Court Update

Posted April 23, 2008 at 6:45pm

Jury selection is expected to conclude today in the trial of Michael Gorbey, the man accused of carrying a shotgun and possessing an explosive device near the Capitol on Jan. 18.

[IMGCAP(1)]Gorbey, 38, is representing himself in the case, which is being heard in the District of Columbia Superior Court. He has pleaded not guilty to the 15 individual weapons charges against him, which carry a maximum sentence of more than 75 years.

Prosecutors, Gorbey and his standby counsel spent most of Wednesday picking jurors. But before that process began, Gorbey asked Judge Gregory Jackson to push back the start of the trial because he cannot locate one of his key witnesses, he said.

Gorbey apparently cannot locate the woman he was dating at the time of his arrest, who also is the registered owner of the pickup truck Gorbey used to drive to Capitol Hill on Jan. 18.

Gorbey told Jackson the woman’s testimony could provide key information about what was in the truck when he came to Capitol Hill, and how “some of the things that they are saying was in that truck wasn’t in that truck.” But Jackson refused to issue a continuance in the trial.

“If we’re not going to get to the defense case until the middle of next week — and that’s I think, being overly optimistic — that gives Mr. Gorbey a week, over a week, to locate that witness,” Jackson said.

Gorbey’s trial could start today if jury selection concludes early enough. Jackson also is expected to rule soon on several preliminary motions filed by Gorbey, including whether certain evidence should be admitted at trial.

Access Approved. Some high-schoolers can now use the Library of Congress’ main reading room after almost a half-century of being barred from accessing the agency’s physical collections.

The Library is allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to use the facility in an attempt to nurture lifelong readers while they’re young, Library spokesman Matt Raymond said.

Since the late 1950s, the reading room has been restricted for those in high school, partly because of an overwhelming number of requests, Raymond said. In an age of Internet research, however, the number of people who physically visit the Library has sharply decreased.

Librarian James Billington has focused in recent years attracting younger readers to the Library, including targeted advertising campaigns and interactive Web sites. Opening up the reading room is the next step.

“We want people of all ages to be aware of the almost limitless resources that are available in libraries, including their de facto national library,” Billington said in a press release, “especially at a time when the amount of information online still represents only a tiny fraction of the sum total of human knowledge.”

Museum Windfall. The Smithsonian Institution’s 19th museum announced Wednesday a $5 million donation for its design and construction — the largest amount of private money the project has received so far.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture promises to be the first national museum to focus on African-American culture, but it will also probably be the last Smithsonian museum built in the near future. The research institution simply can’t afford it: With money tight, it is behind on billions of dollars of maintenance and faces a Congress that doesn’t want to cover all of the costs.

Congress is covering about half of the museum’s $500 million price tag, said museum spokeswoman Fleur Paysour. She declined to say how much in private donations has been raised so far, citing the “quiet stage” of fundraising.

The Boeing Co. contributed the $5 million, which will go toward building the museum on the National Mall at Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th streets Northwest.

Unmasking Hitler’s Art. Sometimes it takes a web of scholars to put together just one piece of history.

The Library of Congress found itself part of that scholarly network recently when it helped identify a 1525 Lucas Cranach the Elder painting as part of Adolf Hitler’s art collection. Cranach’s “Cupid Complaining to Venus” had spent years at Britain’s National Gallery without anyone realizing that it once belonged to Hitler.

But the Library and the National Gallery were able to connect the dots after a researcher, Birgit Schwartz, recognized the painting from studying a photo album of Hitler’s collection at the Library.

Now the Library is offering the entire album online, which includes photos of 74 paintings and two tapestries. It’s part of the agency’s Third Reich collection, which includes books and albums from Nazi officials.

“With limited resources and so forth, we always have to prioritize what we do around here, but whenever there are collections particularly compelling to the public, we make a special effort,” Library spokesman Matt Raymond said.

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