Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 31, 2015

Posts in "Around Washington"

August 31, 2015

Slain Former Intern Remembered at American University

Kevin Sutherland in front of the White House. (Photo courtesy of the Sutherland family)

Sutherland stands in front of the White House. (Courtesy of the Sutherland family)

On a small altar at the American University chapel sat red, white and blue flowers, a New York Yankees cap, and a picture of a beaming young man standing in front of the White House.

More than 100 students, faculty and members of the community gathered at the Kay Spiritual Life Center on the northwest D.C. campus to remember the young man in the picture: Kevin Sutherland.

Full story

August 28, 2015

Will The Supreme Court Become ‘First Amendment-Free Zone?’

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

(Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that protesters at the Supreme Court of the United States are confined to the sidewalk, which was disappointing news to those who argued that restricting demonstrations on the court’s plaza violated the First Amendment.

“The Constitution guarantees the right to peaceably assemble … [It] doesn’t say just to petition Congress or the president, but the government. And the Supreme Court is one of the three branches of government,” attorney Jeffrey Light, who argued that a ban on demonstrations was unconstitutional, said in a phone interview. “The court has essentially created a First Amendment-free zone on the plaza of the Supreme Court.” Full story

August 27, 2015

Doug Hughes Legal Team Takes Aim at D.C. Airspace Security

UNITED STATES - MAY 21: Doug Hughes leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, May 21, 2015, after pleading not guilty to six counts regarding his landing of a gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol in April. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Hughes leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, May 21 after pleading not guilty to six counts regarding his landing of a gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol in April. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The legal team representing Douglas Hughes plans to poke holes in congressional testimony from federal officials who were called before Congress in the wake of Hughes’ April 15 landing of his gyrocopter on the Capitol’s West Front Lawn.

If the gyrocopter case goes to trial, defense attorney Mark Goldstone intends to “expose the lack of security” in the heavily restricted airspace over Washington, he told reporters Thursday after a brief status hearing at the federal courthouse. Full story

August 26, 2015

Civil Rights Icon Amelia Boynton Robinson Dies at 104

Amelia Boynton Robinson, left, and Bernice King attend a reception honoring the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March on March 6, 2015. (Jason Davis/Getty Images File Photo for 51 Miles Forward presented by Hyundai Motor America)

Amelia Boynton Robinson, left, and Bernice King attend a reception honoring the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery March on March 6, 2015. (Jason Davis/Getty Images File Photo for 51 Miles Forward presented by Hyundai Motor America)

Amelia Boynton Robinson, the 104-year-old civil rights activist whose role in the 1965 Bloody Sunday march from Selma to Montgomery was celebrated in this year’s 50th anniversary of the event, in the movie “Selma” and by her appearance at this year’s State of the Union, died Wednesday. She was 104.

“Mrs. Amelia Boynton Robinson will not only be remembered for her invaluable contributions as a matriarch of the voting rights movement but she was also the first black woman from the State of Alabama to run for Congress. Without her courageous campaign for the 7th Congressional District, I know that my election to this seat in 2010 would not have been possible. Her sacrifices paved the way for me to walk the halls of Congress and I will carry my love and admiration for her in my heart each and every day,” Rep. Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala., who represents Selma, said in a statement. Robinson was Sewell’s guest for the 2015 State of the Union address, where the elderly activist met with President Barack Obama before his speech in a holding room in the Capitol.

Her home in Selma was used for planning the March 1965 march. On the fateful Bloody Sunday, she was among those, including now-Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., savagely beaten by Alabama troopers and vigilantes on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Her traumatic experience in 1965 came full circle when she crossed the bridge in March in a wheelchair beside Obama, the first black president.

“Amelia Boynton never got weary. She never gave up. She never gave in. She kept the faith. She kept on defending the need to respect human dignity in America. Her work and her accomplishments were a source of inspiration for so many people in the South and around our country,” Lewis said in a statement.

Robinson’s age had been a matter of debate among her, friends and the media. She previously gave her age this year to be 105, but media outlets and her family seemed to have settled on her age now, at 104.

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Virginia Shooting Sparks Discussions About Journalism, Gun Control (Updated)

Updated 2:40 p.m. | After two journalists were shot and killed in southwest Virginia Wednesday morning, one nearby congressman said their tragic deaths highlighted the risks of their profession.

Reporter Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27, of the CBS affiliate WDBJ7 in Roanoke, Va., were shot and killed during a live broadcast at Smith Mountain Lake. The suspected shooter is former WDBJ employee Vester Flanagan, according to multiple reports. Condolences came pouring in from members of Virginia’s congressional delegation and other officials, expressing shock and sadness at the brutal murders. For one lawmaker, their murder also pointed to the risks journalists take as they go on assignment. Full story

August 19, 2015

Ex-Cochran Aide Pleads Guilty to Drug Conspiracy

UNITED STATES - JULY 9: Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., heads to the Senate floor for a vote on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Cochran heads to the Senate floor for a vote on July 9. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The former aide to Mississippi GOP Sen. Thad Cochran who was arrested as part of a sex-for-drugs scheme pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to distribute methamphetamine.

Fred Pagan, 49, admitted in federal court just a few blocks from the Capitol that from February until he was arrested in April, he participated in a scheme to possess and distribute meth and assist others in possessing the drug.

On April 23, Homeland Security Investigations agents raided Pagan’s home in Northwest D.C. after law enforcement intercepted a package of the date rape drug gamma-Butyrolactone, or GBL, which was shipped to the address from China. During the raid, the agents also discovered meth in a tightly wrapped package in a binder underneath his bed. In earlier court documents, Pagan allegedly told authorities he had planned to elicit sexual favors in exchange for the GBL and the meth.

Pagan was originally charged with one count of possession and intent to distribute and one count of importing a controlled substance. In April, he pleaded not guilty to the charges, and attorneys indicated in July that a plea deal was in the works.

But Wednesday, Pagan pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute. U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Pearlman declined to comment as he exited the hearing. And a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office also declined to comment on the change in charges, citing an ongoing investigation.

Pagan and defense attorney Kobie A. Flowers did not comment as they left the courtroom following the plea hearing, which lasted around 30 minutes. During the proceedings, the gray-haired Pagan stood solemnly as he responded to U.S District Judge Beryl A. Howell’s questions about his guilty plea.

In questions about his competency, Pagan revealed has been receiving treatment for a meth addiction and takes daily medication. “I feel good,” Pagan said when asked if the medication affected him. “That’s what the medication does for me.”

According to court documents, Pagan admitted to knowingly and willfully conspiring “with other persons both known and unknown” to distribute, and possess with intent to distribute, meth. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on whether the revelation of a conspiracy  or that Pagan was working with other individuals  indicated there would be further arrests in the case.

The statement of offenses obtained, which Pagan agreed to as part of his plea, cites two other individuals involved in the scheme, only identified as “Co-Conspirator 1″ and “Co-Conspirator 2.” According to the court documents, Pagan used meth from at least November 2014 until April 2015.

In February 2015, Pagan agreed to obtain meth from “CC1″ which was shipped to Pagan via “CC2.” Pagan allegedy received one package of meth in February and four in March. He and CC1 arranged for CC1 to pick up the packages at Pagan’s home, since the co-conspirator “in part wanted to avoid detection” for too many packages going to his or her residence.  Pagan was allegedly aware CC1 distributed meth to other individuals and also drove CC1 to the airport on at least two occasions where CC1 “traveled in part to obtain methamphetamine.”

Though there was no mention in the hearing of the date rape drug that prompted the federal raid, the statement of offense did address the GBL. According to the document, Pagan admitted to ordering GBL and to doing so on at least two other occasions. He also admitted to using GBL and sometimes selling meth to friends.

The arrest cost Pagan his job, where he earned around $160,000 annually working as Cochran’s personal assistant and office administrator, according to the LegiStorm database. Cochran’s office dismissed Pagan on May 15, after he spent decades working for the Mississippi Republican. Pagan, a native of Jackson, Mich., first came to the Senate as a page for Cochran when he was 16 years old, and essentially never left. He reportedly finished his high school degree while continuing to work for Cochran, and confirmed in court Wednesday that he did not earn a college degree.

By pleading guilty to the felony offense, Pagan faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million. He also could receive a term of supervised release of a minimum of three years and up to life. Pagan also agreed to pay a “special assessment” of $100 per felony conviction.

Pagan was released under the same prior conditions that he continue treatment and return to court. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 30.

Related:

Former Cochran Staffer Hopes for Plea Deal in Sex-for-Drugs Case

Senate Aide Pleads ‘Not Guilty’ to Drug Charges

Cochran Staffer Confesses to Sex-for-Drugs Scheme, Feds Say

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August 18, 2015

Slain Intern a ‘Terrible Tragedy,’ Says Portman

UNITED STATES - MARCH 13: U.S. Capitol police investigate a suspicious package at 1st and D St. NE. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

For the second time this summer, a former congressional intern was killed in the District of Columbia, as a spike in violent crime continues to rock the nation’s capital.

Matthew Shlonsky, 23, was shot and killed around 5 p.m. Saturday, though police said he did not appear to be the target. Shlonsky resided in Northeast D.C., but hailed from Ohio. The 2014 American University graduate interned for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, from January to May in 2013. Full story

August 14, 2015

Senators: Metro Safety Important Enough to Micro-Manage

(Bill Cark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

(Bill Cark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The four senators from the states that surround Washington, D.C., say Metro’s board of directors needs to move more quickly to protect riders from the system’s aging rail infrastructure.

The latest statement from Democratic Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland and Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia comes after Metro revealed that the track alignment issue at the Smithsonian Metro Station was known to Metro officials well before a derailment last week, a track gauge issue they apparently opted to ignore.

Full story

July 27, 2015

D.C. Drawn Into Sanctuary Cities Debate

Gohmert introduced "The Safer DC Act" Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Gohmert introduced “The Safer DC Act” Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The House has voted to limit funding for so-called sanctuary cities, but one lawmaker is pushing to take further action in the District of Columbia, dictating specific policies for law enforcement.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, has introduced “The Safer D.C. Act” declaring the District is a “sanctuary city,” or a jurisdiction with policies that shelter undocumented immigrants. “The Constitution explicitly vests Congress with exclusive jurisdiction over the District of Columbia — and we should take action,” Gohmert said. “Therefore, at the very least, Congress must use our explicit Constitutional power to ensure that at least the District of Columbia is not a sanctuary city.” Full story

July 22, 2015

National Security or First Amendment? Gyrocopter Case Proceeds

UNITED STATES - MAY 21: Doug Hughes conducts a news conference outside of the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, May 21, 2015, after pleading not guilty to six counts regarding his landing of a gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol in April. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Hughes wants to argue a “necessity defense” for his gyrocopter flight. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The airspace security concerns Congress has harped on since the April 15 gyrocopter stunt on the West Front continue to delay Douglas Hughes from a federal trial, but the Florida mailman has dreamed up his own defense strategy.

Hughes presented his “necessity defense” to reporters Wednesday, after a status hearing in the federal courthouse mere blocks from the Capitol. Full story

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