Vietnam veteran who was held at gunpoint and had car stolen told by D.C. to pay tickets racked up by carjackers

WASHINGTON, D.C.- A Vietnam veteran and grandfather of 11 recently had a gun held to his head as carjackers stole his vehicle just after arriving home from his late shift at the U.S. Postal Service.

According to reports, the man, since identified as 73-year-old Doug Nelson, had arrived home just after midnight. Nelson said:

“As I was exiting the vehicle, this guy came up with his pistol and said, ‘Give me the car. You know what’s happening, give me a car.’”

Without any hesitation and in order to save his life, Nelson handed over the car. This was the car he and his wife, Nancy relied upon, but he knew he had to do what the perpetrator wanted him to do or he might lose more than his car. Days later, police recovered the stole vehicle.

In addition to getting their car back, the Nelsons were hit with $2,000 worth of fines. As she was sitting in her living room looking over a folder of paperwork and a pile of speeding tickets, Nancy said:

“Over $2,000 worth of fines. Yes. Over $2,000 worth of fines.”

Reportedly, the perpetrators went on a dangerous joyride after carjacking the vehicle, often exceeding 70 mph in 30 mph zones, triggering speed cameras half a dozen times and the Nelsons had no idea until they started receiving the tickets. Nancy said:

“It was a notice of infraction and I looked at it and I said, ‘Oh, this is the time when they stole the car.’”

After they received the tickets, the Nelsons thought, this is simply enough, thinking all they would need to do was notify the District of Columbia (D.C.) that these tickets happened when violent criminals were at the wheel. The District’s response was not in the Nelsons favor. Nancy said:

“It came back saying, ‘You owe.’”

So, Nancy figured that by sending a copy of the police report from the incident, proving that the car had in fact been stolen more than an hour before a speed camera snapped the first ticket that the District would change its mind. Nancy said:

“I sent it back and it got rejected again.”

Nancy then though that surely a face-to-face meeting would clear things up. Nancy proceeded to schedule an appointment and made arrangements to get to downtown D.C. She waited patiently for her turn with the hearings officer. Nancy said:

“Only for the guy to not even look at the information and say, ‘Your tag number is not on the report.’”

Nancy left and went back to the police station. She said:

“He [the police officer] said, ‘I can’t put the tag number on your report, but it’s in the system.’”

She added:

“This is not helping me at all. I’m in tears about all of this stuff because we owe over $2,000 for tickets that are not even our fault.”

Now because of the outstanding tickets, the Nelsons cannot get tags, which means they have not been able to drive the car for nearly six months. Both Nancy and Doug are front-line workers and not having a vehicle has made getting to work, the grocery store, and to their grandkids complicated. 

The Nelsons said that they expected to be victimized by criminals, but not re-victimized by the D.C. government. Nancy said:

“I called my council member. I called the Mayor’s office and they told me ‘hold on’ and I never heard back from them either.”

Richard Bennett, Doug and Nancy’s son-in-law, stepped in and tried to help their situation. He said:

“We respect the rules, we respect the process, but can somebody that’s a human being just look at this and find a way to fix it because it shouldn’t have to be this difficult.”

Bennet sent letters to D.C.’s Ticket Adjudication Ombudsman asking for assistance and making a clear case for common sense, only to discover that after all of this, the city closed the case because the Nelsons did not know how to file a document called “Reconsideration or a Motion to Vacate,” which he was told means the adjudication is closed. 

Bennett said they have yet to find an actual human being to look at the case. He said:

“We’re not angry at anybody. We’re not trying to overthrow the whole bureaucracy. We just ask for somebody to step up and deal with this on a human level and just look at it as a human being. It’s obvious when that happens, we got to get outside of checking the boxes.”

Bennett said that he was told there was one more option, but even that option made absolutely no sense considering what the Nelsons had already been through. Reportedly, there is a special appeals board to which the Nelsons could make their case, but in order to have access to that board, they would have to pay all the fines upfront.

This situation has been going on for over six months, which means those original fines have at least doubled to more than $5,000. After six months and up against the deadline of the story reported first by 7News, D.D. dismissed all the tickets and penalties against the Nelsons.

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles sent 7News a statement:

“DC DMV has been communicating with Mr. Nelson since he began the adjudication process related to the six citations issued on November 2, 2020. The initial police incident submitted as part of that process was incomplete and failed to establish that the vehicle was stolen when the citations were issued.”

The statement added:

“Subsequently, DC DMV received a more complete incident report with additional details related to the carjacking incident involving Mr. Nelson’s vehicle. As a result, DC DMV Adjudication Services has dismissed the six tickets as well as the related fines and penalties.”

7News went ahead and shared that statement with the Nelsons who said that not only had the District not alerted them that the tickets had been dismissed, but that they had not been “communicating” with them at all through the process. 

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Baltimore police procedures “adjusted” after state attorney’s office says they’ll no longer prosecute low level offenses

April 12th, 2021

BALTIMORE, MD– On Friday, April 9th, the Baltimore City Police issued a memo to officers with new instructions about police enforcement procedures.

The letter’s subject line was “Continued Modified Enforcement Procedures” and said, in part:

“Charges for certain offenses may be effectuated by requesting a charging document from a District Court Commissioner. This an be done only after consulting with a lieutenant or above to determine whether seeking criminal charges is appropriate and reasonable based on the likely outcomes.”

The letter then listed off the offenses to which that order would apply to:

CDS (drug) possession;
Attempted distribution of CDS;
Paraphernalia possession;
Minor traffic offenses;
Open container;
Rogue and vagabond; and
Urinating/defecating in public.

The letter stated that certain procedures would need to be followed when officers encounter a person who would ordinarily be arrested for the offenses mentioned. Those procedures are:

Temporarily detain the offender for the length of time required to confirm identity, offender may be transported to an investigative unit to further active investigations;

Prepare all reporting according to policy (incident reports, supplemental reports, investigatory stop reporting, application for charges), noting that the incident is one in which you are guided by this procedure; and

Release the offender.

Michael Sullivan, the Deputy Commission of the Operations Bureau also stated in the letter that in addition to the above mentioned offenses, the list of procedures may be applied to other misdemeanor crimes that are non-violent and are not a threat to public safety.

According to reports, this letter comes just two weeks after Baltimore City’s top prosecutor announced that the largest city in Maryland will no longer prosecute minor drug possession charges, sex work offenses, and other minor violations.

Instead, the City will work with a behavioral health organization to work with people in crisis and get them the help that they need. The City’s State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby, called her move a way to “end the war on drugs.”

During the pandemic, Mosby’s office temporarily halted the prosecutions and now has made the move to permanently halt those prosecutions as a way to prioritize the resources more efficiently in her office and instead focus on violent crime. She said that during the pandemic, criminal activity declined. She added:

“Clearly, the data suggests that there is no public safety value in prosecuting these lower level offenses.”

Her decision was met with criticism from some people who create the laws she has chosen to no longer enforce. Sen. Robert Cassilly (R-Hartford County), said he supports prosecutorial judgement, but described Mosby’s decision as not that. He said in a statement:

“Prosecutors take an oath to uphold the constitution in the state of Maryland and the constitution says the general assembly sets the policy, not the prosecutors. I respect the whole prosecutorial discretion. That’s not prosecutorial discretion, that’s an exercise in legislating. That’s what the legislature is supposed to do.”

Mosby was asked if she was worried about sending the message that lawlessness in the city would be tolerated since the crimes she is now choosing to not prosecute are still illegal under the law. She responded by saying:

“I say follow the data. So, what we’ve been able to prove in the past year is that crime has decreased.”

She said, however, that her office will still prosecute violent crimes. She added:

“When it comes to those violent offenses: carjackings, murders, armed robberies, attempted murders and drug distribution, we are still prosecuting you. The police will still arrest you.”

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Baltimore to stop prosecuting ‘low-level crimes’ including drug possession and prostitution

March 27th, 2021

BALTIMORE, MD – Relying on controversial mathematics and statistics, Baltimore has announced that low-level crimes including drug possession and prostitution will no longer be prosecuted within city limits.

The decision is based on statistics showing that crime has decreased during the pandemic.

One year ago, Baltimore’s State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby stopped prosecuting drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic violations, and other low-level offenses. The move was designed to limit the spread of COVID-19 through prison populations. Mosby said:

“A year ago, we underwent an experiment in Baltimore. What we learned in that year, and it’s so incredibly exciting, is there’s no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses. These low-level offenses were being, and have been, discriminately enforced against Black and Brown people.

“The era of ‘tough on crime’ prosecutors is over in Baltimore. We have to rebuild the community’s trust in the criminal justice system and that’s what we will do, so we can focus on violent crime.”

City officials claim that the move not only decreased prison populations, nearly all categories of crime declined. Mosby said the numbers prove that enforcement of quality-of-life crimes is not required to stop serious crime:

“Clearly prosecuting low-level offenses with no public safety value is counterproductive to the limited law enforcement resources we have.

When the courts open next month, I want my prosecutors working with the police and focused on violent offenses, like armed robbery, carjacking cases and drug distribution organizations that are the underbelly of the violence in Baltimore, not using valuable jury trial time on those that suffer from addiction.”

Mosby touted success in the Covid Criminal Justice policies alongside the Mayor’s Office on Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE) and partners from Baltimore Crisis Response Inc., Johns Hopkins University, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and other stakeholders.

Mosby’s office issued a statement reading:

“The policies enacted over the past year have resulted in a decrease in arrests, no adverse impact on the crime rate, and address the systemic inequity of mass incarceration.

Therefore, the State’s Attorney also announced today the permanent adoption of these policies as we continue to prioritize the prosecution of public safety crimes over low-level, non-violent offenses.”

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Mosby said making the Covid Criminal Justice policies permanent will end the war on crime and reduce discrimination in policing:

“Today, America’s war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore. We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero-tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction.

We will develop sustainable solutions and allow our public health partners to do their part to address mental health and substance use disorder.”

The Covid Criminal Justice policies enacted in Baltimore last year included ending prosecution of the following crimes:

  • CDS (drug) possession
  • Attempted distribution CDS
  • Paraphernalia possession
  • Prostitution
  • Trespassing
  • Minor traffic offenses
  • Open container
  • Rogue and vagabond
  • Urinating/defecating in public

In addition, Mosby’s office dismissed 1423 pending cases considered eligible by COVID policies, quashed 1415 warrants for the aforementioned offenses, and pushed Governor Larry Hogan to reduce the prison population, resulting in two executive orders on the early release of 2000 people.

Mayor Brandon Scott praised Mosby for the reforms:

“Reimagining public safety in Baltimore requires innovation and collaborative effort. I applaud State’s Attorney Mosby’s Office for working with partners to stem violence in Baltimore and ensure residents have the adequate support services they deserve.”

The city is using data from the Department of Public Safety and the Correctional Services to show that incarcerated populations in Baltimore City reduced by 18% during the pandemic. The same data suggests a 39% decrease in people entering the criminal justice system compared to the previous year.

In the past 12 months since the reduced prosecutions, violent crime is down 20 percent and property crime has declined 36 percent, according to Mosby’s office. However, the figures may not show the whole story.

Baltimore has one of the highest homicide rates in the country, and similar actions in other cities in response to the pandemic have not shown the same reduction in overall crime.

According to the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice Impact Report released in January, homicide rates rose sharply across the country in 2020, as did aggravated assaults and gun assaults.

Homicide rates increased 30% from 2019, a record increase resulting in 1,268 more deaths.

The report also showed that property and drug crime rates fell significantly in 2020, with residential burglary decreasing by 24%, nonresidential burglary by 7%, larceny by 16%, and drug offenses by 30%.

These numbers show that the decreases seen in Baltimore may have had more to do with the pandemic than the reduction in enforcement.

The report concluded:

“Homicides increased in nearly all of the 34 cities in the sample. In the authors’ view, urgent action is necessary to address these rapidly rising rates.

Subduing the pandemic, increasing confidence in the police and the justice system, and implementing proven anti-violence strategies will be necessary to achieve a durable peace in the nation’s cities.”

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said officers were struggling to follow the new policies. He said that officers were seeing their drug arrests dismissed by prosecutors in court, so they stopped making the arrests. Harrison said he had to “socialize” officers on the new approach:

“The officers told me they did not agree with that paradigm shift.”

Mosby said she expects police to fall in line behind the new policies:

“Our understanding is that the police are going to follow what they’ve been doing for the past year, which is not arresting people based on the offenses I mentioned.”

Some in the media questioned the motive behind Mosby’s policy shift away from prosecuting low-level crimes at a time when she and her husband were under federal investigation.

During a Friday news conference to announce the policies, Mosby was asked about the investigation, which her attorney has called a political attack.

A federal grand jury is looking into Mosby and Husband, City Council President Nick Mosby. A federal grand jury is looking into her campaign, their businesses, and their tax returns dating back to 2014.

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The post Vietnam veteran who was held at gunpoint and had car stolen told by D.C. to pay tickets racked up by carjackers appeared first on Law Enforcement Today.

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Author: Jenna Curren

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