Conviction Overturned in ‘Grandma’ Beating


It was a particularly heinous crime—an elderly woman who earned her
living working as a street vendor assaulted and robbed near where she
went about her work.

The attack on Vasiliki Fotopoulos, who was then 83, was particularly
troublesome for Metro riders who entered and exited at the Foggy
Bottom station. There, she was known as “Grandma,” as she plied her
wares with a ready smile to her customers and other vendors alike.

The beating and robbery became the talk of the town after law
enforcement officials released a videotape of the beating taken by a
surveillance camera in hopes that it would help them to identify the
offender.

And a year later, when James A. Dorsey, then 48, a vagabond whose
criminal past included convictions for everything from burglary to
assault with a deadly weapon, was convicted of the attack, no one felt
much sympathy for him. The judge who sentenced him to 14 years in 2006
cited the “deliberate cruelty and gratuitous violence” Dorsey had
visited upon Fotopoulos.

Now, however, Dorsey’s conviction has been overturned. The D.C. Court
of Appeals issued a 123-page ruling saying that Dorsey’s rights were
violated when he was kept handcuffed in isolation for 13 hours while
he was questioned in the case. The judges noted that Dorsey denied any
wrongdoing and asked for an attorney several times during the lengthy
interrogation session. He confessed after several hours.

Prosecutors are examining the appellate court’s finding and must
decide whether to retry Dorsey.

“The case remains under review,” said William Miller, the spokesmanfor the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District. “No decision has been made at this point.”

Miller said Dorsey remains in prison awaiting further proceedings. He
said he expects prosecutors to make a decision within a few weeks.

At the time of his sentencing, Dorsey’s lawyer said he used drugs and
suffered from depression. Attorney Larry Kupers asked a judge for a
lenient sentence, saying Dorsey had acted because of his mental
disorder.

Police identified Dorsey after witnesses came forward to name him as
the man seen assaulting and robbing Fotopoulous on the surveillance
video. Besides being seriously injured, the vendor lost $300 in the
attack, authorities said.

Fotopoulos required a walker to move around and became fearful to
leave her apartment after the attack. During a sentencing in the case,
she shook and cried.

Fotopoulous, who is now 91, could not be reached for comment.

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Conviction Overturned in 'Grandma' Beating

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