Former U.S. Congressman Craig Washington, in signature bowtie.

UPDATE: See below for Washington's comments.

 

Houston police have charged attorney and former United States Congressman Craig Washington with carrying an unlicensed, concealed pistol. Washington was arrested on February 14 and paid a $2000 bond the next day.

Washington, 72, won a special election in 1989 to fill the Congressional seat of Mickey Leland, who died in a plane crash earlier that year. The dapper, bowtie-wearing Washington served in the District of Columbia until 1995, after his trouncing in the 1994 Democratic primary by Sheila Jackson Lee. Afterward, Washington returned to the practice of law in Houston and his native Bastrop.

In 2008, Washington admitted firing a gun at a car driven by two teens who had erroneously believed they could park in a Midtown lot Washington owned on New Year's Day. Though three slugs hit their car, the boys were unhurt.

After receiving two years pretrial diversion and 60 hours of community service (on condition of not accepting guilt), Washington filed suit against the teens to the tune of $600,000 apiece. Washington claimed that he believed his life was in danger and that the teens assaulted him (by attempting to run him over), trespassed, and damaged his property. (Nothing in Washington's pleadings mentioned a point some would see vital: that he shot at the teens.)

At the time, victims right activist Andy Kahan called the suit  "preposterous, "ludicrous," and "any other adjective I could possibly conjure up." 

It did not go unnoticed that Washington was being sued himself at the time, by the IRS, to the tune of $600,000. 

Speaking to the Houston Press in 2008, Debbie Brooks, the mother of one of the teens, had this to say: "Maybe he's trying to get us to pay his IRS bill. Who knows? This whole thing is so crazy."

Crazy or not, the suit dragged on for four years before Washington lost in 2012. The IRS prevailed against him in 2011, and Washington was reprimanded by the Texas State Bar after a client questioned his share of a settlement he won for her that same year.

In December, the Houston Chronicle reported that Washington was being considered for an appointment to a state ethics commission that oversees campaign finance, lobbying, and political disclosure laws. 

Washington could not be reached for comment, but we left a message and hope to have more on this story later today.

Washington says that the arrest was illegal, as he has a concealed-carry permit, and that the point is moot, anyway, as he was carrying a shotgun and not a pistol, in contrast to what the arrest report states. The arrest, he contends, violated his constitutional rights on both the Texas and United States level, and wants to know why people who carry rifles and shotguns with them to protest rallies downtown have not also been arrested. "I can't think of a single, solitary reason why they think I don't have the same right to bear arms as anybody else," he says.

"Oh, well, jail was a cool experience," Washington went on. "I got to meet some folks I'd never have met otherwise and hear some interesting viewpoints."

Washington is eagerly awaiting his day in court, and implied that he would represent himself. (Though they say that any man who stands as his own lawyer has a fool for a client, that likely does not apply to Washington, whose skills in the courtroom have long been legendary.

"I can't wait for them to say I was carrying a handgun and then they pull out the funniest looking handgun anyone's ever seen," he says. He says he's had the standard-sized Remington shotgun for 25 years and that it has not been modified in any way. "I am good at what I do and you can bet your sweet ass I will be as good for me as I've been for other people."

 

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