January, introduced a motion during a hearing on Tuesday asking the judge and prosecutors to recuse themselves from his trial.

It’s the latest in a series of motions filed by the 38-year-old Gorbey — who is acting as his own attorney in his upcoming trial — that are designed to exclude evidence, change venues and even dismiss his case entirely (which D.C. Superior Court Judge Gregory Jackson already has denied).

And while Gorbey spoke out several times during the hearing — mostly asking for information about evidence and potential government witnesses — Jackson seemed intent on ensuring that the trial itself remains a strictly professional proceeding.

“You haven’t had the formal training that a lawyer would have, but I’m going to treat you and hold you to the same standards,” Jackson told Gorbey.

Capitol Police arrested Gorbey on Jan. 18 after an officer spotted him allegedly carrying a loaded shotgun and additional weapons near the Capitol. After his arrest, Gorbey allegedly told officers that he was headed to the Supreme Court to meet with Chief Justice John Roberts.

He was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The department also seized a pickup truck officials say Gorbey drove to Capitol Hill that day. About three weeks later, investigators allegedly found a previously undiscovered explosive device in the vehicle and filed additional charges.

Gorbey now faces 15 separate weapons charges that carry a combined maximum sentence of over 75 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

Jackson scheduled a hearing on Monday to address Gorbey’s various motions. The judge already has ruled that Gorbey will face trial, and refused to allow for a venue change despite Gorbey’s argument that his case has received extensive local publicity.

Jackson spent most of Tuesday’s hearing outlining the logistics of the trial. He warned Gorbey that by giving up his right to counsel, he faces any consequences should he make a mistake, such as a failing to make objections.

And Jackson also warned that he would take away Gorbey’s right to represent himself should his actions turn the proceedings into a “travesty of justice.”

“I’m hoping none of that happens,” Jackson said. “My responsibility is to make sure you get a fair trial.”

Jackson also asked Gorbey a range of specific questions designed to ensure he is equipped to represent himself. Gorbey told Jackson he’d represented himself in “probably five” criminal cases, then later corrected himself to say “probably about eight or 10.”

“I feel that the only way I will receive proper defense is if I do it myself,” he said.

One issue settled on Tuesday centered on a motion Gorbey filed over whether DNA samples were taken from any of the evidence that the government intends to present.

Prosecutor Jennifer Kerkhoff told Jackson that while genetic material might be on some of the evidence, prosecutors don’t intend to use it.

“We did not ask them to test,” she said. “They did not test.”

Gorbey’s trial is scheduled for Monday, although the motions hearing and jury selection could push it back a few days. Prosecutors intend to introduce 15 to 18 witnesses and take up to three days to present their case, Kerkhoff said.

As of Tuesday morning, Gorbey had listed 33 witnesses he intends to subpoena for trial, although many of those overlap with witnesses that already will be called by prosecutors.

Although Gorbey is representing himself, public defender Jason Tulley is serving as his standby counsel. But Tulley might not be able to attend the actual trial — he has another trial next week and additional conflicts the following week.

The D.C. public defender’s office was working to find another suitable standby counsel, Tulley told Jackson, and hoped to have a pick nailed down by the end of the day.

While Jackson seemed willing to continue with the trial if a new standby attorney is found, it is unclear if Jackson will let Gorbey proceed alone.