Exclusive report shows DC police withheld evidence from a mystery number of cases

Ethan Barton, DCNF

A glitch in the Washington Metropolitan Police Department’s records system hid evidence from prosecutors and defense attorneys in potentially thousands of cases. Nearly three years later, it’s still unclear how many cases were actually affected.

Metro Transit Police officers secure the entrance to L’Enfant Plaza Station in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. Metro officials say one of the busiest stations in downtown Washington has been evacuated because of smoke. Authorities say the source of the smoke is unknown. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The glitch in the I/Leads data management system prevented certain information from appearing in reports that were given to lawyers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Washington, D.C., discovered in 2015. U.S. Attorney Ron Machen said his office would review the potentially affected cases going back to 2012 and announced his resignation the same day, which was reportedly unrelated to the error.

But the Attorney’s Office never produced any reports or written reviews that would show whether any convictions were consequently overturned or how many cases were actually affected. There’s also no indication as to how many cases were actually reviewed.

“A search for records located in the United States Attorney’s Office(s) for the District of Columbia has revealed no responsive records regarding the above subject,” a letter from the Washington office said in a response a Daily Caller News Foundation Freedom of Information Act request.

TheDCNF requested any reports that were produced as a result of the review Machen announced. The request sought any final reports that would contain aggregate information, such as the number of cases reviewed, the cases that had evidence withheld and the cases that resulted in reversed decisions or lessened sentences.

TheDCNF also requested any reports created on an individual, case-by-case basis in lieu of any comprehensive, final reports.

It’s unlikely the review is still ongoing. Typically, government agencies distinguish that records are unavailable or unreleasable when investigations or assessments are still in progress.

Additionally, it’s possible the Attorney’s Office does not know such information.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office reviewed this matter in 2015 and no cases were dismissed or overturned,” office spokesman Bill Miller told TheDCNF. He declined to comment further and did not say how many cases were reviewed or affected.

The Washington Office of the Attorney General, which also had cases affected, did not return a request for comment.

The results of the review Machen ordered are consequently unclear.

“In turn, the [U.S. Attorney’s Office] will be reviewing all cases … that were possibly affected by the I/Leads issue,” Machen wrote in a 2015 letter. He noted that the reviews as of then only found minor details were withheld and that evidence was typically revealed in other ways during the cases.

It took the Attorney’s Office about six months to tell TheDCNF it didn’t have the requested records. The office took two years to deny a previous DCNF request related to the I/Leads glitch on the basis that the inquiry was too broad.

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