Trial Date Set for Capitol Police Officer Accused of Setting Senate Bathroom Fire

Posted January 7, 2008 at 11:56am

A jury trial for the Capitol Police officer accused of setting a fire in the Dirksen Senate Office Building is slated to begin on March 17 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Judge Ricardo Urbina set the trial date on Monday for Officer Karen Emory, who prosecutors say deliberately set a Nov. 2 fire in a women’s restroom in the Dirksen building.

Emory pleaded not guilty to the charge in December. She faces up to one year in jail if convicted.

Urbina also set a pretrial conference for March 11, and ordered for jury selection to be held on March 14. The judge extended the deadline for pretrial motions and notices to Feb. 14 (those motions had previously been due Monday), and a status hearing also will be held that day.

Oppositions to any motions now are due on Feb. 25, and replies due on Feb. 29, according to Urbina’s order.

A series of fires took place in the Dirksen and Hart Senate Office Buildings in the fall of 2007, mostly in women’s restrooms. All were extinguished quickly, no injuries were reported and just a few required evacuation.

Emory has been charged only in the Nov. 2 fire.

Court documents filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Schmidt in recent days have provided more details about the role Emory allegedly played in that blaze.

In documents submitted to the court on Thursday, prosecutors allege that videotaped surveillance in a Dirksen hallway recorded Emory “entering and leaving the restroom area moments before the fire was discovered.”

No matches, flammable liquids or other means of ignition were found in the restroom, according to the documents.

After the Dirksen fire was uncovered, Capitol Police officers were directed to check restrooms in all Senate office buildings for evidence of additional fires, according to the court documents.

Videotaped surveillance shows Emory entering another women’s restroom in a Senate office building, and “less than a minute later” alerting a fellow officer that she found something suspicious, the documents read. That officer then entered the restroom and found two rolls of singed toilet paper inside the stall, according to the documents.

The videotape shows that only one other person besides Emory entered the restroom before the burned toilet paper was discovered, according to the documents. That person told Capitol Police investigators that she used the same stall where the burned toilet paper was found earlier in the morning, but the toilet paper was not singed at the time.

The court documents do not specify in which office building Emory found the burned toilet paper, but in a police incident report Emory filed on Nov. 2, she says she discovered the toilet paper in a stall in the Hart building just moments after the Dirksen blaze.

Urbina last week also ordered Emory to submit handwriting samples to the court to compare the officer’s handwriting to a prayer handwritten on a roll of toilet paper that was discovered by a Capitol Police officer following the Nov. 2 Dirksen fire.

According to the motion submitted by prosecutors seeking the sample, the officer found the prayer in a restroom in an unspecified Senate office building.