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Elle honored the mayor Wednesday. The kudos stay, but the dress goes. By Kristen Doerer
Mayor Bowser with Elle Editor-in-Chief Robbie Myers. Photographs by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Elle.

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser had the rare pleasure of being dressed by Hugo Boss Wednesday evening, along with some other honorees of Elle magazine's fifth annual Women in Washington Power List.

The honor remains, but the dress, alas, can't stay. "As far as I know it is scheduled to go back," Bowser spokesperson LaToya Foster tells Washingtonian.

The honorees—some of the most powerful and influential women of Washington—gathered at the private residence of Ambassador of Germany Peter Wittig and Mrs. Huberta Von Voss-Wittig. Elle Editor-in-Chief Robbie Myers and Hugo Boss Americas boss Gerrit Rützel led the celebrations.

DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier with Myers.

US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Gwen Ifill were honored, as were The View co-host Nicolle Wallace, US Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and US Representative Elise Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Other honorees included Dorothy McAuliffe, the first lady of Virginia; Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List; Cecilia Muñoz, the White House’s Domestic Policy Council director; and US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with German Ambassador Peter Wittig.

Posted at 05:55 PM/ET, 03/19/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The hotel will reopen this summer after a $125 million renovation. By Benjamin Freed
Waiters at the Watergate's whiskey bar will be dressed like that English guy who got run over by a lawnmower. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

When the Watergate Hotel reopens after a lengthy renovation, its infamous name won't be the only throwback. Employees at the high-rise lodge overlooking the Potomac will be wearing uniforms designed by Hollywood costumer Janie Bryant, who is responsible for the painstakingly accurate 1960s fashions on Mad Men.

Euro Capital Properties purchased the fading landmark in 2010 for $45 million after a plan to turn it into condominiums collapsed. The New York-based firm, according to Washington Business Journal, plans to market the 340-room hotel as an "urban resort."

To that end, the company dumped $125 million on 27,000 square feet of new event space, 10,000 square feet of outdoor terraces, a new ballroom, a new fitness center and pool, a rooftop lounge, two restaurants, and an "opulent" whiskey bar. The bar, said Euro Capital design director Rakel Cohen, "will soon become the city's most exclusive venue for high-powered meetings or intimate tête-à-têtes," one of many Trumpian flourishes about the hotel plans.

Johnny So, the hotel's managing director, called the Watergate "the most famous hotel in the world." As accurate of a statement as that may be, the Watergate's fame has had little to do with mid-century modern design for nealry 43 years. Euro Capital Properties wants to rebrand Luigi Moretti's tower with "chic, retro glamour," which with Bryant's threadwork, apparently includes putting the staff in period dress.

A rendering of the Watergate Hotel's remodeled lobby. Image via Euro Capital Partners.

The Watergate Hotel is scheduled to start receiving guests again this summer, though the unfinished rooms and exposed wiring in the lobby makes that schedule appear a bit tentative. And when it does open, rooms will go for an average of $400 per night. If that doesn't lure people to stay a 10-minute walk from the nearest Metro station, perhaps the hotel can fall back on Mad Men-themed tourism.

Posted at 01:03 PM/ET, 03/19/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Get ready for the "hydrogen society." By Emma Foehringer Merchant
Wells and Wimmer look under the Mirai's hood. Photograph by Emma Foehringer Merchant.

On Wednesday, the future arrived in Washington--or, at least, Toyota’s version of it.

District Department of the Environment chief Tommy Wells held a press conference at DDOE headquarters to introduce the car company’s new Mirai, one of the first hydrogen fuel cell cars expected to reach full market—in a year or two.

Toyota expects to release the new model, whose name means future in Japanese, to a limited number of Southern California residents in the fall. Our area will have to wait to fully experience the future, which, according to the company’s Energy & Environment Manager Bob Wimmer, will be a “hydrogen society.”

One of the biggest concerns about the innovation in fuel cells is the lack of hydrogen fueling stations throughout the United States. Ever ahead-of-the-curve California already has some of this infrastructure, but other areas, including the District, would leave Mirai drivers high and dry after the 300-mile tank ran out of hydrogen. “Recently I’ve talked to one company that’s looking at putting the hydrogen fueling stations in our region,” Wells said. “I know that this very likely will be our future.”

Touring the car along the Northeast is part of Toyota’s three-pronged approach: first introducing the Mirai, then working on infrastructure to support it, and finally gaining patents for its technology that converts hydrogen in to electricity. “The hope is that our work with these service providers will encourage others to invest and to grow that infrastructure into a ‘hydrogen highway’ all the way from the Northeast down to Washington and possibly further. That will take time, that will take investment, and that will take foresight,” Wimmer said.

The Mirai’s only emission is water. After a few days spinning around the District, the cars will be driving the “hydrogen highway” back up the East Coast.

Posted at 12:02 PM/ET, 03/19/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Virginia, Georgetown, Maryland, and VCU are in this year's contest. By Noah Weiland
Fans at a 2013 semifinal game in Atlanta. Photograph by Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Tribune Content Agency LLC/Alamy.

This season, four area teams--Virginia, Georgetown, Maryland, and VCU--made strong showings in their conferences and earned low seeds in the NCAA Tournament bracket. Washingtonian talked to newspaper writers and editors who have followed and traveled with the teams all season so even the most casual fan will know how to watch them in the most exciting month of college basketball. (Here's a guide to area teams in the Women's Tournament.)


University of Virginia Cavaliers: 2nd seed in the East Region.

First game: Friday at 3:10 PM versus 15th-seeded Belmont (truTV)

What to know about Virginia: The team is coached by defensive whiz Tony Bennett, son of legendary Wisconsin coach Dick Bennett. The Cavaliers play an “old school-style of basketball,” says Jerry Ratcliffe, a columnist for the (Charlottesville) Daily Progress who’s covered the team for 33 years. “The fan base has embraced that style of basketball, but there are others in the country who have strongly criticized them, saying their style is boring,” he says. “There’s a big division between whether you appreciate old school, fundamental basketball as opposed to wanting to see a team play NBA-style basketball.”

How to watch them: Since the team is known for “packing in” players to prevent the opposing team from taking good shots, “they would have to appreciate good defense,” says Ratcliffe.” Of 351 teams in Division I, UVA ranks near the bottom in offensive possessions per game. Yet the team also ranks near the top in offensive efficiency. “What they try to do is wear down the other team by trying to make them use the full 35 seconds on the shot clock,” Ratcliffe noted.

Not for the faint of heart: The team has been plagued by so many gory injuries--broken fingers and noses--this season that 6'8" forward Anthony Gill has come close to fainting multiple times, Ratcliffe says.

What to say so you sound like you know what you’re talking about: “I’m wondering if Justin Anderson is going to get back into form for the tournament, because he broke his pinky finger against Louisville about six weeks ago.” OR “Why does Duke always get the 1 seed instead of us?”

Ratcliffe’s prediction: Beat 1-seeded Villanova in the Elite Eight to reach the Final Four in Indianapolis


Georgetown University Hoyas: 4th seed in the South Region.

First game: Thursday at 9:57 PM versus 13th-seeded Eastern Washington (truTV)

What to know about Georgetown: The team has been defined this season by its unpredictability. “You don’t know which team you’re going to get,” says Gene Wang of the Washington Post. In January, the Hoyas beat No. 1 seed Villanova by 20, and in November they took another No. 1 seed, Wisconsin, down to the wire before losing by just 3. But they also lost three times to unranked Xavier by a combined 32 points.

How to watch them: “You need a lot of patience,” says Wang. “They’re a better team as an underdog.... They’ve broken a lot of hearts when they’ve been expected to win.” The key will be center Josh Smith, who averages the second-most points on the team, but, according to Wang, symbolizes how shaky the team has been. Smith, a 6'10", 350-pound senior, worked in a department store over the summer selling heels and boots.

What to say so you sound like you know what you’re talking about: “This isn’t your typical backdoor-cutting Georgetown team. It’s part of their game plan, but it’s not their complete identity.”

Wang’s prediction: Lose in the Round of 32 to 12th-seeded underdog Stephen F. Austin.


University of Maryland Terrapins: 4th seed in the Midwest Region

First game: Friday at 4:40 PM versus 13th-seeded Valparaiso (TNT)

What to know about Maryland: The team made its debut in the powerhouse Big Ten conference last year and is ranked the second luckiest team in America by college hoops statistics wizard Ken Pomeroy. They’ve won 11 games this season by 6 points or fewer. “It looked like the team was going to crumble and the team was headed south,” says University of Maryland senior Aaron Kasinitz, the sports editor of UMD’s independent daily student newspaper the Diamondback. But good coaching and athletic guards have exposed the obvious: “everyone knew they were a sleeping giant,” says Kasinitz.

How to watch them: “Look up videos of Dez Wells’ dunks,” Kasinitz says. The senior guard “throws down the kinds of dunks that make everyone in the crowd go crazy. He dunks over and through people.” The veteran Wells is a friend of Washington Wizards star John Wall, with whom he played basketball in high school. According to Kasinitz, Wells is such a presence on the Terps that star freshman guard Melo Trimble was nervous Wells wouldn’t recognize him when he came to campus.

What to say so you sound like you know what you’re talking about: “Isn’t it cool that center Damonte Dodd plays the drums in his free time, and forward Jon Graham writes poetry?”

Kasinitz’s prediction: Reach the Sweet 16 and lose to top-ranked Kentucky


Virginia Commonwealth University Rams: 7th seed in the West Region

First game: Thursday at 4:40 PM against 10th-seeded Ohio State (TNT)

What to know about VCU: Coach Shaka Smart helped coin the phrase “havoc” basketball to describe how the team plays. They pressure the ball, then pressure it some more, before the other team wears itself down. This is the fifth straight year the mid-major Rams have made it to the tournament. “For him, I think the game is played more between the ears than most coaches,” says Richmond Times-Dispatch sports editor Mike Szvetitz of Smart, who has his players participate in Navy SEAL programs to test their endurance. “They’re going to make you work for everything you get.”

How to watch them: “Watch the ball,” says Szvetitz of the team’s unusual method. “It’s a simple game to watch, because you’re just watching where the ball is.” And we aren’t the only ones looking at them: sometimes the team looks at itself in strange ways. According to Szvetitz, Smart had his dominant forward Mo Alie-Cox gain more confidence this season by bragging to himself in front of a mirror.

What to say so you sound like you know what you’re talking about: “Did you notice VCU’s pep band, the Peppas? They’re one of the best in the country.”

Szvetitz’s prediction: Reach the round of 32 and lose to second-seeded Arizona

Posted at 11:22 AM/ET, 03/19/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Looking for a furry friend? One of these cuties—all available at Washington-area rescues—might be your match.

Bandit is a four-year-old hound-pitbull mix. This 45-pound boy is very sweet, and he loves kids. He's even been to a kindergarten class, where all his new friends loved him. Bandit sits on command, is very obedient, and rides well in the car. Meet Bandit at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (2650 S. Arlington Mill Dr.)

Scotty has been living in a staff office for the past few weeks, since he was having hard time communicating with folks in the main cat room. Scotty is a bit of an independent thinker who doesn’t always express himself very well. He can be extremely affectionate! In fact, one of his favorite activities when he’s feeling particularly sweet is to prop himself up on a shoulder to cuddle and drool until he falls asleep! More often than not, you’ll find Scotty in play mode. Scotty is an active 1-year-old who requires a good deal of exercise to keep entertained. He particularly enjoys string toys, which is ideal for his rather aggressive play style. He also will fetch bottle caps for you (just like a dog), and enjoys playing with bubble wrap! Scotty will require an experienced cat owner, someone who will respect his cues, but will also work to establish a healthy play routine. He will require an outlet to express his stimulation in an appropriate manner, rather than scratching or biting. Scotty, who is very food-motivated, strikes us as an ideal kitty for clicker training! Meet Scotty at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (2650 S. Arlington Mill Dr.)

Isaiah knows the best accessory is a smile, and he sure does have a goofy one. This 1-year-old American Staffordshire-Terrier mix might come off a little nervous when you first meet him, but hey, aren’t first dates usually awkward? Hang out with all 57 pounds of this little guy for a few minutes and he will charm your socks off! Isaiah would love to go to a calm, quiet home where he could stretch out his paws and relax in between going on walks and giving you lots of snuggles. Are you the peanut butter to Isaiah’s jelly? Meet Isaiah at the Georgia Avenue adoption center (7319 Georgia Ave., NW).

He-Man is a Pekingese Chihuahua mix. He is approximately three-years-old and weighs about 9 lbs. He's inquisitive and a little shy at first, but once he warms up to you, he is happy just to be held. He-Man sure has a big personality for such a little guy! He'd be best in a home without small kids or a lot of rough-housing. He loves his people and he is a big snuggler. Meet He-Man at K-9 Lifesavers (34 Rollingside Dr., Fredericksburg).

Maude is a two-year-year old Hound-Lab mix. She weighs about 55 lbs and is a true sweetheart. She is smart, friendly, loving and extremely loyal. She gets along well with other dogs and has had puppies in the past. She rides well in the car and is great with small kids. She is curious about cats, but doesn't bother them. She is very affectionate and just wants to love you! Meet Maude at K-9 Lifesavers (34 Rollingside Dr., Fredericksburg).

Ned is an adorable beagle who is around a year old. Ned came into a rural shelter with a pack of other beagles, and may do best in a home with another animal to keep him company. Ned gets along well with other dogs and would be the perfect addition to any active family. He can't wait to find his forever home in the DC area! Please visit the Rural Dog Rescue to learn more about Ned!

Peaches is a sweet beagle mix who was rescued from a high-kill shelter. She can't wait to find her forever home in the DC area! Peaches is a lover of pets, belly rubs, and sticks! She plays well with other dogs. She is mostly housetrained and working on her basic commands, but has already perfected her fetch. She's a sweet-natured dog, has the perfect balance of play and relaxation and would be a lovely addition to any family. Please visit Rural Dog Rescue to learn more about Peaches!

This little beagle is as sweet as they come but just too timid to make the first move…or even the second. But if you spend some time getting to know Dolah, her gentle, affectionate nature emerges. Dolah likes other dogs and might benefit from the company of an easygoing canine companion. Most of all, she’s looking for a home where someone who will shower her with love and help build her self-confidence. At 7 years old, Dolah qualifies as a “Boomers’ Buddy,” which means her adoption fee will be waived for adopters 50 years or older. Dolah is currently living in a foster home. Please email adopt@warl.org to arrange a meeting with her, or stop by the Washington Animal Rescue League (71 Oglethorpe Street, NW).

Tali was given up because she is—wait for it, wait for it—too affectionate! Apparently, that was a big turn-off for her human companion. But her loss could be your gain. If you’re looking for a quintessential lap cat, who wants to be with you and interact with you, this gorgeous, long-hair Siamese mix could be your perfect match. And, at 8 years old, Tali qualifies as a “Boomers’ Buddy,” which means her adoption fee will be waived for adopters 50 years or older. Stop by the Washington Animal Rescue League (71 Oglethorpe Street, NW) and get to know this special girl.

Posted at 04:02 PM/ET, 03/18/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
DC music at South by Southwest used to be a DIY affair. Now city officials are in charge. By Valerie Paschall
Rare Essence became the first go-go act to play an official South by Southwest show. Photograph by Valerie Paschall.

The idea of a South by Southwest party filled with DC bands was born in November 2007 over some crummy Ruby Tuesday's taquitos after an all-ages show in Alexandria. Four local musicians invited me out to interview them, and the conversation eventually veered toward perceptions that outsiders have of DC's music scene. This was only two years after the break-ups of Dischord acts Q and not U and Black Eyes, so most external opinion was still that the District's musical landscape was full of dance-inflected post-punk. One of the musicians at the bar, Merideth Munoz of Pash, suggested putting on a set at South by Southwest to show the rest of the country's musical tastemakers what DC had to offer. I offered to find a venue, others found a company to bankroll the show, and DC Does Texas was born.

Tuesday night’s official We DC showcase in Austin was always going to be a different experience than DC Does Texas. Everything from the motivation to the booking process to the amount of money behind the event was vastly different. The idea for DC Does Texas came after a DIY concert, and the event remained a staunchly DIY affair.

Our team has always been a loose collection of musicians, bloggers, and other dedicated fans interested in promoting the that music we love from the city where we live. We DC is the work of Mayor Muriel Bowser's administration, which wants to market the city; the official concert was only one part of a weeklong production that included free brunches and meetups geared toward potential business investors. It was timed for SXSW Interactive—a confab of tech companies and angel investors—not the more famous music extravaganza.

DC Does Texas was also never an official event. Not that we were against the idea, but besides the considerably lower cost—we never spent more than $3,000 on our shows and it usually came out of our own pockets—running a one-day party allowed some freedoms that the Washington DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP) did not enjoy. We were able to book the bands we wanted, whether they had been accepted by the festival proper or not. Badge-toting acts like These United States, Kid Congo Powers, and Deleted Scenes shared a bill with unsanctioned bands like Hume, Typefighter, and noon:30. WDCEP hired Sasha Lord to curate last night's lineup, but those bands also had to cleared by the SXSW overlords.

Another key difference: We were also able to provide things like free beer and breakfast tacos, incentives that WDCEP provided at its house during the day, but could not during an official SXSW event like last night's.

But with more money and resources at their disposal—more than $350,000, according to the Washington Post—one would hope that WDCEP would put on a bigger and better show. In some ways it did. Rare Essence made history by becoming the first go-go band to play an official show at SXSW and, unsurprisingly, put on the kind of performance that will likely be unmatched by anyone over the course of the festival. How many people were introduced to go-go last night was unclear. There was plenty of apparel branded with Washington sports teams, but there’s no way that all of the 200 or so people in the club pumping their fists and dancing hailed from the District or even entirely knew what they were getting into. They probably also had no idea DJ Kool would make an appearance.

The We DC showcase also made the point of showing off the city’s diverse music palate. Progressive rockers Paperhaus played the same bill as hip-hop tribute conglomerate DC Loves Dilla. DC Does Texas has always unabashedly been a rock show. While we’ve had soul acts like Lowercase Letters in past years, we’ve been primarily a representation of the punk and indie rock communities with which we are intimately connected. We DC would have been doing it wrong had it focused on a single genre.

Still, the two shows have one thing in common: a desire to remind the rest of the music-loving country that its oft-forgotten capital still creates great music decades after Fugazi and Bad Brains. This is a city known for its political activity, but also for its strong funk, punk, and soul roots. DIY house shows and concerts on the Mall co-exist in this city and, I expect that in the future, DC Does Texas will co-exist with any forays the city makes at SXSW. But like our show did every year, We DC packed the venue, forced people to line up outside, and gave them a taste of what goes on inside our borders.

Valerie Paschall, the former music editor of DCist, is a writer in Washington.

Posted at 03:52 PM/ET, 03/18/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Serial star discussed Adnan Syed's case in front of an audience of lawyers and fans. By Emma Foehringer Merchant
Chaudry, right, with former South Asian Bar Association President Kavitha Babu.

On Tuesday night, Rabia Chaudry continued an informal “tour” in which she discussed the wildly popular podcast Serial. Chaudry, an attorney and family friend of Serial's main character, Adnan Syed, also talked about his murder conviction, what's next for him, and what she thinks host Sarah Koenig missed in her reporting.

Speaking of key prosecution witness Jay Wilds, Chaudry said, “For most of the last ten years I’ve thought it’s him. That’s the truth. Now, I’m not so sure.”

“I think Jay knows who did it," she said. "I think Jay is close to whoever did it.”

Though she is careful to reveal any tentative information or lend support to theories on the case, Chaudry is sure of one thing: Syed is innocent of the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee. And that his conviction, she said, was an “evil genius plan.”

Chaudry wasted no time unleashing her offensive on the frustrating aspects of Syed’s saga, which have continued to play out on the Internet since Serial’s final episode December 18. She was greeted by an audience of mostly lawyers—the South Asian Bar Association (SABA) hosted the discussion at Arent Fox's DC office—as well as members of the fan club that continues to follow Serial online.

Though Syed’s team of attorneys and supporters is mostly focused on his post-conviction filing, set for resolution in June, new theories and evidence, some from Internet investigators, could come into play if it is unsuccessful. As it stands, the post-conviction filing depends on arguing lawyer Cristina Gutierrez’s defense was inadequate because she did not seek out Asia McLean, a possible alibi for Syed, or solicit a plea deal. Chaudry, who was in law school at the time of both trials, was not shy about expressing her dissatisfaction with Gutierrez's work.

“I did know a crappy lawyer when I saw one, or a trial going badly when I saw one. So when I sat through the trial, I remember many times thinking, this is a disaster, this is a train wreck. I am a student, but I could do better than this,” she said. The defense’s ethical issues also haunt her, like Gutierrez taking money she didn’t use for the case and often keeping Syed's family in the dark about the process. “I know it wasn’t her illness making her lie; she was choosing to lie to her clients.”

Koenig’s treatment of Gutierrez, who died in 2004, was among Chaudry’s top criticisms of the podcast. “I think Sarah went easy on a lot of people,” she said— including detectives. But she argued that breakdowns in the judicial system as a whole were responsible for the way Syed’s—and wrongful conviction cases in general—ended. “We have to somehow figure out a way that these people are held accountable. They shouldn’t be able to keep their jobs or their law licenses,” Chaudry said. “If this is actually meeting your standard of duty, then our system is broken.”

In discussing the case’s injustices, Chaudry cited a recent count conducted by SABA of the number of times the courtroom heard the words Islam, Pakistani, or Muslim during trial—270. While Koenig touched on potential racial basis in the case, Chaudry thought the host discounted its importance in conviction. But she said even Syed’s current lawyer, and others who aren’t affected by racism, have little interest in pushing the issue. “If it doesn’t impact you, maybe it’s not so interesting,” she says. To Chaudry, the prosecution's portrayal of Lee's murder as a possible honor killing still retains significance, even if it didn't prominently feature in the podcast till late in the season.

But theories like this one continue to abound. Since its finale, and Koenig’s public departure from the story, bloggers and Redditers have taken up the mantle, digging up evidence and spouting theories. Chaudry commended attendee Susan Simpson, a lawyer who blogs about her recent investigations in to the case. Simpson recently wrote a post explaining Lee could not have planned to attend a wrestling match on the day of her murder, as no match was scheduled that day—compromising the police account of Lee’s schedule. Chaudry says those like Simpson “picked up the pieces where Sarah left off and did a lot more in-depth investigation and analysis than Serial actually did.”

But despite her criticisms of the show, Chaudry attributes many developments in the case to its success. She has a good relationship with Koenig, who also keeps in touch with Syed. In fact, Chaudry said she planned to attend an event with Koenig in the District after the talk. “She’s told me she’s not walking away from the case or him,” she said.

And while Koenig is working on a second season of Serial, Chaudry continues working on the first, furthering attempts to prove Syed’s innocence. “It’s rare that you’re granted another shot at these types of things.”

Posted at 10:02 AM/ET, 03/18/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The agency is asking for $8 million to build a training site. It could buy a crash pad for half that. By Benjamin Freed
Why build a fake White House when you can just buy this one? Photographs via Zillow.

The US Secret Service, embarrassed by repeated instances of people jumping the White House fence and trying to break in, plans to ask Congress for an additional $8 million in the next fiscal year to build a replica for training purposes. The New York Times reports that the agency, which is on its third director in as many year, wants an upgrade from its "rudimentary, not-to-scale simulation" of the White House's north grounds to a full-scale model capable that offers a realistic environment during training drills.

Giving security personnel a training ground that accurately simulates their work environment sounds good, but the government remains firmly entrenched in austerity mode. Fortunately for the Secret Service, the agency does not have to travel too far to find a much cheaper alternative than the $8 million mock-up. For less than $4 million, it could buy this fake White House in McLean. Built in 1995, the knockoff mansion features its own fake North Portico in front and Truman Balcony out back. Moreover, its interior furnishings are perfect for the Secret Service, including a sauna, wet bar, home theater, and party room that can hold 100 people. It also features six bedrooms, in case anyone needs to sleep over instead of attempt to drive home after a long night of partying. (It's perfect for the next time the Secret Service throws a going-away party for one of its employees, which could come any day.)

1111 Towlston Road is currently not for sale, but it has been listed several times in the past few years. Its owners tried to sell it for $4.65 million in April 2011; by November 2012, the last time it was on the open market, the asking price was down to $3,999,950. The Secret Service needs a shot of good publicity, and saving the taxpayers $4 million could go a long way.

Posted at 10:28 AM/ET, 03/17/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The District's top federal prosecutor steps down with former Mayor Vince Gray's 2010 campaign still under investigation. By Benjamin Freed
After Jeffrey "Uncle Earl" Thompson pleaded guilty to influencing multiple elections, Ron Machen said it was "just the tip of the iceberg." Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

Ron Machen, the US attorney for DC since 2010, announced Monday morning he is stepping down from the office to return to private practice. Machen, 45, will return to private practice after serving as the District's second-longest-tenured federal prosecutor in nearly 40 years. And while the valedictory press release announcing his impending departure reads like a victory lap for the many financial-crime, counterterrorism, and public-corruption convictions he racked up, Machen is leaving without tying up one very big loose thread: the investigation of former DC Mayor Vince Gray.

Machen started poking around Gray's first 2010 campaign almost immediately after the mayor took office, chasing suspicions that Gray's victory was aided by $668,800 in unreported income furnished by businessman Jeffrey "Uncle Earl" Thompson. The US attorney's office scored guilty pleas from former Gray aides Eugenia Clarke Harris, Vernon Hawkins, Thomas Gore, and Howard Brooks, but it still hasn't come up with the goods on Gray himself.

While Machen leaves with several big trophies from DC politics—like former DC Council members Harry Thomas, Jr., Michael A. Brown, and Kwame Brown—his biggest case remains unresolved, a fact that gnaws at the former mayor's inner circle. Gray's former compatriots are still cheesed over "Machen Monday," the day 53 weeks ago when Thompson pleaded guilty to defrauding several federal and local elections, including the 2010 mayoral race. Thompson's plea hearing, held two weeks before the Democratic primary, marked the first time federal prosecutors publicly named Gray as one of the beneficiaries of Uncle Earl's shadowy largesse.

"If he’s going to leave his job without a statement with the status on his persecution of Vince Gray, then his character is more hollow than I imagined," says Chuck Thies, who managed Gray's re-election bid. "To target Vince Gray in a way Ron Machen did without any evidence to back it up is truly a travesty."

Outside of the press conference following Thompson's admission, Machen has seldom spoke about the Gray investigation on the record. He flicked at the case's progress during a November 2013 appearance at the Hill Center where he was asked for an update, responding cryptically that, "there’s there there and we’re trying to gather information." While Thompson's guilty plea came a few months later, and was followed by the conviction of another former Gray lackey, Gray's own fate remains a matter on which District residents still expect Machen to deliver. Thies sees Machen's resignation before a resolution on the former mayor as a prosecutorial cop-out.

"He got ahead of his own investigation and was breathing his own fumes," Thies says. "He put himself in a position where he had no other choice but to tank Vince Gray's re-election."

According to prosecutors at Thompson's hearing, Gray, at the behest of his campaign advisers, met with Thompson and submitted a one-page budget for get-out-the-vote efforts to finish out his 2010 race against Adrian Fenty. Gray lost last year's primary to Muriel Bowser, who went on to win the general election.

The former mayor's legal entanglements may not end with Machen's departure. The person taking over the 300-attorney-strong office in the interim is Vinnie Cohen, Jr., who as Machen's principal deputy, headed up the public-corruption investigations that led to the convictions of the former DC Council members and Thompson himself. The work, according to a 2012 Washingtonian profile of Machen, consumes up to 75 percent of Cohen's time. Cohen is also a DC native and the son of one of the city's most prominent lawyers.

But to Thies, the responsibility for Gray's situation is Machen's.

"The point is in America you do not convict people in the court of public opinion like Ron Machen did," Thies says. "Vinnie Cohen didn’t point to some imaginary budget that Vince Gray wrote up. Who held that press conference? Ron Machen. Who posed for your magazine like a tough guy? Ron Machen."

Posted at 11:46 AM/ET, 03/16/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
All the details—including photos—from our latest event.
All photographs by Andrew Propp.

Washingtonian hosted a cocktail reception at Ruth’s Chris honoring the 2015 Top Dentists mentioned in the March issue. Attendees indulged in delicious desserts and hors d’oeuvres throughout the evening, and got to meet the Washingtonian editor behind the story, Sherri Dalphonse. Party-goers posed at the green screen and took home personalized faux Washingtonian magazine covers courtesy of Washington Talent Agency.

Washingtonian’s Chris Westfall and Patrick Leddy with Washingtonian “Top Dentist” Dr. Lisa Demarco, Dr. Robert Tilkin, and his daughter Erin Tilkin.

Guests enjoyed delectable desserts provided by Ruth’s Chris.

Washingtonian “Top Dentists” Dr. Bill Crutchfield, Dr. M Alan Badgen, and Dr. Gary Kramer.

Guests took home a personalized faux Washingtonian cover provided by Washington Talent Agency/Washington Photo.

Kristen Wood with Washingtonian “Top Dentist” Dr. Bryan Wood.

Attendees mix and mingle at Washingtonian’s Top Dentists 2015 event.

Danielle Nathan with Washingtonian “Top Dentist” Dr. Glenn Nathan.

Party-goers posed at Washington Talent Agency’s green screen and took home a personalized faux Washingtonian cover.

Ruth’s Chris provided delicious roasted vegetable platters.

Dr. Donna Afshar and Lauren Max-Abel.

Washingtonian's "Top Dentists" editor, Sherri Dalphonse, mingles with the attendees.

Dr. Benjamin Strahl with Washingtonian “Top Dentist” Dr. Julian Moiseiwitsch and Dr. Said Mokhtarzadeh.

Ruth’s Chris was a packed house at the Washingtonian’s Top Dentists 2015 event.

Washingtonian “Top Dentists” Dr. Maribel Vann and Dr. Paula Russo flanked by Charlie Vann and Tom Raspet.

Washingtonian “Top Dentist” Dr. Elias Misri with Dr. Steve Friedman, and Dr. Neal Starr.

Seasonal berries with sweet cream.

Washingtonian “Top Dentists” Dr. Steven Kaufman, Dr. Michael Kuzmik, and Dr. Richard Roen.

Posted at 04:21 PM/ET, 03/13/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()