Officers Testify as Gorbey Trial Begins

Charged Man Represents Self, Claims ‘Legal Conspiracy’ Against Him

Posted April 29, 2008 at 6:29pm

Government conspiracies, detailed timelines and dozens of objections characterized the second day of trial for Michael Gorbey, the man accused of possessing a loaded shotgun and explosive materials near the Capitol.

Gorbey is representing himself, and Tuesday marked the first day he was able to voice his defense in an opening statement. He focused on his belief that there is a “legal conspiracy” against him — a notion that incited numerous objections from prosecutors and warnings from D.C. Superior Court Judge Gregory Jackson.

Dressed in a green button-down shirt and dark slacks, Gorbey argued that the government will “lie to cover up other lies.” And while he conceded that the evidence against him may be convincing, he also tried to tell the jury that the court was unfairly limiting him.

“We will only be able to show you about one-tenth of what I believe you should see,” he said, as prosecutors again objected.

But many details about the day of Gorbey’s arrest did surface on Tuesday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cummings laid out the timeline of Jan. 18 in his opening statement, starting with an early-morning trip Gorbey allegedly made to a friend in Remington, Va. That friend overheard Gorbey try to make an appointment with a judge, Cummings said, and then saw Gorbey get angry when he was told he couldn’t.

When officers stopped Gorbey later that day, two blocks from the Supreme Court, he told them he was on the way to an appointment with Chief Justice John Roberts.

Cummings drew a picture of a man on a mission, who outfitted himself with a sword, a flak vest, a shotgun and a backpack full of ammunition.

“It didn’t take long to find him,” Cummings said. “It was broad daylight and Mr. Gorbey was walking down the street, shotgun in hand.”

Cummings also described the homemade bomb investigators later allegedly found in a Chevrolet pickup truck “associated” with Gorbey: a can of black powder with shotgun shells and metal shards duct-taped to the outside. For that and the weapons allegedly found on his person, Gorbey faces 14 charges and possibly decades in prison.

Many of those charges stem from his status as a convicted felon, and on Tuesday, Gorbey tried to prove that the Capitol Police officers who arrested him previously knew about him and his criminal history.

In one break from the proceedings, he explained to the judge that the officers are part of the government and thus could be tied to a conspiracy against him involving the FBI and the CIA.

In his cross-examination of four officers, Gorbey repeatedly asked how they knew he was a felon; all said they didn’t until further investigation brought up his records. Gorbey has previously been convicted of seven felony counts, ranging from larceny to probation violations, according to police.

But Gorbey seemed incredulous that police were able to arrest him just for carrying a gun.

“So you normally just stop anyone you see who has a gun, not knowing who they are?” he asked Capitol Police Officer Peter Geyer.

“In D.C., yes,” Geyer answered.

Geyer also testified that he came within seconds of shooting Gorbey on Jan. 18 after Gorbey ignored two or three commands to put down the shotgun. “It seemed like a half-hour, but it was probably no more than a minute or two,” Geyer said.

After Gorbey put down his shotgun, he was handcuffed and detained by several officers.

By midday, the questioning became routine, with Gorbey asking each officer detailed questions about the paperwork of his arrest and prosecutors replaying a surveillance camera video of the incident.

During breaks, Judge Jackson reminded Gorbey that claims of a government-wide conspiracy were not a proper defense and explained to him why certain questions weren’t permitted.

Gorbey seemed agitated at his limitations.

“Before I can get a question out, they object and you sustain it,” he said.

Alison McSherry contributed to this report.