Gorbey Says ‘No’ to a Lawyer

Posted January 23, 2008 at 7:00pm



Correction Appended

New details emerged Wednesday during a preliminary court hearing for Michael Gorbey, the 38-year-old man who was arrested late last week for carrying a loaded shotgun near the Capitol as he was headed to what he said was a meeting with Chief Justice John Roberts.

After District of Columbia Superior Court Magistrate Judge Andrea Harnett ruled there is probable cause to charge Gorbey with possession of a firearm by a felon, public defender Elizabeth Mullin — who had represented Gorbey at the hearing — told the court that her client is interested in representing himself at trial.

“That’s typically not a good idea,” Harnett told Gorbey, who was escorted into the court by two U.S. marshals. “You should at least have an attorney to assist you.”

Sporting a bright orange prison jumpsuit, blue jacket and a slight beard, Gorbey sat quietly throughout the hearing, speaking only to privately confer with Mullin during the proceedings. He has pleaded not guilty.

Mullin had been removed as Gorbey’s attorney from the court database by the afternoon, and that unusual legal maneuver was just one in a series of curious details about the case revealed on Wednesday.

“Read the letter in my hand,” Gorbey calmly told Capitol Police officers after they placed him into custody on Friday, according to Capitol Police Detective Joseph DePalma, who interviewed Gorbey shortly after his arrest and testified for the prosecution.

In the letter, Gorbey identified himself, discussed how the government has denied him the right to carry a firearm and argued that the government had been harassing him, DePalma said.

But, DePalma added, “there was nothing threatening to Judge Roberts or the president or Members of Congress or anything like that.”

Gorbey has been convicted of at least seven felony charges in two states, DePalma said. Felons typically are denied the right to own a gun.

DePalma, who said Gorbey generally was cooperative with officers’ initial requests, also gave the court more details about the arrest.

At about 1 p.m. on Jan. 18, a civilian told a Capitol Police officer that he or she had seen a man walking near D Street Northeast carrying a shotgun, DePalma said.

A call immediately was relayed to all officers on duty, telling them to be on the lookout for a 6-foot-tall white male with brown hair carrying a backpack and a shotgun.

Officer Peter Geyer soon spotted Gorbey, who matched the lookout description, walking south on First Street, DePalma said.

“He noticed a shotgun in [Gorbey’s] right hand, and he drew his service weapon,” DePalma said of the officer, who then ordered Gorbey to drop the weapon and surrender. “Mr. Gorbey complied.”

Gorbey told officers that he had been heading to meet Roberts at the Supreme Court for a 2 p.m. meeting when he was arrested, DePalma said.

Officers searched Gorbey and found 27 rounds of ammunition in his pants pockets and a military vest he had been wearing, DePalma said. They also found a box of .45-caliber ammunition, gunpowder and several hunting knives in his backpack, DePalma testified.

Widespread media reports of Gorbey carrying a samurai sword are inaccurate, DePalma said. The actual sword Gorbey carried was somewhat makeshift, with a black handle and silver blade, DePalma testified.

Gorbey also carried legal papers for two separate vehicles that were not in his name, and court papers from Virginia that helped officers identify him, DePalma said.

Officials were forced to close off several streets surrounding Capitol Hill on Friday while inspecting a green pickup truck “associated” with Gorbey.

No explosives were found, but officials did discover propane tanks and additional weapons in the truck.

A Capitol Police search of court records found that Gorbey has been arrested more than 30 times and convicted of seven felony counts, six in Virginia and one in West Virginia, DePalma said.

The charges ranged from larceny to probation violations, he added.

Gorbey also was questioned in 1994 by authorities after he flew over restricted airspace near Camp David.

But it remains unclear where exactly Gorbey lives, DePalma said.

A police search found multiple addresses for Gorbey in Virginia; his family ties also remain unclear.

It has been reported that Gorbey has a wife in Virginia and had been living with a woman in West Virginia, but those reports have not been confirmed.

In arguing that Gorbey be released on bond, Mullin said a cousin in West Virginia has offered to take Gorbey in, should he be released.

Harnett denied the request.

“He’s got no ties here, unclear ties in Virginia, has failed to appear in the past,” she said. “He does seem to present a serious flight risk.”

While defending Gorbey, Mullin appeared to be leaning toward an argument that he suffers from some form of mental illness.

Mullin initially asked DePalma if Gorbey appeared to show symptoms of any illness during police questioning, but Harnett ruled that the officer isn’t qualified to answer such a question.

So Mullin asked about Gorbey’s demeanor after his arrest.

Gorbey was mostly silent, DePalma said, but “the things he did talk about were rational.”

Mullin then asked if Gorbey’s assertion that he was on his way to meet a Supreme Court justice seemed rational.

“He spoke rationally,” DePalma responded.

What eventual defense Gorbey will choose to argue remains unclear. Mullin declined to comment following the hearing, and the U.S. marshals escorted Gorbey out of the courtroom through a back entrance.

Gorbey is due back in court on Feb. 4 for a felony status conference.

Correction: Jan. 24, 2008

The article misidentified the judge who oversaw Michael Gorbey’s preliminary hearing. Magistrate Judge Andrea Harnett heard the case.