D.C. driver facing $905 in fines will file complaint against officer

Two of Anna Russell\'s tickets from a total of six. These are for obstructing a crosswalk and unnecessary use of her horn. (Courtesy Anna Russell)

WASHINGTON – One month later, D.C. police are still not saying much about a bizarre traffic stop near Eastern Market that resulted in six tickets and $905 in fines, other than that the department will only investigate the incident if the driver files a complaint against the officer.

The cited driver, Anna Russell, tells WTOP that while she was reluctant to do so, she will file a complaint with the D.C. Office of Police Complaints.

“The more I talked to friends of mine, they suggest that even if it won’t help out my situation, it could at least help out people in future situations. Perhaps other drivers that are in the same situation as I am in the future will get more justice,” Russell says.

When WTOP first broke the story, D.C. police would not comment on the specific case or whether Officer Aminatta Sesay would be investigated.

Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes would not give an account of the traffic stop to D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, either. Graham, D-Ward 1, is Russell’s representative on the D.C. Council.

The response frustrated Graham, who wanted to get more information on a situation he called “screwy.”

In follow-up meetings with Russell and phone calls to Groomes, all that Graham and WTOP have learned is that the department won’t give an alternate version of the events, nor investigate, unless compelled to do so.

Russell was pulled over after she almost hit a pedestrian near Eighth and D streets in Southeast. Twenty minutes later, Russell says Sesay came back with a stack of six tickets.

She issued two tickets for failure to yield to a pedestrian ($250) and obstructing a crosswalk ($50), but the tickets didn’t stop there.

One citation was for a seat belt violation ($50). Russell’s passenger had the seat belt strap under her arm rather than over her shoulder. Another ticket was for unnecessary noise from a horn ($25).

The most expensive two tickets were for not having insurance and failing to display proper insurance, citations totaling $530. Russell had valid insurance, showing WTOP a valid card for an active policy through January 2014. She claims she just handed the wrong card to the officer and never was given a second chance to provide the correct one.

Russell plans to hire an attorney to fight all six tickets before the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, although her fate is uncertain.

“I want to have someone arguing my side of the case, especially on some of the more bogus tickets that it comes down to her word against mine. For example, the crazy seat belt ticket,” says Russell. “You can’t just let this go. You can’t just pay these and look the other way. This has to be fought and regardless of the outcome, you have to at least try.”

Although D.C. police won’t give their version of events, more information could be revealed during a hearing where the officer would have to testify.

However, any hearing likely would not take place until early next spring.

Meanwhile, Russell takes some solace in the fact that she’s not alone.

“When I shared this WTOP story with friends and family, there was just comments and comments and comments — people sharing their stories of bogus tickets,” she says.

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