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Former Capitol Police officer pleads guilty in 2020 cruiser crash with motorcyclist

Prosecutors said Thomas Smith injured the rider, drove away from the scene and falsified Capitol Police records

Capitol Police officers are seen on the East Front plaza of the Capitol in 2022.
Capitol Police officers are seen on the East Front plaza of the Capitol in 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A former Capitol Police officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of felony deprivation of rights under color of law, a charge that stems from when he fled from and tried to cover up a 2020 crash in Georgetown that flung a motorcyclist into the air and left him with several injuries.

Prosecutors said Thomas Smith crashed his police cruiser into the motorcyclist, referred to in court only as W.W., and drove away from the scene without taking any steps to check on his well-being.

Smith went on to falsify Capitol Police records to conceal his criminal conduct, prosecutors said. Smith said he resigned from the agency after he was indicted in 2022.

Smith entered the plea before Judge Carl Nichols in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Sentencing is set for Jan. 22. Smith faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, but that could end up being a far lesser sentence.

After the hearing, when asked if he regrets his actions the day he crashed into W.W., Smith, with his eyes watering, said, “I have a lot of regrets. I’m going through a lot right now.”

Smith said he has not spoken with W.W., who was present at the hearing. “I haven’t even met him,” Smith said.

W.W. declined comment.

The plea agreement of one criminal charge is less harsh than the seven charges brought in an original indictment. Timothy Visser, an assistant U.S. attorney, told Nichols the agreement is the “most lenient plea offer” the parties could agree to.

In a press release after the hearing, Matthew Graves, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said the office knows “that the overwhelming majority of U.S. Capitol Police officers do their difficult and dangerous jobs honorably and lawfully.”

“But former officer Smith violated the Constitution and abused his position by recklessly engaging in a dangerous pursuit that resulted in an unnecessary collision that could have had devastating results,” Graves said.

According to the indictment, on June 20, 2020, Smith was on patrol for the Special Operations Division and assigned to conduct security checks at homes of lawmakers, known as “dignitary checks.”

That night, around 11:34 p.m., when he was supposed to be doing one of those checks on a member in Georgetown, Smith closely followed two motorized cycles in a high-speed pursuit heading south on Wisconsin Avenue between Reservoir Road and M Street, the indictment states.

Officers are able to engage in chases outside the Capitol complex only if it is an emergency and with the approval of a supervisor, criteria that Smith’s decision to pursue did not meet, the indictment states.

At the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, Smith accelerated his Capitol Police sedan and swerved toward W.W.’s motorized cycle and hit it, flinging W.W. into the air, the indictment states. Smith’s actions left the victim with abrasions to his face, head, arms and knees, along with a possible concussion and seizure.

Smith then drove around the person he just hit as he lay on the road and fled the scene heading toward the Potomac River waterfront, the indictment states. Smith, in violation of agency policy, did not inform the Capitol Police’s dispatcher, a supervisor or the Metropolitan Police Department of the crash.

Instead, he drove to a parking garage at the Fairchild Building, where the agency has offices, the indictment states. There he falsely stated that he performed a dignitary check and that it “appears secure,” which he entered while in the garage.

Smith subsequently switched out his Capitol Police sedan, which had clear damage from the crash, for a Capitol Police sport utility vehicle to try to hide his actions, the indictment states. He lied on an equipment log, saying that he was assigned the SUV rather than the sedan he hit the victim with, and lied about the hours of his shift.

Before the end of his shift, the next morning, after MPD had notified Capitol Police of the Georgetown crash, Smith got a call from a sergeant asking if he knew about the incident, the indictment states. Smith told the supervisor he didn’t have knowledge of the collision and was not involved and lied, telling them that he was assigned the SUV.

Smith was indicted on seven criminal charges: two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law, one count of obstruction of justice, three counts of falsification of records in a federal investigation and one count of false statements.

The Capitol Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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