The Office of the Inspector General is investigating MPD Officer Todd Cory for his alleged involvement in a bribery and kickback scheme, according to government documents.
Metropolitan Police Department Officer Todd Cory testified before a grand jury three times in a single case over the past year, at the behest of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Cory was the only officer to testify in that case, according to court filings, and each time, the grand juries returned indictments against Deangelo Lewis on a variety of criminal charges.
Lewis was arrested in June of 2022 near Anacostia after he allegedly fled from police in a Dodge Challenger Hellcat that officers believed was stolen. Cory was one of the officers involved in arresting Lewis and gathered evidence against him, court filings show, which resulted in charges against Lewis including illegal possession of a firearm, fleeing from law enforcement, malicious destruction of property, and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
But as Lewis’ June trial date approached, Cory’s status as the government’s star witness began to fall. Ten days before the trial was initially scheduled to begin, prosecutors wrote in court papers that they would no longer call Cory as a witness during a pretrial evidentiary hearing or during the trial itself, as they initially had intended.
The USAO has not explained in court filings why they will no longer rely on Cory’s testimony. But the reversal comes after Lewis’ public defender, Kavya Naini, repeatedly demanded that prosecutors hand over information about an ongoing investigation into Cory. Throughout most of Lewis’ case, according to multiple court filings, Cory has been under investigation by the D.C. Office of the Inspector General, which has the authority to refer criminal charges to prosecutors.
The filings only describe Cory’s alleged actions as “conduct unbecoming” an officer. But a letter provided by a D.C. government employee, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information, says that the OIG is investigating Cory for his alleged involvement in a bribery scheme involving kickbacks from a tow truck company. The investigation is ongoing, and Cory is currently on full duty status.
The OIG, USAO, and the Public Defender Service for D.C. all declined City Paper’s requests to comment on the matter. Efforts to reach Cory were unsuccessful, and MPD spokesperson Paris Lewbel also declined to answer specific questions about the investigation into Cory. In an emailed statement, Lewbel says “it is the long-standing policy of the Metropolitan Police Department that we do not comment on investigations conducted by other law enforcement agencies. The Office of the Inspector General conducts its own criminal investigations and operates outside of the purview of the Metropolitan Police Department.”
This is the latest investigation of alleged wrongdoing by officers in MPD’s Seventh District, which includes much of Southeast D.C.
City Paper previously reported on 19 Seventh District officers who are currently under criminal investigation and former 7D Commander Andre Wright, who is alleged to have had an affair with a subordinate (Wright is now an assistant chief). Multiple lawsuits, some of which are still pending, have accused officers working in the Seventh District of harassment and racial profiling. And in 2022, MPD’s Use of Force Review Board recommended that the department open an investigation of an unnamed lieutenant’s “daily operations and management” of the crime suppression team, the specialized unit for which the 19 officers worked. MPD has denied City Paper’s Freedom of Information Act request for records related to the investigation into the lieutenant.
The litany of accusations has threatened to upend a variety of criminal cases. The crime suppression team investigation has already forced prosecutors to dismiss dozens of charges in which those officers were involved, and the OIG probe of Cory has similarly imperiled the case against Lewis. Naini, his attorney, is pressing to see the case dismissed, and the wrangling over OIG’s case file describing the investigation has forced the indefinite delay of his trial, which was set to begin on June 12.
The public defenders who have represented Lewis have tried for the past several months to obtain the OIG investigation and other information that speaks to Cory’s trustworthiness. The constitutional right to due process requires that the government reveal any evidence that could call its case into question. That includes any evidence that weighs on a police officer’s credibility.
But prosecutors have so far rejected Naini’s demands, arguing in court filings that the defense is not entitled to materials related to pending or open investigations. The USAO also has refused to say whether Cory is on the so-called “Lewis list” of law enforcement officers whose credibility is so tarnished by past misconduct that prosecutors might not call them as witnesses in court. (The “Lewis list” is unrelated to Deangelo Lewis.)
“At every turn, the government precluded the Grand Jury from hearing critical evidence that the primary officer in the case is not trustworthy (a determination the government has seemingly made by deciding to no longer sponsor his testimony),” Naini writes in a motion to dismiss the charges against Lewis.
Attorneys and criminal justice reformers say prosecutors’ decision to repeatedly rely on Cory as a witness without disclosing these allegations to the grand jury is a troubling, if not particularly surprising, tactic. The USAO was able to use Cory’s testimony to secure indictments against Lewis, and then yanked Cory off the witness list for the trial where Naini could have asked about the OIG’s investigation.
Broadly, Lewis’ case illuminates a problem related to police officers under investigation, whether for breaking department policies or more serious crimes. Those officers not only compromise MPD’s ability to keep the peace but can also taint criminal proceedings where the officer in question is integral to successful prosecutions. In some cases, defendants can go free because defense attorneys can attack the officers’ evidence and credibility. Critics say the case is emblematic of a culture where prosecutors would prefer to dismiss charges that MPD brings rather than address officer misconduct.
“This cycle of sweeping the wrongdoing under the rug and throwing officers back on the street is really harmful,” says Patrice Sulton, the founder of DC Justice Lab and a longtime civil rights attorney.
Cory first encountered Lewis on the night of June 7, 2022, while driving past apartment complexes near Fort Stanton Park with another Seventh District officer, Adam Mendryga.
The pair spotted a blue Dodge Challenger missing its front license plate, according to an affidavit Mendryga filed. They ran the vehicle’s tag through a police database and discovered the vehicle identification number matched an orange Challenger registered in Florida, so they tried to pull the driver over on the 2600 block of Stanton Road SE.
“The Dodge initially pulled over then accelerated at a high rate of speed traveling eastbound on Sheridan Road SE,” Mendryga writes in the affidavit. The cops found the car after it had crashed into some trees a few blocks away, and spotted Lewis jumping out of it with a gun in his hand, according to the affidavit, which does not mention Cory at all despite his role as one of the lead investigators.
Lewis tossed the gun “into the woods and continued to flee on foot,” according to the affidavit, and other MPD officers later found and arrested him along Suitland Parkway. Cory, meanwhile, went looking for the gun that Lewis had allegedly tossed as he ran. “Officer Cory then remained with the firearm and the stopped Blue Dodge Challenger to make sure ‘nobody interfered’ with either,” according to a filing from Lewis’ attorney.
MPD subsequently discovered that both the gun and the car were reported stolen and that Lewis had a prior conviction for carrying an illegal gun. They hit him with a slew of charges, ranging from fleeing law enforcement officers to possession of a gun and ammunition without a license.
Prosecutors presented these charges to a grand jury on Oct. 6, 2022. Cory was the only witness called to testify, and the grand jury indicted Lewis on six charges a few weeks later.
Subsequent court proceedings have played out over several months as Naini has raised questions about the officers involved in Lewis’ arrest.
Cory initially testified before a grand jury in October 2022; he did so again in April 2023, and again on May 20, 2023, as prosecutors added a new charge related to the allegedly stolen vehicle and clarified the legal owner.
At a May 26, 2023, pretrial readiness hearing, prosecutors indicated that they intended to call Cory “at trial … as its only witness for the suppression hearing” where Naini sought to keep some of the evidence against Lewis out of court. By June 2, USAO provided source materials for pending investigations into three officers involved in Lewis’ arrest to Judge Errol Arthur to determine whether the defense was entitled to the information, including materials related to the OIG investigation into Cory. That same day, the USAO “dropped a footnote in a filing that it would no longer be calling Officer Cory at trial,” according to a motion from Lewis’ attorney.
The incident for which Cory is under investigation allegedly occurred on July 5, 2022, prosecutors disclosed to Lewis’ attorney, suggesting they had plenty of time to learn the details of the investigation and address it in court.
“At bottom, the government was firmly on notice of the pending OIG investigation against Officer Todd Cory when it willingly sponsored his testimony for a third time in front of the Grand Jury and decided to hide that information from the Grand Jury,” Naini writes in her motion to dismiss the case. “When sponsoring testimony, [the government] was under an obligation to fully assess the credibility and trustworthiness of the officer it was sponsoring. Even more troubling, the government indisputably knew about the serious, ongoing investigation against Officer Cory when it endorsed his testimony for the third time.”
Prosecutors can call different officers to testify throughout a case for all sorts of reasons, Sulton says. She has often seen prosecutors rely on one officer at the grand jury stage, and then call a different officer during trial. The tactic is intended to prevent defense attorneys from seizing on slight discrepancies in the first officer’s recollection of events, which could damage the credibility of the accusations. There are also more mundane factors: An officer simply might not be available to come to court.
But Cory’s importance to the government’s case against Lewis, combined with the prosecutors’ decision to call him on three separate occasions, suggests to Sulton and others that the USAO had a deeper purpose in keeping him off the stand during the trial.
“Officers being under investigation always weighs on their credibility, even if it doesn’t relate to the case, because it bears on their relationship to the department and the prosecution team,” Sulton says. “They’re potentially impacted by concerns about their own job security.”
The USAO has yet to file papers addressing Naini’s claims about how they’ve used Cory’s testimony, but prosecutors did argue in a May 25 motion that they have disclosed all of the limited information they have to Lewis’ attorney as the investigation is still ongoing. Additionally, they claim that Lewis “is not entitled to conduct a mini-trial involving every allegation of officer misconduct in an unrelated matter.”
Greg Lipper, a criminal defense lawyer whose practice includes matters in D.C. Superior Court, says it is “fundamentally preposterous” to allow prosecutors to decide what information is, and is not, relevant for a defendant. He notes that some prosecutors offices—from those in Pennsylvania to Texas to Massachusetts—have what is known as an “open file” policy where defendants are entitled to all evidence in prosecutors’ possession.
“I don’t see the government getting away with withholding this information,” Lipper says. “I think the government will have to turn over the information or dismiss the case.”
Naini makes a similar argument in court filings. Regardless of whether Cory testifies at trial, his credibility is still of significant concern due to his involvement, she claims.
“The reliability of the evidence obtained through [Cory’s] investigative efforts—almost all of the evidence in this case—cannot be severed from the issue of his credibility and track record as an officer,” Naini writes in a June 11 motion. “After all, Officer Cory’s hands are on almost every important piece of evidence sponsored by the government.”
Although MPD’s internal affairs division is the most common entity for managing investigations into officer misconduct, a memorandum of understanding with the OIG that City Paper reviewed provides some detail about how and why the inspector general is investigating a police officer.
The document notes that the OIG is primarily responsible for guarding against fraud and abuse within the District government, and specifies that MPD will loop the agency in for “any investigation that involves the financial system of the District of Columbia.” In turn, the OIG will notify MPD if it opens an investigation into a police officer.
Mike Tobin, the head of the Office of Police Complaints, says this tracks with his observations of the OIG’s interventions on past cases. While his office tends to focus on allegations of discrimination or excessive force, Tobin says the OIG could investigate various fraud cases.
For instance, there are “overtime scams,” where officers deliberately make arrests at the end of their shifts in order to run up overtime payments, he says. Or there are instances where cops will claim they’re off duty in order to work a second job elsewhere, when they’re really on the clock with MPD. (The former vice chair of the D.C. Police Union, Medgar Webster Sr., got caught doing this earlier this year and later pleaded guilty to fraud charges.)
“But even then, you’d think [internal affairs] would handle this sort of thing,” Tobin says. “It must be the case that someone referred it to the OIG, because they rarely work without a referral.”
D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson says that line of thinking makes sense to her. She says if her office ever found evidence of potential wrongdoing during an audit, she’d likely refer it to the OIG, because the agency can recommend criminal charges directly to prosecutors. “It depends on the case or working relationships,” Patterson says, adding that she’s unfamiliar with Cory’s case.
The legal tussle over access to the pending OIG investigation, along with pending charges out of Prince George’s County, leaves Lewis’ case in limbo.
His trial in D.C. was initially rescheduled from June until Sept. 5. It has since been delayed indefinitely. During an Aug. 25 status hearing, a pair of U.S. marshals showed up to arrest Lewis on charges in Prince George’s County.
District court records show Lewis is charged with a variety of offenses related to forgery, theft, and illegal gun possession. County prosecutors twice sought to try him on some of those charges on July 11 and Aug. 21, but both times he failed to appear in court, prompting the marshals to go looking for him.
Lewis didn’t show up to that Aug. 25 hearing in D.C. Superior Court either. Judge Arthur issued a bench warrant for him, tacking on charges that he violated the terms of his release from jail. Court records show that marshals arrested him recently, and Arthur ordered Lewis held in the D.C. Jail indefinitely during a hearing Wednesday. Prince George’s may seek to resolve its charges first, since the case is ready for trial, but court records don’t indicate any resolution there just yet.
Lewis’ case echoes the flurry of motions filed in other cases involving Seventh District officers who are under criminal investigation, where defense attorneys have sought to see charges tossed out if there’s any hint that these officers’ credibility could be tainted.
As Sulton sees it, “everyone suffers from trials being drawn out” like in Lewis’ case. She notes that “witnesses’ memories fade” and “victims are sitting around waiting for a long time” for a resolution. She blames prosecutors for failing to force accountability within the department by relying on officers with questionable credibility.
“Here’s an area where the system is not keeping people safe by any measuring stick,” Sulton says. “If you think accountability means punishment, this is not helping you. If you believe it means prevention, it’s not protecting anyone from state or community violence to have prosecutors twisting themselves into pretzels litigating these things.”
This story has been updated.