News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, June 21, 2010

This Week in Crime: New Attempts to Make Gold Burglary Charges Stick, Public Disorder, and a Dognapping Most Foul

Picture 1.jpgHey, remember that time a group of burglars targeting Indian families for their gold wreaked havoc for a few months last year, then got busted, then had their cases thrown out of court?

Yeah, that was awesome. In any case, police are trying to make the charges stick.

The string of nearly 30 gold burglaries in Northern Virginia stopped cold after seven New Yorkers were arrested on suspicion of taking part in what police called a well-organized crime ring.

The ring had zeroed in on gold that had been handed down through generations of families, and the victims were hopeful that some of the more than $1 million in valuables might be recovered after last year's arrests.

But when the cases went to court, they died.

Of the seven people arrested, six have been released and a seventh will be freed soon. Of the 58 felony charges filed, 55 were dismissed and one was reduced to a misdemeanor. One man was convicted in one burglary -- a case in which nothing was taken -- and one misdemeanor plea was obtained from another suspect, for a penalty of $72 in court costs.

Everyone else walked away. The case imploded through a combination of bad luck, smart criminals and savvy defense lawyers.

But authorities aren't giving up. Fairfax County police have resumed their investigation.

Last month, a group led by Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh, Loudoun Commonwealth's Attorney James E. Plowman and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II met with U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride to see whether his office would take up the case. Federal prosecutors can use grand juries as an investigative tool, subpoenaing witnesses and documents, in a way state prosecutors cannot.
The entire story is spelled out in the "news-paper" article linked above, but a key mistake was a break in the "chain of custody" of some key evidence.

Meanwhile, a fun Friday night on the town led to multiple charges filed against a 45-year-old Reston man.
Police responded to the 1200 block of Wild Hawthorn Way for an investigation around 4:25 a.m. on Friday, June 11. While there, a man allegedly refused to obey officers’ commands when they attempted to arrest him. Once in custody, the suspect reportedly kicked out a window in a police vehicle. [The suspect of] Bowman Towne Drive in Reston, was taken to jail and charged with destruction of property, drunk in public and resisting arrest.
Kicking out a police car window = justifiably unsympathetic police officers.

But the most intriguing bit of crime of late was shared without comment on the police department's weekly incident summary:
1900 block of Crescent Park Drive Chihuahua stolen from residence
A dognapping? ¡Ay caramba! Yo queria el McTacoHut?


  1. Restonian: Yo QUIERO el McTacoHut. Even gets that one right.

    Middle Earth: Eso es un Gulag Nuevo.

  2. On the botched burglary prosecution:

    Memorial day I visited family. Required a 200-mile drive with appoximately equal milages occuring in N.Va, W.VA, Md and PA. I counted 18 speed traps. 1 was in W.Va, the rest in N.Va. Mostly Fairfax Co.

    No wonder the cops can't jail crooks! They're too busy meeting their revenue quotas.

    Shaking down commuters is a profit center. Collaring burglars is a cost center. I understand their priorities.

  3. Another way to prosecute those three scumbags is to bring them up on federal civil rights charges, since they were clearly targeting a specific ethnic group.

    Where's Al Sharpton when you need him?

  4. You're going to run into a small problem with that idea, 5:53. First, you have to prove that it was these folks that were targeting the group.

  5. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonJune 21, 2010 at 8:44 PM

    Unfortunately, Convict, I think you're right, unless the Feds can develop some more evidence.

    Wonder if they can be connected to the Chihuahua heist?

  6. Our house was burglarized in summer 2006 and nothing was ever recovered . . . nor did we ever hear any more about about it from the police.

    This is sloppy work on the part of the prosecutors. And while Officer Cook is the one who revealed the break in the chain of custody, good for him for telling the truth.

    As a former trial lawyer who has worked both sides, I can tell you that if the government, with all its resources, is not over 75% sure that they can secure a conviction, they have no business going to trial. It wastes time and money, and in an outcome like this one, prejudices any further prosecution.

    I hate that the defendants in this case get away with it. But if it's ever me or anyone I love accused of a crime, I love that the same rights protect us.

    And, Al Sharpton wouldn't be interested in this case. Wrong ethnic group, not enough cameras.

  7. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonJune 22, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    Getting back to the earlier comment in this thread about prosecuting those three on federal civil rights charges:

    Today's New York Times has an interesting article about how local prosecutors in Queens are using New York State's hate crime laws in an innovative way. To quote the Times:

    "The legal thinking behind the novel method is that New York’s hate crimes statute does not require prosecutors to prove defendants “hate” the group the victim belongs to, merely that they commit the crime because of some belief, correct or not, they hold about the group."

    The whole article is available at In these Queens cases, five people have been convicted this way for preying on the elderly.

    Since these perps in Virginia were clearly targeting Indian-Americans on the belief that they would have large amounts of gold in their houses, I wonder if prosecutors here might consider this interpretation of any relevant state law.

    Anon 5:55 - since you're a lawyer, any thoughts about this?

  8. If I'm not mistaken, Peasant, "hate" crimes are add-ons. For instance, if you yell a racial epithet while assaulting somebody, you could be charged with assault and a hate crime. However, if you can't be convicted of the assault, then you can't be convicted of a hate crime, since yelling a racial epithet is generally not a crime in and of itself.

  9. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonJune 23, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    True, Convict, these perps would of course need to be convicted on the burglary charges. As I understand the Times article, the advantage of adding the hate crimes charges is that it ups the potential jail sentence and gives prosecutors more leverage to force a plea bargain.


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