Lawsuit: Capitol Police Officers Keep Jobs After DUIs, Anthrax Hoax

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
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The United States Capitol Police has declined to dismiss a number of its officers who have been arrested for a range of offenses, including driving under the influence, assault and domestic violence, according to a lawsuit against the agency.

All of the officers kept their jobs — after being suspended, placed on administrative leave or given light duty as their cases were adjudicated. In one case, an officer who pleaded guilty to child pornography charges was allowed to retire honorably.

The allegations — which paint a disturbing portrait of the Capitol Police — are included in a federal lawsuit quietly filed last month by a veteran officer.

Leonard Ross, who is black, was forced to retire after his ex-wife obtained a restraining order against him for “an alleged act of assault” at her home.

But Ross believes the agency used the restraining order merely as a pretext to fire him. The Waldorf, Md., resident says he was actually fired for being party to an ongoing racial discrimination class action lawsuit against the department.

Federal law expressly prohibits dismissing or demoting an employee for alleging illegal discrimination. Ross claimed that other officers who had more serious run-ins with the law or just acted inappropriately were treated far less harshly because none had charged the department with equal opportunity violations.

Alleging racial discrimination as well, Ross said that none of those officers was black.

Officer Victor Bryant was arrested for assault and given administrative leave from Aug. 14, 2009 to Feb. 7, 2011. He was re-instated after a one-week suspension.

Officer Thomas McMahon was arrested for “entering a property with intent to damage.” He was placed on administrative leave for “over a year.” He then returned to work after a 30-day suspension.

Officer Daniel Nutter was arrested for driving under the influence and reckless driving. After some light duty, he was fully reinstated.

Officer Carlos Rivas was also arrested for DUI. He was put on light duty then assumed his normal job responsibilities.

Officer John Erickson was also arrested for DUI and put on light duty before returning to work. He has “since been suspended for falsifying his time and attendance records [but] remains employed by the agency.”

Sergeant Alicia Sullivan got light duty and then returned to work after her DUI arrest.

Officer J.J. Pickett was arrested for “committing an anthrax hoax.” Pickett got convicted for lying to police about his prank — passing off a sugary substitute he left in the Cannon House Office Building basement as anthrax — but got his job back.

Officer Larita Carney was given four to six months light duty for DUI, then charged with assault and placed in a diversion program. She is currently “working on background investigations.”

Officer Roby Kennedy was “caught drinking alcohol on duty” and “making disparaging statements about Hispanics in a YouTube video” but “remains on the force.”

Sergeant Dennis Bell was sentenced to five years in jail for distribution of child pornography but was allowed to retire and even given a retirement badge.

“There is no reasonable non-discriminatory explanation why Mr. Ross was treated so differently than these comparators,” his lawsuit says.

The United States Capitol Police have not yet replied to the complaint.

But other police departments do not accord their officers the kind of gentle treatment that Ross alleges.

The New York Police Department public information office told The Daily Caller that any cop arrested is immediately suspended without pay for 30 days.

Boston Police Department Sergeant Mike McCarthy said officers are automatically placed on administrative leave with pay.

Philadelphia police officers are suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss.

According to his lawsuit, Ross was hired in 1987. He had an unblemished employment record until he joined a 2001 class action lawsuit against the Capitol Police for historical and ongoing racial discrimination.

The following year, Ross sued the Capitol Police individually, for retaliation and racial discrimination, alleging that he was wrongly denied a promotion to sergeant and subjected to unequal discipline compared to white officers.

In 2005, his individual claim was folded into the class action lawsuit, which has since been repeatedly amended, as some litigants settled and others passed away.

In 2011, Ross kicked off a series of events that culminated in his dismissal when he told superiors that his ex-wife, Capitol Police officer Felicia McDonald, was “having an improper relationship with a convicted felon” in violation of departmental rules.

McDonald was suspended in May 2012. She “asked Mr. Ross to permit their two daughters” for whom he had physical custody “to reside with her.”

Ross refused. On June 30, 2012 when Ross went to McDonald’s home and “collected” his eight-year-old daughter, the child’s 18-year-old sister called the police. McDonald was not home at the time.

Thirteen days later, she obtained a “one-year Civil Protective order” against Ross “for an alleged act of assault,” which the lawsuit does not specify. He was barred from keeping a gun or having any contact with his ex-wife or visiting her home. But no criminal or civil charges were filed.

Ross was placed on administrative leave.

In August 2013, Ross resigned in lieu of termination and loss of his pension.

Ross sued the Capitol Police on Aug. 15, 2014 in Washington federal district court for violating the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act, which applied the 1964 Civil Rights Act to Congress.

TheDC emailed detailed inquiries about the lawsuit to the Capital Police Information Office, asking about the total number of arrested officers since 2009, whether any of the arrested officers provided personal security for congressional leaders, and its general policies on such arrests.

Officer Shennell Antrobus responded: “The USCP does not comment on personnel matters or pending litigation.”

Leonard Ross and his lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

Evan Gahr