United States v. Alex Thiele: the preliminary hearing
As promised, Vox was in Superior Court this morning for alleged Midnight Madness shooter Alex Thiele’s (’13) preliminary hearing. It’ll all be written up in a summary for the Voice on Thursday, but until then, here’s what went down, including the exciting claim that someone else stole the gun.
Thiele came into Judge Andrea Harnett’s court in an orange jumpsuit (no cameras were allowed in the courtroom), with his hands shackled behind his back. He stood next to his new attorney, Mark Schamel, last seen defending an alleged sexual assault perpetrator at George Washington. Thiele was also supported by his father, Dr. Jay Thiele, and his grandfather.
The preliminary hearing was about deciding whether there was enough information to prosecute Thiele, and also whether he should be kept in jail or released. The US Attorney wanted Thiele to stay in custody, saying he was dangerous, while Schamel insisted essentially that even if Thiele was guilty, he wouldn’t be dangerous anymore because he wouldn’t have access to a gun.
Either way, it doesn’t look like Thiele will be headed back to Georgetown. If Thiele was released, Schamel said Thiele would return to his home in San Diego.
“I think it’s unlikely that he’s going to return to Georgetown University,” Schamel said. “I don’t think they’re going to give him that option.”
Weird thing about the Where Alex Thiele Lives debate: his arrest records list him as being from London having his address in London.
Thiele’s appearance was out of the ordinary for the courtroom.
“There’s a new one–to have a Georgetown freshman,” Judge Harnett said.
Testifying for the prosecution was Metropolitan Police Department Detective Nelson Morais, who interviewed Thiele a couple hours after the shooting. Morais’s testimony gave new details about what allegedly happened Friday night.
According to Morais’s testimony:
- Park Police officer Sharice Clanton had her purse a foot away from her, and only turned away from it “for approximately one minute.” Turning around, she found the contents of purse all over the bleachers, and her handgun gone.
- She told DPS and MPD, and they started looking for her gun. Then they heard a shot (or shots, according to Clanton) in the bathroom.
- In the bathroom, they found a male witness who was there when the gun went off. The witness later positively ID’d Thiele.
- Meanwhile, Thiele went to Village C West, where he went to someone else’s room on the 3rd floor.
- According to the student who tipped DPS off, Morais said, Thiele had the gun in one hand and a bullet in another. Thiele said he didn’t know where he got the gun.
- Thiele then told the VCW tipster that a black man he didn’t know had given him the gun.
- The VCW tipster convinced Thiele to put the gun on the tipster’s couch, but Thiele said he would keep the bullet he had.
- Pressed by the defense to explain why Thiele took the gun, Morais said, “Probably stupidity, to be honest with you.”
- Morais said Thiele confessed to shooting the toilet and said he was sorry.
The defense tried to pull a legal maneuver regarding the detective reading another detective’s notes, but the judge wasn’t buying it.
The cross-examination then came down to whether Thiele was drunk. Schamel says he was; Morais says he interviewed him too late to really tell but said only one person said he was.
Schamel, Thiele’s attorney, also seemed to be building a case in his questions to Morais that Thiele was never seen taking the gun. He confirmed that Thiele was never seen by Clanton taking her gun, which would fit in great with the Anonymous Black Man defense. Not so much with the alleged confession, though. And since the felony theft charge seems to have been dropped, it doesn’t seem too central to the case.
But judging from the online court docket, an order to release Thiele from jail was sent around 1 p.m. today, and the case is moving on to a grand jury.
The nicest thing about the hearing was having a nagging question settled: is it pronounced Thiele, rhymes with Healy, or Thiele, rhymes with steal, as in “Who would steal a gun at Midnight Madness?” It’s the former.
Updated Wednesday to clarify language regarding London address and Schamel’s argument against keeping Thiele in detention
Photo by George D’Angelo.