A Coincidental Witness

Posted May 7, 2008 at 6:42pm



Correction Appended

An unidentified witness who works at the Supreme Court and Michael Gorbey’s girlfriend were among the latest entrants in the ongoing trial of the man Capitol Police arrested on Jan. 18 for allegedly carrying a loaded shotgun and a sword.

[IMGCAP(1)]Gorbey, who began calling his witnesses on Wednesday, has insisted on representing himself during his trial, although he does have an assisting counsel, public defender Eugene Ohm, who occasionally will whisper a word of advice into his ear.

Gorbey’s defense is aimed at proving that there was a government conspiracy to arrest him, and that the evidence — weapons on his person and a pickup truck carrying potentially explosive devices — was not his doing.

“Did you ever see me buy cans of gunpowder?” Gorbey asked his girlfriend, Amy Toothman, who said she had not. “Do you have any idea of how they got into the vehicle?”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, however, pointed out that Toothman did not know what Gorbey was doing once he left home.

Also called to the stand was veteran U.S. Capitol Police Detective Joseph DePalma. On the day Gorbey was stopped, he told the arresting officers that he was headed to the Supreme Court, where he had an appointment with Chief Justice John Roberts.

Coincidentally, DePalma told Gorbey, one witness he interviewed (who was not named and did not appear in court) worked at the Supreme Court and spoke to Gorbey when he approached her at Second Street and Massachusetts Avenue and asked her for directions to the court.

“She thought it was suspicious,” said DePalma, although he said the witness did not see any weapons. The witness memorized the license plate of Gorbey’s truck and later mentioned the incident to her husband, a Supreme Court police officer. Almost at the same time, her husband heard about Gorbey’s arrest on his radio.

The revelation of the mystery witness prompted a call for a mistrial by Ohm, which was denied by D.C. Superior Court Judge Gregory Jackson. Said Ohm: “If we had this witness, our entire defense theory might be different.”

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Correction: May 8, 2008

The article misstated which day Michael Gorbey began calling witnesses in his trial. It was Wednesday.