D.C. eyes stiffer penalties for PCP possession
The D.C. Council soon could toughen criminal penalties for possession of PCP, which officials say are so weak and ineffective that prosecutors often struggle to get a conviction despite overwhelming evidence that the drug causes dangerous and erratic behavior.
Possession of phencyclidine in any form is only a misdemeanor under current D.C. law, said at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson.
He drafted legislation before the D.C. Council that would increase possession of liquid PCP to a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The bill was introduced Dec. 1, three weeks before 50-year-old Mary Jones, waiting for a bus on Southern Avenue Southeast on Tuesday evening, was crushed by a speeding sedan driven by a Maryland man allegedly high on PCP.
Glendale Ogburn, 33, of Forestville, was charged with negligent homicide in Jones' death. He is being held without bond.
PCP "induces a high likelihood of erratic behavior," Mendelson said when he introduced the bill, "behavior that may be uncontrollable and unpredictable and therefore especially dangerous."
But "what law enforcement has found is that distribution of PCP, unlike other drugs, typically occurs in small quantities," Mendelson said. "When an individual is arrested with liquid PCP, it's difficult for the U.S. attorney to get a conviction because the quantity is so small that juries are disinclined to convict."
Jones, a mother of three, was standing at a bus stop on the 4100 block of Southern Avenue when police said she was struck by a 1993 Cadillac Deville, driven by Ogburn at an estimated 50 mph -- twice the posted speed limit. There was no evidence, according to police, that Ogburn tried to brake or steer away from the bus stop as he drove in a straight line down the sidewalk.
A passenger in Ogburn's car, 30-year-old Frederick Tyrone Stewart, of Rockville, was charged with assault on a police officer and possession of marijuana. Both Ogburn and Stewart smelled of PCP, police said in charging documents.
Ogburn has a lengthy criminal history, especially in Maryland, where he has faced charges for drug possession, theft, handgun possession, driving an unregistered vehicle and resisting arrest.
Mendelson's bill was co-introduced by Council members David Catania, Kwame Brown, Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans and Jim Graham.
By: MICHAEL NEIBAUER
Examiner Staff Writer
December 28, 2009
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