Capitol Police Officer Pleads Not Guilty to Setting Fire

Posted December 17, 2007 at 4:51pm

Capitol Police Officer Karen Emory pleaded not guilty in federal court on Monday to charges that she set a November fire that burned in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Emory sat quietly next to attorney Ron Machen throughout the arraignment, which lasted less than 10 minutes. She spoke only to enter her plea, and both she and Machen declined to comment after the proceedings.

A status conference is set for Jan. 7, and Emory also must file any motions or notices by that day. Judge Ricardo Urbina also set a hearing on any potential motions for Feb. 14.

It is unclear if there will be any motions or what course Emory will take in her defense. Machen told Urbina that he had been brought onto the case only “late last Friday,” adding that he needed time to delve into the evidence that will be presented by the prosecution.

But prosecutor Angela Schmidt, who is trying the case for the government, told Urbina that she does not expect anything to seriously delay the case from moving forward.

“I don’t think there is anything to suppress,” she said.

A grand jury officially indicted Emory on Dec. 5 for allegedly setting a Nov. 2 fire in a women’s restroom in the Dirksen building. The fire required evacuation of the building, but was extinguished quickly. No one was hurt.

Emory is listed as the responding officer on a police incident report for remnants of a blaze discovered in the Hart Building a few minutes after the Dirksen fire.

While on patrol, Emory discovered burned toilet paper in a Hart restroom stall, according to the report. Investigators responded, gathered evidence and cleared the scene, the report says.

Several other small fires burned in the Dirksen and Hart buildings this fall. Only a few required evacuation and all were quickly extinguished. No injuries were reported.

While some officials have said Emory could be connected to the other fires, she has not been charged and those cases officially remain under investigation.

Emory, a four-year veteran of the Capitol Police, has been suspended from the department for several weeks.