Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 30, 2014

Posts in "Campus Crime"

July 25, 2014

Former House Staffer Pleads Guilty to Theft

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

Members of Congress Acknowledge Major Security Gap at House Garages

photo 4 247x330 Members of Congress Acknowledge Major Security Gap at House Garages

(Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

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

Pork Executive Was Carrying ‘Fully Functional’ Pistol, Police Say

photo 4 247x330 Pork Executive Was Carrying Fully Functional Pistol, Police Say

(Hannah Hess/CQ Roll Call)

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 Pleads Not Guilty to Carrying Pistol to Capitol Hill

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.

Related:

Handgun Incident Casts Campus Security in New Light

Marino Staffer Arrested for Bringing Gun to Cannon

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

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

Correction:

An earlier version of this post misstated the date Schucard was instructed to return to court.

July 18, 2014

Marino Staffer Arrested for Bringing Gun to Cannon

1656223 10100687137832492 2648196034408123230 n 189x330 Marino Staffer Arrested for Bringing Gun to Cannon

Shucard was arrested Friday. (Via Facebook)

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.

Full story

June 2, 2014

Eastern Market Violence Spurs Calls for Better Street Lighting

wells 270 033114 440x292 Eastern Market Violence Spurs Calls for Better Street Lighting

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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

May 28, 2014

Tommy Wells to Talk Public Safety in Wake of Eastern Market Attacks

wells 267 033114 440x292 Tommy Wells to Talk Public Safety in Wake of Eastern Market Attacks

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Capitol Hill has seen an uptick in violence and robberies over the past two weeks.

A man who targets women walking alone at night and robs them after pressing a sharp object to their throats may be behind two recent attacks in Eastern Market, according to D.C. police. A similar robbery also occurred near the NoMa Metro station last week.

Two of the women were cut or stabbed.

In response to the attacks, Tommy Wells, who represents Ward 6 on the D.C. Council, will join members of the Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday night at the Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.

During the 6:30 p.m. public meeting, police will provide an update on the incidents and answer questions.

Police have released video of a person of interest in the May 15 attack near 9th and C streets Southeast.

They have also released video of a man they believe was involved in the May 21 attack on the 200 block of 8th Street SE.

The department has increased foot, car and bike patrols in the area in response to the incident.

May 20, 2014

Mississippi Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Ricin Letters

A judge sentenced the Mississippi man who admitted to mailing poison-laced letters to elected officials such as President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., to 25 years in prison on Monday.

wicker 218x330 Mississippi Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Ricin Letters

Wicker was a target of the ricin letters sent in April 2013. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

James Everett Dutschke, 41, of Tupelo, Miss., was found guilty of developing and possessing the biological agent ricin and sending ricin-laced, threatening letters that rocked the Capitol Hill community in April 2013.

The quarter-century sentence comes about a week after Dutschke tried to withdraw his guilty plea and blame the Elvis impersonator who was initially arrested for the ricin scare. He changed his mind again and accepted the sentence, according to local media reports.

Dutschke, a former martial arts instructor and one-time political candidate, was arrested on April 27, 2013, and indicted by a federal grand jury on June 3, 2013.  He was charged in November with trying to get someone to send more letters containing the deadly substance on his behalf. Dutschke pleaded guilty on Jan. 17, 2014, to one count of developing and possessing ricin, and three subsequent counts of mailing threatening letters laced with the substance.

His 25-year sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock was part of a plea agreement between Dutschke and the U.S. attorney’s office that also waived his right to appeal. Dutschke was also sentenced to five years of supervised release.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI and Secret Service agents, the U. S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Capitol Police, plus local and state law enforcement in Mississippi.

By Hannah Hess Posted at 11:49 a.m.
Campus Crime

May 14, 2014

Ricin Suspect Again Blames Elvis Impersonator for Attacks

wicker 100 041813 239x330 Ricin Suspect Again Blames Elvis Impersonator for Attacks

Wicker was a target of ricin-laced letters last year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Four months after pleading guilty to mailing poison-laced letters to elected officials such as President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the man accused wants to recant.

James Everett Dutschke, of Tupelo, Miss., claimed Tuesday that he was making a harmless fertilizer using castor beans, telling a federal judge that prosecutors lied when they said he made the poison, according to the Associated Press.

Dutschke offered to “dump the contents of the two remaining letters on a peanut and butter sandwich and eat it and wash it down with a glass of chocolate milk,” before being cut off by U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock.

In January, Dutschke pleaded guilty to four ricin-related charges and was scheduled to be sentenced during the hearing. The most serious charge, production of a biological weapon, carries a potential life sentence.

Aycock did not rule immediately on his request.

Dutschke denied responsibility for the ricin-laced letters that rocked Capitol Hill in April 2013. He again blamed an Elvis impersonator named Paul Kevin Curtis, whom Dutschke has been accused of trying to frame in the immediate wake of the attacks. Curtis, whom Wicker once hired to entertain at a party, was arrested but all charges were later dropped.

Court officials have recommended Dutschke should serve from 20 years to life in prison.

April 10, 2014

Terry Gainer’s Internet Security PSA: Change Your Passwords, ‘Darn It’

Don’t leave tech problems up to “Geek squads,” warns Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer — be proactive about changing your passwords.

gainer002 032414 440x294 Terry Gainers Internet Security PSA: Change Your Passwords, Darn It

How would you rate on Gainer’s IP grade? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo.)

That is Gainer’s plea for congressional employees in the wake of news that a massive security loophole, nicknamed “Heartbleed,” has exposed millions of Americans’ credit card, email, banking and social media credentials to potential hackers.

In response to a question about the Senate’s response to Heartbleed, Gainer sent this email to CQ Roll Call urging the Capitol community to be on high alert:

“For most average users of the internet warnings about vulnerabilities, security flaws, bugs, encryption standards, program errors and my favorite, ‘OpenSSL’ seem so much like somebody else’s problem. Isn’t that why ‘Geek squads’ were invented?

“We hear so many warnings about password best practice it has become just background noise, elevator music. However, we should be concerned about our personal accounts on websites. There have been, are and will be vulnerabilities and darn it, complacency is not a good thing.

“Inside the Senate we have everyone’s back. Outside the Senate not so much as all we can do is nag. If you have not changed your passwords in the past few days, if you use the same one over and over on all your devices, give yourself an ‘A’ for efficiency and a ‘F’ for listening skills.”

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