A Biden-appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia declined to prosecute 67% of those arrested in 2021, according to a new report.
U.S. attorney Matthew Graves declined to prosecute most cases, leaving criminals on the streets while crime in the capital continued to surge.
According to Graves, most of the arrests he declined were nonviolent crimes, including gun and drug possession, burglaries, and misdemeanors. He told the Washington Post that the city's prosecution rate for violent crimes was 87.9% last year.
"The bottom line is that it creates the impression that this is an across the board decrease in the number of cases we are bringing. That is simply not true," Graves claimed.
The D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office, responsible for prosecuting local and federal cases, prosecuted 95.6% of violent crimes in 2018 and 85.7% in 2021, according to reports obtained by the Post.
Graves partly blamed his office's low prosecution rate on D.C.'s Department of Forensic Sciences losing its accreditation in 2021. Therefore, prosecutors are forced to pay to have evidence sent to other laboratories. As a result, prosecutors have prioritized sending out DNA, firearm, and fingerprint analysis for violent offenses, Graves explained.
"We are now entering year three of DFS being shut down without any clear plan of coming back online," Graves said. "We have to prioritize violent felonies and make sure we are doing the forensic testing for those cases. Our office is often bearing the cost for this analysis."
However, the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, which similarly has to send its evidence to outside laboratories, only declined to prosecute 26% of cases last year.
For additional comparison, the prosecutor's office in Wayne County, Michigan, which includes Detroit, reported declining 33% of its cases in 2022. Philadelphia prosecutors declined to pursue just 4% of arrests. In Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago, prosecutors declined to prosecute 14% of arrests.
Graves also noted that officers' body-worn cameras allow prosecutors to review evidence early to determine whether they have enough evidence to support a conviction.
"Since 2019, we have been taking more time at arrest to determine if we are going to file charges. With body-worn camera and the proliferation of surveillance cameras, we have more information at the charging stage to assess the strength of the evidence we would be presenting later to courts and juries," he stated.
Meanwhile, the overall crime rate is up by 23% compared to the same time in 2022, according to D.C. police reporting.
D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III told the post that the Metropolitan Police Department is not to blame for the attorney's low prosecution rates.
"I can promise you, it's not MPD holding the bag on this," Contee said. "That's B.S."
"Of course we are concerned," he added. "We believe every person we arrest should be off the streets."
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