Emory Pleads Not Guilty

Posted December 17, 2007 at 6:50pm

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, held in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She spoke only to enter her plea, and both she and Machen declined to comment after the proceedings.

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

It is unclear if Emory will submit any motions or how she and her attorney will present her defense. Machen told Urbina that he only was brought onto the case “late last Friday,” adding that he needed time to delve into evidence that will be presented by the prosecution.

Prosecutor Angela Schmidt, who is trying the case for the government, told Urbina that she does not expect anything to seriously delay the proceedings.

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

Emory had been represented by public defender Carlos Vanegas until Machen was hired. Vanegas officially withdrew from the case at Monday’s arraignment.

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. Officially, she is accused of willfully injuring or committing depredation against property of the United States.

If convicted, Emory faces up to a year in jail. She has been suspended from the department for several weeks.

Emory’s husband, Keith Emory, also is a Capitol Police officer. Her father-in-law, William Emory, serves as associate general counsel for the department and attended the arraignment.

The Dirksen restroom fire required evacuation of the building. No one was hurt, and the fire was quickly extinguished.

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

According to the report, Emory checked the restroom near Room 211 of the Hart Building while on patrol. She discovered burned toilet paper in a restroom stall and contacted investigators, who gathered evidence and cleared the scene, according to the report.

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

Some officials have said Emory could be connected to the other fires. But she has not been charged for setting any of those blazes, and those cases officially remain under investigation by Capitol Police.

The first blaze took place on Sept. 26 in a restroom in the Hart Building, and another followed in Hart on Sept. 28.

On Oct. 3, at least three fires burned in restrooms in both Hart and Dirksen. On Oct. 31, a blaze broke out in a stairwell in the basement of Dirksen, prompting the evacuation of the building.