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For months, frustrated residents in Washington, D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood have tracked the movements of Gregory Lomax, a man they say has been openly dealing cocaine and marijuana on the street. Police have also been trying to make a case against the 24-year-old D.C. resident-stopping him at least three times over the past six months and on one occasion arresting him for felony drug possession. Yet each time, Lomax was released without being charged. It shouldn’t have been so hard. A warrant had been issued in September 2003 for Lomax’s arrest on federal gun and drug charges. But police in Mount Pleasant had no idea it existed. Though the warrant was noted in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s public docket, it was never plugged into the criminal justice database used by the Metropolitan Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service, and other agencies. “Why the warrant never got there, I couldn’t begin to tell you other than there was a glitch in the process,” says Channing Phillips, chief of staff to U.S. Attorney Roscoe Howard Jr. The confusion surrounding Lomax shows how a simple breakdown in communication, such as failing to enter a warrant into a computer database, can frustrate the law enforcement process. Police had an alleged criminal within their grasp, but didn’t know they had a tool at their disposal to make an arrest. And prosecutors didn’t realize a missing defendant was standing on the same street corner day in and day out. Lomax was finally apprehended last month, but only after Legal Times made numerous calls to local and federal law enforcement agencies inquiring about the status of the warrant. Shortly after the calls, the U.S. Attorney’s Office notified the U.S. Marshals Service that the warrant was not in the National Crime Information Center system and needed to be placed there. The bureaucratic misfires that preceded the arrest have left residents and Mount Pleasant beat cops with the feeling that no one cares about the drug and gang problems plaguing the neighborhood. “The system is not looking at Lomax as a big player,” says D.C. Police Inspector Robin Hoey, who oversees a team of officers patrolling the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. “To them, he’s just some regular Joe. “On the flip side, he’s a big deal out here slinging dope,” adds Hoey. “Mount Pleasant residents consider him a big-time drug dealer in the area, and they don’t want it.” Lomax’s lawyer, Patrick Christmas, says his client grabs the attention of police and residents because he hangs out in the street and wears his hair in cornrows. “If he was a big-time dealer, [Lomax] would be a hell of a lot better off,” says Christmas, adding that Lomax’s family is paying his legal fees. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and this guy’s no big-time dealer.” STRUGGLING WITH CRIME The Mount Pleasant neighborhood, located just three miles north of the White House, has struggled with gang violence and home-grown drug crews for more than two decades. Over the past year, several residents became active in trying to move the open-air drug dealing out of the neighborhood. They have demanded better policing and sought assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office-holding an occasional meeting at a private residence with police. They have also turned to the Internet, sometimes posting on a community Web site the make, model, and license plate numbers of suspicious vehicles in known drug areas and the movements of suspected dealers. Those efforts included finding out the names and addresses of alleged dealers. Lomax soon made that list. For much of 2003, Lomax was in the custody of the D.C. Corrections Department, according to court records. In January of that year, he was arrested and accused of kidnapping and robbing two of his neighbors in a Southeast Washington apartment building in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. When police executed a search warrant of Lomax’s place, they found two blocks of cocaine weighing 25 grams and two loaded handguns, according to court records. The U.S. Attorney’s Office decided to bring two cases against Lomax. In D.C. Superior Court, Lomax was charged with 12 counts, including kidnapping, burglary, assault, and possession of firearms. Meanwhile, a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia was presented with the drugs and guns evidence seized during the apartment search. The kidnapping case went to trial last August. After five days of testimony and arguments, Lomax, who was represented by Christmas, was acquitted of nearly all the charges. The jury found him guilty of misdemeanor firearms possession. That same day, Superior Court Judge John Bayly Jr. ordered that Lomax pay $750 in fines and court costs and released Lomax from custody. At that point, he had been in the D.C. Jail seven months. Two days later, an officer patrolling Mount Pleasant stopped Lomax. At the time, Lomax was with a group of young men and juveniles hanging out in a schoolyard after dark. Some residents were concerned that the playground was being used for gang recruitment and drug dealing. The group quickly dispersed when the police cruiser pulled up, according to an e-mail from the officer, who requested anonymity. Lomax was scooped up a block away along with two other men. A quick records search turned up the fact that all three had criminal records, according to the officer. Less than two weeks later, on Sept. 4, a federal grand jury indicted Lomax for the weapons and drugs found at his Southeast D.C. apartment during the earlier search. The charges were possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession of a firearm during a drug-trafficking offense. If convicted, Lomax faces a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison for the drugs and a mandatory five years for the gun, prosecutors say. According to the court record, a warrant for his arrest was issued to “any United States Marshal or other authorized officer” and was signed by Magistrate Judge John Facciola of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and Deputy Clerk John Consuegra. What happened to the warrant at that point remains a mystery. It was supposed to be placed into the NCIC system, a national law enforcement database containing the names of people wanted by authorities for criminal, immigration, and missing person cases, among other reasons. The database is maintained by the FBI, but other agencies can enter information into it. Normally, warrants are plugged into the system as soon as they are approved by a judge. But who does the actual inputting depends on the agency most involved in the case, according to James Working, a supervisor with the U.S. Marshals Service. Working, who looked into the matter, says the federal Lomax case resulted from an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Department, therefore the police were responsible for entering the warrant into the system. Christmas says that police and prosecutors knew Lomax was his client from the Superior Court case and should have notified him of the warrant. After the warrant was issued, D.C. police again stopped Lomax in Mount Pleasant and asked their dispatcher to run his name through NCIC and the Washington Area Law Enforcement System (WALES), the District’s database of felons and fugitives. The warrant did not show up, according to this officer who asked not to be named. “Eighty percent of my complaints were about him and his friends as far as activity in the area,” says this police officer, who patrolled the Mount Pleasant neighborhood last year. By March, Lomax’s name had turned up on the Internet forum as residents tracked drug-dealing activity in posts named “Drug dealers are back” and “Drug dealers in new cars.” Days later, Inspector Hoey posted a message on the forum saying that Lomax and six others had been arrested for felony drug possession by some of his officers. Hoey praised the arresting officers, saying, “They were given this assignment and aggressively went out and address[ed] this problem.” According to police, someone made a call on March 19 reporting several men dealing drugs in front of a residence. Upon arrival, police say they found seven men, including Lomax, standing over a bag of cocaine and two bags of marijuana on the ground. Lomax spent the night in jail, but was released the next morning after the U.S. attorney’s office “no papered”-or declined to prosecute-the case. One of the officers later explained to residents on the message board that the case was rejected because police could not say for certain who the drugs belonged to. According to Hoey, when Lomax was processed, his name was again run through the WALES and NCIC systems. No warrant turned up. “I would have loved more than anything that when he was locked up we had to hold him because of a warrant,” Hoey says. Shortly after Lomax’s March 19 drug arrest, the D.C. police, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office were unable to answer questions about the federal warrant that turned up in the public case file for Lomax. Eventually, a supervisor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent a memo requesting the U.S. Marshals Service to enter Lomax into the NCIC system. Within a few days of being placed in the database, Lomax was apprehended by police in Mount Pleasant. Clifford Keenan, chief of the Superior Court section for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, says he attended the monthly police/community meeting in Mount Pleasant last month to discuss the Lomax case with residents and explain his office’s policy concerning drug cases. D.C. police spokesman Sgt. Joe Gentile says his general orders prevent him from publicly discussing the Lomax case. “We will look into it, but there’s no indication an error was made on our part.” OUT OF JAIL Lomax was released from custody two days after his April 5 arrest. He was placed in a “heightened supervision” program while awaiting trial on the federal charges. He has a nightly curfew, must remain in school or keep a job, and is required to stay away from his old apartment in Southeast Washington, according to court records. Court records state Lomax is living with his grandmother in Mount Pleasant. Since getting out of jail in April, Lomax has violated his conditions of release on three occasions, according to representations made in court by the Pretrial Services Agency. At a status hearing earlier this month, an agency worker said the agency was placing an electronic monitoring device on Lomax. Christmas says he will file a motion asking U.S. District Judge James Robertson to suppress the government’s evidence in the case. Inspector Hoey says he hasn’t seen or heard about Lomax since the arrest. And Hoey says he hasn’t heard from anyone associated with the federal Lomax case. No one from the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked his officers for information. No one from the Pretrial Services Agency called him to tell him about Lomax’s release conditions. In fact, Hoey had thought Lomax remained locked up since his April 5 arrest.

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