Gorbey Argues to Suppress Evidence

Posted April 21, 2008 at 6:47pm

Sporting a bright orange prison jumpsuit and leg shackles — along with an expandable folder full of paperwork — Michael Gorbey got his first big chance to defend himself against weapons charges in District of Columbia Superior Court on Monday.

Acting as his own counsel, Gorbey appeared before Associate Judge Gregory Jackson at a preliminary hearing that addressed a motion Gorbey filed earlier this year asking that most of the evidence in the case be thrown out.

Capitol Police arrested Gorbey on Jan. 18 after he allegedly was spotted carrying a shotgun and a range of other weapons near the Capitol. Investigators also seized a green pickup truck that Gorbey is believed to have used to drive to Capitol Hill. An additional explosive device that had originally been missed by investigators was found in the truck during a follow-up search three weeks later.

Gorbey now faces 15 separate weapons charges and a maximum penalty of more than 75 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty to all counts.

Monday’s proceedings began with Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff questioning Capitol Police Special Agent Mark Crawford, who served as the lead investigator in the case.

Crawford laid out much of the events of Jan. 18, from Gorbey’s arrest to the disabling of the green pickup truck several hours later. He also outlined the discovery of the explosives in the truck on Feb. 8. and the subsequent investigation.

It wasn’t until nearly 3 p.m. that Gorbey got his chance to examine Crawford, focusing his questions on the fact that he had been taken into police custody at about 1:07 p.m., but not officially placed under arrest until about 1:50 p.m.

During those 43 minutes, police seized most of the items found on Gorbey, as well as the pickup truck, Crawford testified. Gorbey apparently is hoping that Jackson will rule that because the items were seized before he was formally arrested, they will be inadmissible in court.

Gorbey — a convicted felon who has represented himself in past court proceedings — appeared confident throughout the questioning, although Jackson once had to warn him not to argue with the witness.

Gorbey is slated to wrap up his questioning today, giving prosecutors a chance for rebuttal. Jackson then is expected to rule on the motion to suppress the prosecution’s evidence. Jury selection could begin in the afternoon.

Although Jackson did not rule on the suppression motion Monday, he did weigh in on a number of issues that will affect the course of the trial.

Jackson granted a prosecution motion to squash a subpoena filed by Gorbey seeking personnel records of several members of the Capitol Police’s bomb squad.

Gorbey argued that he has the right to see the records, since the department launched an investigation as to why the unit initially failed to find the explosive device in the pickup truck.

Of particular note, Gorbey argued, are the personnel records for the unit’s supervisor, who prosecutors confirmed was transferred to another unit after the investigation concluded.

Jackson seemed hesitant to give Gorbey access to the records. But he did grant a defense request to have prosecutors turn over the results of the investigation to him, allowing the judge to decide what should be admissible.

“I have no desire to go through a fishing expedition here,” Jackson said.

Jackson also dismissed several of Gorbey’s other motions on Monday, including one to recuse the judge and prosecutors from the trial and another to dismiss the case on grounds it violates the Second Amendment.

Gorbey also filed two civil lawsuits in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on April 15 that appear to argue the charges against him are inappropriate because the Second Amendment gives him the right to bear arms.