Monday, January 9, 2012

It's over. The end of the saga.

This morning Judge Beck of DC Superior Court announced her sentencing decision in regards to the assault case that occurred last February.

As you can see, this case dragged on a bit and I've been pretty quiet about it since I posted my story. There were a few reasons for this.

-In the beginning, Mr. Harrison refused any sort of plea agreement. At the time he was facing 2 charges of assault with a dangerous weapon (vehicle), felony fleeing from law enforcement, and misdemeanor assault on a police officer. He wanted to take it to trial. No problem.

-While still being held in jail on these charges, Mr. Harrison made a phone call to a female that revealed he had a firearm in his residence. A no-no since Mr. Harrison was also on probation for prior drug charges. A search warrant was executed and the firearm was recovered. Mr. Harrison was then charged for felony possession of a firearm.

-Given this new charge, a plea agreement apparently sounded more agreeable. The ADW charges were dropped, and Mr. Harrison pled guilty to the fleeing, APO & possession of a firearm. A sentencing date was set.

-Before any sentencing, a meeting is held with the defendant to ensure they understand completely what it is they are pleading guilty to, and that there aren't any issues. Apparently there was an issue. I showed up to the hearing ready to give my victim impact statement (so did WABA!) The attorneys & judge discussed the possible sentencing options. Some of the charges carried mandatory minimums that probably seemed a bit hefty to Mr. Harrison. So he balked. Another date was set to give Mr. Harrison & his attorney time to discuss things. I soon learned that Mr. Harrison's attorney had filed a motion to disavow his plea.

This meant that ANYTHING & EVERYTHING I posted, commented, tweeted or spoke about could become potential testimony & evidence should the case go to trial after all. This also included anything that YOU GUYS might have commented, tweeted, etc. Was it a big deal? No. There's nothing on here or elsewhere that I wouldn't testify to in person. But it would have become a pain in the derriere. So, mum became the word.

To be honest, I was not looking forward to a trial. They are tedious & emotionally exhausting. I also had a feeling that it was going to turn nasty. When a case can't be won on facts (and he couldn't win), they will try to destroy the victim's and/or witness's credibility or integrity. It's not unheard of to have private investigators check up on victims and look for any "dirt" they can leverage.

This is why a very cryptic email I received while waiting to hear if the plea would be taken back started my paranoia ball rolling. It was just a few sentences, but this person claimed to know Mr. Harrison and to have information on what had occurred just before Mr. Harrison used his car to bully a girl on a bike. I had no idea what this person was alluding to, and I still don't. But it was enough to make me wonder why Mr. Harrison was so eager to go to trial.

Thankfully, I never had to find out. The judge denied the motion to disavow the plea, and a final sentencing date was set.

I showed up to the hearing with a prepared statement. Before I was able to read it, however, the defense attorney had announced that Mr. Harrison had written a letter about the case to the Judge. Judge Beck read it silently, and after a few moments asked that I read it as well since it contained allegations about me that I should be aware he was making.

It was multiple-page, handwritten letter. What it contained was a rambling discourse proving that Mr. Harrison had learned absolutely NOTHING about remorse or consequences for the last 11 months he's been sitting in jail.

In essence, the first part of the letter spoke about how he had learned his lesson from the last time he went to jail (did I mention he has an extensive criminal history?) and that he never wanted to go back to prison, that he already lost 5 years of his life and he's done everything he could to make sure he never goes back to that life & that he was doing really well on probation...wah wah wah. This part was laughable because its perfectly obvious to me that Mr. Harrison had not learned a single thing. The night of his arrest, one of his passengers had an active arrest warrant AND his vehicle absolutely reeked of marijuana (he's on probation for drug charges).

It was the second part of his letter that infuriated me. Long story short, he accused me of being a drunken lunatic on a rampage that night back in February. He stated that he never hit me, and even if he had, it was a simple accident and that this should all have been dealt with in traffic court, not criminal court. Oh, and he fled (IN A CAR) because he was in fear for his safety because I was in a rage (ON A BICYCLE). And when I showed up to the scene after he was stopped, other officers had to "hold me back" because I "charged at him".

Seriously? Obviously he has a very different recollection of that night than I have (not to mention my supervisors & other officers have).

1. I was not intoxicated or under the influence of any intoxicating substances. I was LITERALLY on my way home from work when the incident occurred. I left work not even 10 minutes before he assaulted me. It was so soon after work, that officers that work MY SHIFT showed up as my backup because they hadn't left yet. My own boss showed up.

2. I was not in "a rage" or "rampage". In fact, I was a lot calmer than I would have been had I been on-duty, simply because I know how much more vulnerable I am off-duty. I do not take off-duty actions lightly. It's dangerous and I don't want to escalate a situation more than necessary, if at all. The only time I raised my voice was when he sped in my direction trying to flee, and I ordered him to stop.

3. Mr. Harrison accused me of making a "vulgar gesture" at him the first time he bumped into me. Actually what I did was look back at him and shrug in a "WTF are you doing?!" manner. However, even if I had made a vulgar gesture, I'm pretty sure I was warranted.

4. I certainly did not "charge" at Mr. Harrison when I arrived at the scene where he was stopped. Nor did I say anything to him. By the time I arrived, all of the occupants were out of the vehicle and I believe Mr. Harrison was in the middle of a field sobriety test. I showed up to I.D. the car & the driver and that was that. In fact, I made it a point NOT to speak to OR overhear any statements they made to the officers. I did not want to taint my own statement.

Basically, Mr. Harrison blamed ME for the whole mess and he was just a poor victim of cop rage. Nice, right? *sigh* You can see how a trial would have gone.

Anyway, I assured Judge Beck that I was not intoxicated AT ALL, and that I refused to address any other allegations since I WAS NOT ON TRIAL AND IM NOT THE DEFENDANT. Then I went on with my statement:

My name is Kathleen (REDACTED) and I am police officer with the 3rd District, Metropolitan Police Department. I have been a law enforcement officer for 6 years.

However, I'm not just a police officer, although it was very fortunate that I was that night back in February; I am also a cyclist. 

That evening I was just trying to go home. It's only a mile & a half from my workplace. I don't ride dangerously or aggressively, I follow the rules of the road & I try to be respectful of other road-users. As a bike patrol officer, I am keenly aware of how important it is to ride carefully & safely.

Unfortunately, there are times I encounter hostile aggressive behavior from motorists that ranges from the harmless, yet intimidating (such as aggressive honking or verbal abuse) to literally being pushed around by a vehicle, which is exactly what happened to me that evening.

This wasn't an accident. This wasn't a momentary distraction that led to a collision. This was a conscious decision made by an individual to use their much larger vehicle as a means of bullying a more vulnerable person; a decision made more than likely because they believed that could get away with it. 

To Mr. Harrison, I was simply another girl riding a bicycle. I was harmless. What could I possibly do to him? To him, it was a fun game, as I could tell by the laughter coming from his friends as his vehicle struck me from behind while stopped at the light. I was an easy target.

It was his bad luck that it turned out that not only was I a police officer; but Mr. Harrison had chosen to  do this in MY district.

When Mr. Harrison struck me the first time, I contemplated letting it go. I was off-duty, I was alone & I didn't want to get hurt.

When Mr. Harrison struck me the second time, I couldn't help wonder what would happen if this were to occur to some other woman out there. If he was being this brazen about striking a cyclist with his car, I was quite sure he wasn't going to stop.  I couldn't let it go. Because a person that would willfully hit another human being with their car “because its funny”, is somebody I don't want on the street. Certainly not in my neighborhood.

When Mr. Harrison chose to run after being confronted, it only confirmed that he knew that what he was doing was wrong.

It was very fortunate that I was not injured. The way that Mr. Harrison recklessly drove his vehicle in an attempt to escape made it a miracle I wasn't seriously hurt, or that he hadn't hurt anyone else. Not to mention that I was lucky I wasn't knocked off my bicycle in the initial assaults.

I don't take off-duty police actions lightly. Its a serious decision that can have serious consequences. However, in this case, I was left with no choice.

Mr. Harrison is sitting here today because of decisions that he made. And those decisions need consequences. The biggest problem that I see with Mr. Harrison is that he doesn't understand that his actions were not only reckless & dangerous, but they are indeed criminal

Again, I was lucky that I'm a police officer and I have the training and resources to take action. If I hadn't had a badge with me, I have no doubt that Mr. Harrison would not only have ignored me, but my confronting him probably would have endangered my safety even further. I need to know that this city considers this type of behavior serious & criminal, and I hope that it will be reflected in his sentence.

Thank you for your time & consideration.  

Once I was done giving my statement, Judge Beck announced that she really wanted to take some time to consider her options carefully. I think both my and Mr. Harrison's letter gave her pause to think. She had a pretty full calendar that day, so we all agreed to come back on another date (today) to hear the final decision.

In the end: Mr. Harrison was sentenced to 36 months for the felony fleeing, 36 months for felony possession of a firearm and 180 days for the assault on a police officer, to be served concurrently. So basically, 3 years (minus the year he's already served while sitting in jail since being arrested). I am happy with this. It's the high end of the spectrum for each of the charges, and even though its concurrent, not consecutive, I feel its enough.

My hope is that maybe Mr. Harrison will learn his lesson this time. Maybe.

And maybe others out there might think twice before doing something dangerous to another human being and think they could get away with it. I am very sure Mr. Harrison had no idea what the consequences would be for doing something he probably thought was no big deal. That night, I was just another girl on a bicycle. Today, he's just another criminal in jail.

I want to especially thank Trevor McFadden, the AUSA that handled my case. He's been nothing but professional and supportive throughout this whole ordeal and worked very hard for a successful outcome.

And thank you to everyone that emailed, tweeted, & voiced your support. You guys rock.


  1. Congrats that it is over, and congrats that justice has been served. This is also great for cyclists in DC.

  2. Congratulations. And thank you for seeing this through.

  3. Good for you, on several counts. I really respect your seeing it through. This fool's correspondence conveys more about him than it does about you. My compliments.

  4. This is great news. It is unfortunate that you had to go through this but thank you for seeing it through and sticking up for cyclists!!

  5. You rock, Kathleen. Thanks for getting this loose nut locked up. After all the remorse he's shown, I really wish it were consecutive for everybody's safety, but I won't preclude the possibility he really comes around during the next two years.

  6. Great Job!
    This has to have been in your head since the night
    it happened - like you were doing time too - and now you can finally let it go & move on.
    Thanks for pursuing the right thing!

  7. Wow, I'm so sorry this happened to you. But thank you so much for making our streets safer. I'm so glad to know you're in my neighborhood!

  8. Wow, can't believe it took me this long to read this. Glad this is now at some kind of conclusion. Well done, persevering through it all. I agree with the first commenter; this is good news for D.C. cyclists.

  9. Thanks for sharing you experience. And for looking out for all us cyclists out there. DC is a safer cycling city because of people like you.