Parents File Complaint Against Va.’s Moran
Lawmaker Says Boy Tried to Steal Car
By Ann O’Hanlon and Patricia Davis Washington Post Staff Writers Thursday, April 13, 2000; Page A15
The parents of the 8-year-old boy who allegedly tried to steal Rep. James P. Moran Jr.’s car Friday by claiming he had a gun have filed a complaint with an Alexandria magistrate and hired a lawyer, saying that their son did nothing wrong and was cursed and manhandled by the congressman.
The child merely admired Moran’s Toyota, the parents said, adding that Moran (D-Va.) then grabbed the boy by the neck and cursed at him.
Moran, who disputed the parents’ contentions, has not pressed charges against the boy but was obviously conflicted about how to proceed yesterday. Twice he reversed his decision, first telling a reporter he had decided to prosecute, then calling back an hour later to say he would not.
“I’ve decided that I really have no alternative . . . but to go ahead and to prosecute so as to give the court and social service system in the city the ability to intervene in this juvenile’s life,” he said at first.
Later he said, “I can’t bring myself to press charges against an 8-year-old boy.”
Alexandria police said they are continuing to investigate the incident. The magistrate, who has the parents’ complaint, police said, has not issued an arrest warrant against Moran.
According to police, the boy approached Moran in the parking lot of Cora Kelly School and Recreation Center, claiming that he had a gun in his pocket and demanding that Moran give up his car keys.
Moran told police that he grabbed the boy and hauled him inside to the director’s office. The boy was not armed.
Police spokeswoman Amy Bertsch said detectives have interviewed Moran but not the boy or his family.
“It would be nice if the family would make the child available to investigators,” Bertsch said. “If the family feels comfortable talking to a magistrate and news media, we would hope they would talk to detectives to resolve this.”
The boy’s mother, Melanie Gaitwood, yesterday gave her version of the incident, which occurred as Moran was picking up his children.
Gaitwood said her older son, age 9, came running home saying someone was trying to choke his brother.
Gaitwood said she went immediately to Cora Kelly. “My son was in the office, screaming and crying,” she said. “The director said, ‘This is the man right here that accused your son of trying to steal his car.’ I said, ‘What the hell are you talking about? He’s just 8 years old.’ ”
According to Gaitwood, Moran then insulted her.
Moran said the mother was “just screaming the vilest obscenities at me because I didn’t let him go. . . . And I said, ‘Ma’am, your son said he had a gun. He tried to steal my car.’ And she started with all the f’s. . . . I said, ‘Well, I think we found the problem.’ ”
Yesterday, Gaitwood told a reporter that a witness had seen Moran grab her son, a second-grader, around the neck and the leg. Then the boy’s father, Alonzo Griffen, arrived and referred questions to the family’s attorney, Ted J. Williams.
Williams said last night that after a meeting with the child’s family, it was decided to ask Moran to take a polygraph test. If Moran is willing to do so, the boy will take one, too, Williams said.
Moran told a reporter: “I’m certainly telling the truth, so I don’t know why I would have reason not to do it [take the test] other than the fact that it’s creating a circus atmosphere.”
The incident has become fodder for talk radio and more. In addition to an appearance by Moran on NBC’s “Today Show” on Tuesday, the topic took up part of Rush Limbaugh’s radio show yesterday. Gaitwood and her son took part in a local WOL radio show, where they alleged that alcohol was involved in the incident.
Moran said that he had had nothing to drink all day and that he had taped MSNBC’s “Hardball” immediately before the 3:30 p.m. incident. A spokesman for MSNBC confirmed that Moran taped the show at 2:30 p.m. and said all staff involved agreed he appeared sober.
Moran’s opponent in the November elections, Republican Demaris Miller, issued a statement yesterday. “The sad thing is that this child has clearly been the victim of a new kind of racial profiling by Moran,” Miller said. “The boy was guilty of nothing more than standing, while black, in the schoolyard when Moran accosted him.”
Moran’s chief of staff, Paul Reagan, called the accusation “absurd.”