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Defense Files New Motions in Barracks Row Stabbing

by John Riley
Monday Dec 10, 2012

The lawyer for Michael Poth, the Marine accused of stabbing and killing a fellow Marine in a confrontation that may have included anti-gay elements, filed two motions Nov. 29 to suppress evidence and statements obtained in the hours after Poth was arrested.

Poth, 20, of Southeast Washington, faces a charge of second-degree murder while armed for allegedly threatening and stabbing 23-year-old Philip Bushong of Camp Lejune, N.C., on April 21 in the 700 block of 8th Street SE, an area known as Barracks Row due to its proximity to the Marine Barracks.

Poth pleaded not guilty to the charge at a July arraignment. He later rejected a plea deal offered by the government that would have sentenced him to a term of no less than 12 years in prison, with possibly a longer sentence based on sentencing guidelines set forth by the presiding judge and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

On Nov. 28, Poth's case was moved from the courtroom of D.C. Superior Court Judge William Jackson to the courtroom of Judge Russell Canan, and previously scheduled court appearances were changed due to scheduling conflicts. Poth is now set to appear for a trial readiness hearing Feb. 15 and remains held without bond. His trial has been rescheduled for March 4.

The day following the case transfer, Poth's laywer, David Benowitz, filed motions to suppress evidence and statements. As of Dec. 3, the government had not yet responded to the defense's motions, according to the electronic filing system for D.C. Superior Court.

The motion to suppress statements likely refers to potentially incriminating statements Poth allegedly made to responding officers from the Metropolitan Police Department following the stabbing. According to charging documents, Poth said, ''Call me boots and the fight started,'' ''Marines control me and my brain,'' ''You start with me and I'm going to defend myself,'' ''He was talking shit, so I stabbed him,'' and ''He punched me in the face, so I stabbed him.'' After he overheard a radio transmission about Bushong being transported to Washington MedStar Hospital, Poth allegedly told one responding officer, ''Good, I hope he dies.''

Marines who saw Bushong stabbed and detained Poth before MPD arrived told police they observed a bloody knife clipped to Poth's pants pocket. Poth later tested positive for artificial marijuana, also known as ''spice.''

Video footage from surveillance cameras around the Barracks Row area, shown at a May 16 preliminary hearing, showed Poth acting erratically and brandishing an object believed to be a knife prior to the incident. The footage also showed Bushong, who was straight, embracing his companion, who a gay man, at an earlier time when Poth was passing by the local bar they were visiting.

According to charging documents and eyewitness testimony, Poth made another pass by the bar when Bushong and his companion were leaving. The men crossed paths and exchanged words. Poth then allegedly called Bushong a ''faggot'' and threatened to stab him. Witnesses say Bushong grabbed Poth's shoulder, and that Poth stabbed Bushong. Bushong was pronounced dead later that morning.

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