Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 29, 2014

August 28, 2014

Gray Hails End of Federal Oversight at St. Elizabeths as Victory for Local Autonomy

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mayor Vincent Gray is hailing an agreement between the District and the Department of Justice ending federal oversight of Saint Elizabeths Hospital as a “milestone” in his administration’s effort to loosen the federal government’s grip on local affairs.

On Thursday, the DOJ asked to dismiss a court-enforced settlement agreement that put the feds in charge of overseeing patient care at the city’s public psychiatric hospital. Deadly patient-on-patient assaults in 2005 placed the long-troubled facility on the DOJ’s radar for civil rights violations.

Federal officials oversaw the hospital for seven years, as D.C. worked with the Department of Behavioral Health to stop patient abuse and neglect and improve care and treatment. Under the terms of the June 2007 court order, St. Elizabeths was required to meet 224 performance benchmarks related to clinical discipline assessments, discharge planning and other problems. The agreement also required the hospital to submit bi-annual reports to DOJ and undergo bi-annual site visits. Full story

In D.C., African-Americans Ask After Ferguson, What’s Next?

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Demonstrators march up Sixth Street as part of a Wednesday Ferguson rally in D.C. (Bridget Bowman/CQ Roll Call)

A young African-American girl sat on the winding stair case at Busboys and Poets on K Street Wednesday, peering through the railing at the crowd gathered below. She might have been wondering what all the fuss was about. She might not have realized it was about her.

A concern for the future, for the world children will live in, was implicit in the passionate discussions at the D.C. watering hole, where dozens of activists and citizens gathered to discuss the next steps for the African-American community after the unrest in Ferguson, Mo.

“We’re not going to go back to business as usual. We can’t afford to do that anymore,” activist Erika Totten told the crowd. Totten recently returned from Ferguson, where protests erupted after Officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager. Full story

August 27, 2014

U.S. Attorney: Police Response to Navy Yard Killing Was a Clean Shoot

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No criminal charges will be filed against the officers who responded nearly a year ago to the Navy Yard shooting, U.S. Attorney Office for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced Wednesday.

Law enforcement agents involved in the fatal shooting of 34-year-old Defense Department contractor Aaron Alexis acted in defense of themselves and others, prosecutors said in a statement released nearly a year after the day when 12 civilians were killed and four other people were wounded, including a Metropolitan Police Department officer.

“After a careful review of the evidence, we have closed this investigation,” Machen said. “We concluded that the law enforcement officers involved demonstrated exceptional valor in acting to protect the lives of Navy Yard employees and other responding law enforcement officers.” Full story

Ryan Shucard Still Negotiating With Federal Prosecutors

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Shucard hopes to return to Capitol Hill. (via Facebook)

During a Wednesday appearance in D.C. Superior Court, Capitol Hill staffer Ryan Shucard did not agree to a plea deal offered by federal prosecutors.

The press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., who was arrested July 18 when Capitol Police discovered a 9mm handgun and magazine in his bag, seems to be negotiating for a better deal with the government. Defense attorney Jason Kalafat said he was still “finalizing work, trying to resolve this matter,” and asked that the case be continued.

Shucard has been charged with carrying a pistol outside the home, a felony that carries up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In the wake of a federal court ruling that struck down the District’s ban on carrying handguns in public, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. offered Shucard an agreement under which he would plead guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition — two charges that each carry a maximum penalty of one year of prison and a $1,000 fine.

“We’re still negotiating, and hopefully will have it wrapped up within the next week or two,” Kalafat told CQ Roll Call.

Shucard sat solemnly next to his mother until his case was called around 11:15 a.m. He agreed to return Sept. 10, the same day Ronald Prestage, another man arrested for bringing a gun to Capitol Hill, is scheduled to be in the downtown courthouse. Shucard has indicated he wants to return to Marino’s office once the matter is settled. He remains on unpaid leave.

Related stories:

U.S. Attorney Offers Plea Deals in Capitol Hill Gun Cases

In Wake of Recent Arrests, Security Tightens at House Garages

Capitol Hill Gun Case Delayed in Wake of D.C. Ruling

Ryan Shucard Arrested for Bringing Gun to Cannon

Webb Aide Could Get 5 Years

Gun-Related Arrest Is Nothing New for Capitol Police

Scarce Prospects for Senate Shooting Down D.C. Gun Control

D.C. Could Become Nation’s Most Permissive Gun Jurisdiction, Under House Proposal (Video)

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August 26, 2014

U.S. Attorney Offers Plea Deals in Capitol Hill Gun Cases

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Prestage was arrested last month for allegedly carrying a firearm into the Cannon House Office Building. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Ronald C. Machen Jr. has offered plea deals to two men who allegedly carried 9mm handguns and ammunition to Capitol Hill in July.

Both Ryan Shucard, a staffer in the office of Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., and pork and turkey executive Ronald Prestage face charges of carrying a pistol outside a home or business — a felony that carries up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine.

Court documents filed in both cases show that Machen has proposed an agreement under which each man would plead guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of one year of prison and a $1,000 fine. Under the terms of the nearly identical deals, filed on Aug. 15, federal prosecutors would not pursue any other weapons charges, and would reserve the right to allocution, or addressing the court, at the time of sentencing. Full story

August 25, 2014

Christmas in August? Boehner Planning for Capitol Tree

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The 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree arrived in November from Washington state. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call FIle Photo)

A 65-foot spruce or balsam fir growing somewhere along Minnesota’s Paul Bunyan Trail will stand on the West Front Lawn this winter.

The North Star State’s Chippewa National Forest will provide the Capitol Christmas Tree this year, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, announced Monday.

This year marks the second time the forest has provided the prominent evergreen. In 1992, Chippewa National Forest and Leech Lake Reservation sent a 60-foot white spruce to Washington, D.C., along with thousands of ornaments made by local school children. Full story

By Hannah Hess Posted at 5:22 p.m.
AOC, Campus

Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada Hopes to Change Perception of ‘Melting Pot’ With National Mall Exhibit

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“Out of Many, One,” a massive facescape, will transform the National Mall this fall. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The National Mall is getting a new face this fall, composed of approximately 2,000 tons of sand, 800 tons of soil, 10,000 wooden pegs and miles of twine.

Six acres of land midway between the World War II and Lincoln memorials will transform into a grand landscape etching by Cuban-American urban artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada. The work is a composite portrait, blending the features of 18 to 25-year-old males from a variety of different racial and ethnic backgrounds whom Rodríguez-Gerada photographed on the streets of Washington, D.C.

“It’s a good time to contemplate our young men,” the artist told CQ Roll Call in a phone call from Spain. “We’re born with an identity and a face. It’s something we didn’t choose, but it affects us for the rest of our life.” Full story

August 23, 2014

Capitol Police Pay Tribute to First Line-of-Duty Death

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Vivian Eney Cross, left, is escorted by then-Capitol Police Chief Philip Morse during a 2009 ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Thirty years ago Sunday, tragedy struck the Capitol Police.

Sgt. Christopher Sherman Eney, 37, was fatally shot in the lower back at the conclusion of a training exercise designed to help the officers prepare for hostage situations.

Capitol Police had been performing the drill with blanks loaded into the weapons, Roll Call reported at the time, but the officers had reloaded with live ammunition at the end of the exercise.

Full story

August 22, 2014

Lights May Go Out on Capitol Dome Friday Night

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The Dome may go dark tonight. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Don’t be alarmed if the lights flicker outside the Capitol Dome Friday night. The enduring beacon of freedom isn’t dead — it’s undergoing regular maintenance.

The Architect of the Capitol is cautioning that brief power outages may occur as the agency performs planned maintenance to the electrical systems in the building. AOC spokeswoman Laura Condeluci assured CQ Roll Call the work is not related to the Dome restoration project, which has picked up pace during the August recess.

AOC electricians are responsible for thousands of miles of wiring and more than 100,000 light fixtures across Capitol Hill, according to the agency. Because many of the historic buildings on campus, including the Capitol, were built before electricity, they require continuous modernization and upgrades.

Full story

Ferguson Protests Stay Peaceful in D.C., More Planned

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Protesters wave signs during a peaceful “Day of Rage” rally outside the White House. (Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

Contrary to concerns about violence or vandalism, protesters held peaceful events in Washington Thursday night in response to events in Ferguson, Mo.

What had been billed as a “Day of Rage” in front of the White House drew about two dozen people, including D.C. and St. Louis natives, and a cadre of local press. A handful of protesters sported Guy Fawkes masks often associated with Anonymous, the activist network that called for the nationwide rallies.

Close to 50 people gathered at a plaza across the street from the Columbia Heights Metro station to protest police brutality and the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. A Metropolitan Police Department vehicle was parked nearby, watching the crowd chant, “No racist police!”

Though the crowd was smaller at the White House, the police presence was heavier. Three officers stood casually behind the protesters, as Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin led the group in song.

Full story

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