10 August 2007

Feds Attempt to Seize Problem Woodridge Home

1923 RI Ave. NE - Photo by By Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post
In addition to the details surrounding Odell and Margaret Hale's house at 1923 Rhode Island Avenue NE, longtime neighborhood activist Martha Kinter Ward is quoted and Janice Booker's redevolpment plans along the businees corridor are mentioned in the WaPo article:
The modest 1 1/2 -story residence with the steep stairway and iron railings has been the scene of numerous episodes of drug use, drug sales and prostitution in the past seven years, court records show, so many that police filled 24 pages describing the house's history for a federal judge. Police have searched 1923 Rhode Island Ave. NE six times since 2000 -- four times in the past nine months -- and in each visit have reported finding a combination of cocaine, heroin, guns and prostitutes. In each visit, they said, they also typically found some crimes in progress and have brought charges against the house's owner, Odell Hale, or some of his fellow residents, resulting in numerous convictions.

Woodridge neighbors complain that the house is a base for street-level drug sales day and night, and say that women who appear to be prostitutes, some of whom apparently live in the house's basement, frequently offer their services along the busy avenue in front of the property.

Now, police and federal prosecutors say they are abandoning their regular crime-fighting strategy concerning 1923 Rhode Island. The U.S. Attorney's Office is asking a federal judge to let them seize the property in order to eliminate the nuisance the house has long been.

Authorities say they are concerned about the impact of the house and its activities on the surrounding Woodridge neighborhood, particularly the children. The St. Francis de Sales Grammar School and adjoining convent are a block away, as are a neighborhood playground and the Langdon Park recreation center. Children congregate in the afternoons at the 7-Eleven store a few yards from the property's entrance.

"Since at least April 2000, the defendant property has come to the attention of law enforcement and police authorities because of a shooting on the front porch, drug sales and drug use in the house, related disorderly conduct and residents' activities with prostitutes. . . . For many years, law enforcement officers have undertaken to curb this abuse and nuisance at the defendant property," prosecutors Barry Weigand and William Cowden wrote of the repeated searches and arrests.

The prosecutors said the arrests and pending charges aren't making much of a dent in the activities in the house. They wrote: "Standard law enforcement techniques have not sufficed to cause Mr. Hale to stop using, and allowing the defendant property to be used unlawfully."


To neighbors of Woodridge, that sounds a lot better than the seemingly futile police raids at 1923 Rhode Island Ave. Relying on warrants signed by D.C. Superior Court judges, police have searched the house on June 6, 2000; Aug. 23, 2003; Nov. 24, 2006; Dec. 6, 2006; April 20, 2007; and May 25, 2007. In the course of those searches, police have arrested 15 people at the house on various charges, including Hale on charges of assault with a deadly weapon.

Each time police sought to search the house, they provided to a judge "evidence that a person at or inside 1923 Rhode Island Avenue NE had unlawfully distributed a controlled substance, usually cocaine, to a confidential police informant or special police employee," the prosecutors stated.

To get permission to seize the property from its owners, prosecutors now have to go to federal court. U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman is the judge who will rule on whether Hale will have to forfeit his property. Hale listed the property for sale in early June, and a Metro Real Estate for-sale sign remains in the front of the property.

» Watch ABC7's report
» Read Ofc. Maslona's affidavit
» Read the court documents

1 comment:

  1. I had no clue about this until I read the paper last week. Crazy huh?

    I searched on Zillow and the house is estimated to be 360,000 while the two surrounding houses are about 500,000.

    I'm wondering what will happen to this house. I almost hope it is bulldozed to the ground.


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