Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thorpe at it Again: Campaign Literature Theft?

Early this morning, a neighborhood resident "witnessed Leroy Thorpe going from house to house on the western side of New Jersey Avenue removing the anti-Thorpe leaflets" and snapped the fuzzy photograph above with his cell phone camera.  "As the photo shows, Mr. Thorpe was entering people's yards to see if they had a pamplet and if they did he took it and crumpled it up," the resident wrote.  The resident observed that "by 8am, [Mr. Thorpe] switched to a bicycle and was on the 1600 block of 6th St."  "At least he's getting his exercise this morning." 

The seized literature is along the lines of this website, which has been up for some time (and also subject to a Thorpe lawsuit), but was recently updated.

As the resident observed, while the literature may not be "flattering" and could be considered in bad taste, it is not slanderous, as it states factual information and is in the context of a contested political election.  The photograph follows reports of incumbent ANC Commissioner Kevin Chapple's campaign signs mysteriously disappearing from the neighborhood.

Leroy Thorpe doesn't take no for an answer.  The notorious former Shaw ANC Commissioner was outsted in 2006 and lost a bid to reclaim his seat in 2008.  He is running again this year. 

Along the way, Thorpe sued Martin Moulton, who founded the Convention Center Community Association as an welcome alternative forum to Thorpe's East Central Civil Association.  Thorpe's suit was ultimately dismissed with prejudice.  He was recently arrested and convicted of filing a false police report after calling 911 to report Moulton, by delivering neighborhood newsletters on his block, was violating a nonexistent stay-away order related to the civil suit.

Last night, the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association hosted a candidates' forum for the Advisory Neighborhood Commission single member districts that fall within the group's boundaries.  Challengers for two ANC 2C seats, Rochelle Nigro (running for the position held by Theresa Sule) and Rickey Williams (running for the position held by Doris Brooks), attended.  The incumbents were invited, but did not attend.  Should Nigro and Williams join Commissioners Kevin Chapple and Alexander Padro, the area (which includes parts of Penn Quarter/Chinatown, and Mount Vernon Square/Triangle, as well as Shaw) may finally have the professional, competent representation that residents deserve.


Anonymous said...

It's definitely illegal to steal your opponent's campaign signs. Does anybody know if it's also illegal to steal campaign related literature that's not put out by one of the candidates?

NJ Ave Resident said...

I don't think it's legal to distribute literature except by handing it to someone or by paying postage and sending it (can't even stick it in a mailbox at a house) and therefore it may be considered "picking up trash" in the eyes of the court. Additionally the front yards in most of the downtown part of the city are city property with right of way access priority for the homeowner so I don't think it's trespassing either... I'm not a fan of the accused I promise, I'm just passing on what I know about these kinds of things.

Queen o' Spades said...

I haven't tasted one of the cards left at my door, but it's certainly eye catching, iconic and kinda funny given who's supposedly depicted under all that clown makeup. Depending on what Nov 3 looks like, it might even prove to be effective.

Cary Silverman said...

Campaign literature, or any other type of flier, should technically be placed in or under a door, or on a fence or gate - since mailboxes are only for mail sent with a stamp through USPS, as NJ Ave Resident said. Of course, I would think most people (as well as the U.S. government) would consider someone thumbing through a mailbox and removing material as a much more serious offense. NJ Ave Resident is also correct that there is no trespass for coming into someone's front yard because, for most houses in DC, the area from the facade to the sidewalk, even if fenced and seemingly private, is public property (known as "parking" as in the area where people parked their horses in the olden days).

In addition to the federal offense of tampering with someone's mail, removing campaign literature is a violation of District election law, as per D.C. Code 1-1001.14, though it appears that the D.C. fine is just $100 (this could be multiplied by each flier taken):

(b-1) (1) A person who, during the period beginning 30 days before any election or referendum, initiative, or recall and ending 4 days after the election, referendum, initiative, or recall, intentionally removes, defaces, damages, or destroys any lawfully placed billboard, poster, sign, or other material relating to any candidate for election for any office or to a referendum, initiative, or recall, shall be subject to imposition of civil fines, penalties, and fees for a civil infraction pursuant to § 2-1801.01 et seq.

(2) A person who violates paragraph (1) of this subsection shall be fined not more than $100.