December 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
U.S. Attorney drops charge in D.C. gay drug bust case
Cathy Lanier

Police Chief Cathy Lanier. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The United States Attorney’s Office on Dec. 6 dismissed a charge of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine against a gay man who was arrested Nov. 23 during a police raid on his house in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the office never comments on its reasons for dismissing charges but added that the investigation into the case is continuing.

A police arrest affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court says police arrested Nicholas H. Fittro, 27, and his roommate and boyfriend, Justin W. John, on Nov. 23 after entering their rented house at 901 S St., N.W., and confiscating just under 14 grams of a white crystal substance that field-tested positive for methamphetamine.

The affidavit says police also confiscated two digital scales, $2,511 in cash, and an undisclosed amount of foreign currency and money orders.

Court records show the U.S. Attorney’s office dismissed the charge against John a short time after his arrest.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to disclose the reason for the dismissal of the case against John. But court records show that at the time of his arrest, Fittro waived his Miranda rights to remain silent before consulting with an attorney and “claimed ownership of the contraband which was recovered from inside his home.”

Miller said this week that the dismissal of the charge against Fittro on Dec. 6 appears to have been issued without prejudice, a legal status that allows prosecutors to reinstate a charge at a later date.

Fittro’s attorney, Marie Haldane, declined to comment other than to say she was “delighted” the government dismissed the case against her client.

Dale Edwin Sanders, an attorney who practices criminal law in D.C. and who reviewed the court records in the Fittro case, said a decision to drop the case while the investigation continues could mean prosecutors need more evidence or they are expanding the investigation with the intent of making more arrests.

“Continuing the investigation in a case like this usually means they are going after bigger fish or they need more evidence in this case,” Sanders said. “It would be a safe assumption to make that the investigation is broadening in scope.”

In a joint news conference on Monday, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier and officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration announced the arrest of 70 suspects for the possession and distribution of narcotics and firearms in D.C. They said the drugs and arms seized in the operation had a street value of $7.1 million.

The officials said city and federal authorities seized, among other things, about 80 pounds of methamphetamine in the crackdown. It could not be immediately determined whether the Fittro case was linked to this investigation.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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