Longtime civil servant named interim director of embattled DC crime lab

D.C. has named a new director for its troubled crime lab.

WTOP has learned Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Chris Geldart named Anthony Crispino as the interim director of the Department of Forensic Sciences.

While Crispino has not worked inside DFS, he is a longtime D.C. public servant. He resume includes working an attorney in the District’s attorney general’s office, in the Department of Public Works, and most recently at the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management as the director’s attorney advisor.

DFS stakeholders including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for D.C., the attorney general’s office, and the Public Defenders Service are also expected to be notified.

The news comes the same day that the lab’s director, Dr. Jenifer Smith, said Friday in a letter to staff that she is stepping down. Smith, who has led the independent lab since 2015, said in the memo, “We have faced challenges, met them head-on, overcome them together and in the end, we were better for them.”

She also listed what she considered lab’s accomplishments during her tenure and said she is beginning “a new chapter in my career today and I am excited about what lies ahead.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Thursday that she was planning to announce a new director “soon,” but didn’t offer a timeline. This came a week after Geldart released a statement thanking Smith for her service and saying her last day would be May 26.

The day after making that announcement, sources told WTOP that Geldart informed DFS employees the mayor did not accept Smith’s resignation during an all-staff call. Bowser would not clarify whether or not she accepted Smith’s resignation.

Smith led the independent lab since 2015, when Bowser appointed her to navigate the agency out of the suspension of its DNA unit.

However, when the lab lost its accreditation again earlier this month, it did so on a larger scale.

Four of DFS’s labs that require accreditation to process certain kinds of evidence — specifically DNA, fingerprint, ballistics and digital analysis — had their accreditation suspended by ANSI National Accreditation Board, ANAB.

Council Member Charles Allen and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine had asked Bowser to make a change in lab leadership to “restore the faith in DFS.” On Friday afternoon, Allen said in a statement that “This was the right decision. Trust in the independence of our lab has to be restored, and a leadership change is part of that.”

Allen added that “The next director has to move quickly to thoroughly — and critically, transparently — review the agency’s entire management and operational culture, because we’re still learning the extent of the underlying issues here. We can’t be back here again.”

Accreditation suspended

DFS had its accreditation suspended in April, after its management fell under criminal investigation for how it handled a ballistics analyst’s error in 2017 that was realized last year.

As many as six DFS examiners had concluded 10 mm shell casings found at two separate crime scenes were fired by the same gun.

Based in part on that analysis, two D.C. men, Rondell McLeod and Joseph Brown, were charged with murder. Their charges have been changed, and the men are still awaiting a trial.

The error resulted in a back-and-forth between DFS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office that landed the two D.C. agencies in court.

WTOP’s Jack Moore contributed to this report.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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