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Posts in "Campus Crime"
August 27, 2014
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.
August 13, 2014
For the second time in less than a week, federal prosecutors and defense lawyers have agreed to delay a case involving a man carrying a gun to Capitol Hill.
Ronald Prestage — the South Carolina pork executive arrested by Capitol Police when they found a loaded semi-automatic pistol and magazine in his briefcase — was expected to appear in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday. But the 11 a.m. hearing was not held.
Court documents state the government and defense are continuing negotiations, suggesting a plea deal might be possible. A federal ruling on D.C.’s gun policy may impact charges in the case.
On July 23, Capitol Police spotted a handgun in Prestage’s briefcase during an administrative search at the Rotunda door of the Cannon House Office Building. Police say the weapon, concealed in a black ankle holster, appeared to be “fully functional” and “capable of being fired by a single hand.” According to charging documents, Prestage told police at the time of the arrest that he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon in South Carolina. He does not have a permit to carry in D.C.
Prestage, president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, has been charged with a single count of possessing a gun outside a home or office, a felony that carries up to five years in prison.
August 7, 2014
The Capitol Hill staffer who brought a 9 mm handgun to work on July 18 is working with his attorney to get the felony charges dismissed, in light of a federal judge’s ruling that D.C.’s law against carrying handguns outside the home is unconstitutional, along with other factors.
Ryan Shucard arrived at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia alongside his mother on Thursday, about 20 minutes before his 11 a.m. preliminary hearing. In a quick conversation with the judge, the case was continued until Aug. 27, according to court documents that state the government and Shucard’s attorney are still negotiating.
In Shucard’s first comment to the press since Capitol Police arrested him, the 26-year-old acknowledged his mistake in carrying a handgun to the Capitol grounds, then tried to pivot to talking points from his role as press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa. Shucard is currently on unpaid leave from the office, pending the outcome of the case.
“I think there’s four things that I would be focusing on at this point, and it would be Congressman Marino’s geopolitical views on what’s going on with Russia and Ukraine, [the] three-point plan regarding the border crisis and it would be his leadership on intellectual property and music licensing,” Shucard told CQ Roll Call outside the courtroom. “To me, those are the bigger issues here.”
“As far as me,” he continued, “there’s nothing else that I can really say. No new information. No new comment. Nothing we’d like to share.”
According to charging documents, Shucard placed his bag on the X-ray belt inside the southeast door of the Cannon House Office Building and Capitol Police saw the Smith & Wesson handgun and magazine, containing nine rounds of ammunition inside. The cops immediately stopped the screening process, secured the area — just across the street from the Capitol South Metro Station — and detained Shucard for further investigation.
When CQ Roll Call asked about the fear and concern he provoked in the Capitol Hill community by bringing a weapon to campus, Shucard’s attorney, Jason Kalafat intervened.
“We have no comment on that,” Kalafat said. “He can’t speak to what other people would say. It was a mistake.”
Kalafat, a partner at Price Benowitz LLP, is still engaged in conversations with federal prosecutors about getting the felony charges, which carry a sentence of up to five years in prison, dismissed. He said the July 26 ruling in Palmer v. District of Columbia that briefly negated the D.C. law Shucard was charged with violating was one factor. Federal and local laws banning people from carrying handguns on the Capitol grounds are another consideration.
Shucard wants to return to the Hill.
“I loved my job, yeah, and I still love my job,” he said. “So hopefully, the quicker things return to normal the better.”
July 31, 2014
District officials have suggested Maryland’s restrictive handgun permit policy might provide the best model for their city, as they attempt to enact new gun control measures, but Rep. Thomas Massie thinks they should look to Pennsylvania or New Hampshire.
The Kentucky Republican, who wants to wipe out all of the District’s local firearm restrictions — effectively making the city one of the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the nation — said Thursday that both states have “really good constitutional concealed carry laws.”
“So I would recommend they go, since they would like to be like a state, they should go look at a state that’s got this right — or they could use Kentucky,” he added, “but frankly, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire have the better laws.” Full story
July 25, 2014
A former House staffer, Brian Prokes, pleaded guilty Friday to theft of government property while serving as an office manager, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell announced in a press release.
According to Legistorm, Prokes, 28, worked for Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., at the time of the theft and previously worked as a scheduler for then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Full story
Over the course of four workdays, Capitol Police spotted two 9 mm handguns during the security searches that are standard protocol for visitors and staffers entering congressional office buildings. Meanwhile, the Capitol community paid tribute to two Capitol Police officers killed in a gun battle in the Capitol 16 years earlier.
Nothing indicates the two men arrested for entering the Cannon House Office Building were intent on doing harm, but the timing of the grim anniversary of the deaths of Detective John Gibson and Officer Jacob J. Chestnut on July 24, 1998, framed some of the concerns of members and staffers with a massive security loophole in the House garages.
On July 18 and 23, the security protocol at the Cannon doors worked. But, if someone with access to the House parking garages carried a gun, as staffer Ryan Shucard allegedly did, members believe he or she could enter office buildings without a bag check or metal detector screening. Full story
July 24, 2014
The South Carolina man arrested Wednesday after carrying a firearm into the Cannon House Office building had a loaded Ruger LC9 semi-automatic pistol and a magazine with six rounds of ammunition, court documents state.
At the time of the arrest, the weapon appeared to be “fully functional” and “capable of being fired by a single hand,” according to hand-written comments on the charges.
D.C. Superior Court Judge Karen Howze ordered Ronald William Prestage, of Camden, S.C., the president-elect of the National Pork Producers Council, released from custody pending a preliminary hearing on Aug. 13. The 59-year-old pork executive is charged with a single count of possessing a gun outside a home or office, a felony that carries up to five years in prison.
Prestage was arrested at about 9:40 a.m. Wednesday, after Capitol Police found the concealed weapon as he went through security screening. The court documents, providing a detailed account of the arrest, say Prestage put a briefcase on the X-ray belt at the Rotunda door of the building. An officer spotted the handgun, inspected the bag and found a black Uncle Mike’s ankle holster containing the weapon, according to the documents filed in D.C. Superior Court.
Police said Prestage stated he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon in South Carolina. He does not have a permit to carry in D.C.
Inside the handgun was a magazine, containing six rounds of 9 mm ammunition. Further inspection by the crime scene lab uncovered one round in the chamber. Additional handwritten notes on the court document state that the gun had a barrel length of less than 12 inches.
Prestage has hired attorney Robert J. Spagnoletti, a former attorney general for the District of Columbia, who did not immediately respond to questions from CQ Roll Call.
July 19, 2014
Ryan Shucard, the Capitol Hill aide who allegedly tried to bring a 9 mm handgun and magazine to work Friday, was released from police custody on Saturday afternoon after pleading not guilty to a felony charge for carrying a pistol.
Shucard exercised his Fifth Amendment right during his minute-long arraignment, standing silently beside his lawyer in khaki pants and a long-sleeved, collared shirt with shackles around his ankles and wrists. With no objection from the government lawyers working on the case, D.C. Superior Court Judge Gerald Fisher released Shucard with instructions to return to court on Aug. 7.
When the Colorado native entered the courtroom around 1:30 p.m., a blond woman began dabbing her eyes with a tissue. She was sitting next to a girl and man who later identified themselves as members of Shucard’s family. The trio followed Shucard out of the courtroom. Shucard, his family and his lawyer, Jason Kalafat, declined to comment to CQ Roll Call.
Shucard has been placed on unpaid leave from the office of Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., where he had been serving as press secretary since May 2014. The University of Northern Colorado and George Washington University alumnus got his start on the Hill in October 2011 as a staff assistant for then-Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn.
What might have provoked the incident, which resulted in Capitol Police arrested Shucard around 9:15 a.m. on Friday morning, remains unclear, but the confiscated handgun has been raising new questions about campus security.
An earlier version of this post misstated the date Schucard was instructed to return to court.
July 18, 2014
Capitol Police arrested a staffer for Rep. Tom Marino Friday morning on charges of carrying a 9mm handgun and magazine into the Cannon House Office building.
Ryan Shucard, the Pennsylvania Republican’s press secretary, was arrested around 9:15 a.m., according to Capitol Police spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider.
Shucard entered the southeast door of Cannon with the weapon. The Smith & Wesson 9mm and magazine were found during the search required for entry into the building, according to Schneider. People entering Cannon, including those with staff identification badges, like Shucard, are required to step through metal detectors and place bags on the belt of an X-Ray machine.
Shucard is charged with carrying a pistol without a license, a felony. He is currently being processed at Capitol Police headquarters.
Schucard was immediately placed on unpaid leave from Marino’s office, chief of staff Bill Tighe told CQ Roll Call in a phone call. “That will last until we know more about the situation,” Tighe said.
June 2, 2014
In response to a series of violent robberies around the Capitol Hill neighborhood, D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells wants to increase lighting in the area.
Brightening the dark areas around the Hill is tricky, however, because a large part of the neighborhood falls within a historic district. Wells says that designation makes “acquisition and installation of new equipment a complicated and lengthy process.”
To help increase lighting, he wants to trim back the trees and foliage that tend to create dark areas on the leafy, green streets around Capitol Hill. Wells will be working with the Urban Forestry unit of the D.C. Department of Transportation, the agency responsible for street lighting under the Home Rule Act, to ensure trees are not blocking lamp posts and to identify areas that could benefit from additional lighting. Full story