Gorbey Still Insists on Self-Representation

Posted April 22, 2008 at 6:56pm

D.C. Superior Court Judge Gregory Jackson is set to rule today on whether prosecutors can introduce evidence that Capitol Police officers seized immediately after they arrested Michael Gorbey.

While Jackson spent much of Tuesday hearing arguments on whether that evidence should be heard by jurors, he also reiterated his advice to Gorbey that he not represent himself during the proceedings.

“There are legal technicalities that come into play that really make it necessary for one not only to have some legal knowledge and training, but also trial experience,” Jackson said.

But Gorbey doesn’t appear ready to change his mind. “I’d prefer to keep representing myself,” he told Jackson.

Gorbey is facing 15 individual weapons charges relating to his Jan. 18 arrest near the Capitol, where police say he was spotted walking with a shotgun and a number of other weapons. Police also seized a pickup truck they say Gorbey drove to Capitol Hill and was found to contain an explosive device.

Gorbey has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He faces a maximum sentence of more than 75 years in prison.

Acting as his own attorney in the case, Gorbey filed a motion several weeks ago asking the court to throw out much of the evidence seized by police, including a backpack he allegedly wore to Capitol Hill that day and some of the weapons officers found in the pickup truck.

Gorbey, 38, also has asked that certain spontaneous statements he allegedly made to police be thrown out, including an assertion that he was headed to the Supreme Court to meet with Chief Justice John Roberts at the time of his arrest.

Prosecutors and Gorbey spent the past two days arguing whether the evidence should be allowed in, with Gorbey saying that because it was seized before he was formally arrested, it should be thrown out. Gorbey also argued that police should have obtained a warrant before they searched the truck on Jan. 18.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff argued that while police didn’t formally arrest Gorbey until about 1:50 p.m., they took him into custody at about 1:07 p.m. and seized the evidence shortly thereafter, which is legal. She also argued that several weapons in the truck were in plain view, giving officers probable cause for their search.

Proceedings in the case already are behind schedule. Gorbey’s trial originally was scheduled to be heard on Monday but was pushed back so the motions hearing could be held.

Jury selection now is scheduled to begin after Jackson makes his ruling on the motion and could last up to two days. Jackson said earlier this week that he does not expect to hold a court session on Friday, meaning Gorbey’s actual trial might not start until Monday.

Prosecutors and Gorbey continue to bring up new issues over what evidence should be allowed into the trial.

At the end of the motions hearing on Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Cummings raised concerns about Gorbey’s apparent plans to introduce evidence not directly related to his Jan. 18 arrest, including letters written to him by his girlfriend and a “Most Wanted” poster from several years ago bearing Gorbey’s picture.

Eugene Ohm, Gorbey’s standby counsel, argued that prosecutors are preparing to introduce their own evidence related to these items, including a letter sent to Gorbey by the Supreme Court rejecting a hearing for one of his civil lawsuits.

“If the government is going to open that door, Mr. Gorbey certainly has a right to respond,” he said.

But Cummings argued that the letter is merely being introduced to provide jurors with the context as to why Gorbey might have come to Capitol Hill on Jan. 18, not to bring up any issues related to the merits of the civil lawsuits.

Jackson asked Cummings to provide the court with the evidence so he can decide its context.

“I’m not going to allow this to drift off into other areas that are not related to the charges,” Jackson said.