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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reporter sues PG Police

(Posted 17 Apr 2007)
Two questions:

Why is it that this report, and this kind of news, get more detailed coverage than our every-other-day murders?

Why are our police playing personal servant and preventing reporters from covering corruption? Wouldn't their time be better spent preventing or solving the murders?
TV Reporter Sues Over Alleged Police Force, Intimidation

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 17, 2007; B06

A reporter for WJLA-TV (Channel 7) who was following a high-ranking Prince George's County official two years ago when county police ordered her out of her vehicle at gunpoint filed a civil lawsuit yesterday against the police department and the county.

The suit filed in Prince George's County Circuit Court on behalf of reporter Andrea McCarren alleges that officers stopped and manhandled her in an attempt to intimidate her into dropping a probe into the possible misuse of county government resources.

It asks for compensatory damages of $500,000.

An attorney for McCarren said the lawsuit was filed after attorneys for the county rejected a proposed settlement -- crafted by a retired state judge -- that would have included a monetary payment and a public apology.

The judge who acted as a mediator came up with the proposal Oct. 3, said Steven M. Pavsner, one of McCarren's attorneys. Attorneys for the county did not respond to the proposal until about 10 days ago, Pavsner said.

County attorneys said they were willing to pay the proposed monetary settlement but wanted to keep the amount and the fact that there was a settlement confidential, and make no apology, Pavsner said.

"They asked for confidentiality, and we said, "Forget it,' " Pavsner said. "Not only would we not consider confidentiality, but a public apology is critical."

A spokesman for the police referred questions to the county attorney's office, which referred inquiries to a county spokesman. John E. Erzen, a spokesman for County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), said the county had no comment because of the pending litigation.

The lawsuit stems from an incident April 15, 2005. That morning, about 8:20 a.m., McCarren and her cameraman, Pete Hakel, began following Cpl. Danon Ashton, the county police liaison to the county's chief administrative officer, Jacqueline Brown.

According to the lawsuit, McCarren was investigating whether Ashton was serving as Brown's "personal chauffeur" by driving her on shopping trips, taking her clothes to the cleaners, driving her to dinner parties and washing her vehicle.

McCarren was driving her personal vehicle, a Toyota Highlander sport-utility vehicle, when she and Hakel, in the back passenger seat, began to tail Ashton in a residential area in Bowie. McCarren stopped the surveillance before Ashton picked up Brown; the reporter pulled over to the side of the road to read a map, the lawsuit says.

Shortly afterward, Ashton, who was driving a black SUV, reappeared behind McCarren's vehicle and stopped. When Ashton continued north on Route 3, McCarren saw that Brown was in Ashton's vehicle and resumed following the SUV, according to the lawsuit.

In the Cheverly area, numerous marked county and Cheverly police cars appeared and conducted a "felony traffic stop" in which McCarren was ordered out of her vehicle with her hands in the air.

McCarren said in previous interviews that an officer grabbed her right wrist and yanked it behind her back. Pavsner said McCarren suffered tendon damage. McCarren, 43, who is on a fellowship at Harvard University, declined to comment.

1 comment:

  1. We don't have enough police officers. I often wonder what's going on when I see more than two police cars sitting around together - sometimes pulling over one lone vehicle. Unless they have a good reason to suspect someone to be "armed and dangerous", it seems that one car should be sufficient.

    Are other counties researched so heavily for corruption by area media? I do appreciate exposure of it, so there will be less of it and we can have a more efficient county of higher integrity. Just wonder if it's "fair and balanced" - an ideal that's doesn't exist, but it would be nice to work toward.

    Also, I wonder why she waited two years to file suit.