DC police escort whistleblower lawsuit goes to court

A D.C. police captain who questioned the truthfulness of Police Chief Cathy Lanier is about to get his day in court.

Hilton Burton filed a whistleblower lawsuit after he was demoted two ranks and transferred from his position following the questionable police escort of actor Charlie Sheen nearly four years ago.

Opening statements will be held Wednesday morning.

Burton has chosen to wear his uniform as his multi-million dollar lawsuit against Chief Lanier and several others gets underway.

Burton was commander of the Special Operations Division when Sheen was given a special high-speed escort from Dulles International Airport in April of 2011.

Sheen bragged in a tweet with a photo attached that he was getting a ride "like somebody's about to deliver a baby."

The controversy that ensued angered Chief Lanier, who immediately said the department did not give escorts to celebrities.

"There are limited circumstances where we do police escorts," said Lanier back in April of 2011. "Those circumstances are based on security need and there are protocols that need to be followed when we do escorts."

But at a public hearing more than two months later, then-Commander Burton contradicted the chief, telling the city council: "I feel that I cannot stand by and allow the continued distortion of the facts and the unmitigated attacks on the professional character of the members of [Special Operations Division]."

Burton's claim that escorts were commonplace was backed up under oath at the city council by other officers in the Special Operations Division.

Then in mid-July, an inspector general's investigation of the matter called police escorts routine and an accepted practice.

But Burton still took the fall, and although Lanier said his demotion was performance-related, Burton believes it was retaliation for questioning the veracity of the chief.

"This is a clear violation of the District of Columbia Whistleblower Protection Act," said Burton in August of 2011. "I testified before the city council. I testified truthfully. My testimony was validated by the inspector general's report and I come back off of two weeks of leave, and the first day I'm back, I am demoted for performance."

Burton has now spent nearly three and a half years at the rank of captain, and by airing his complaint to a jury, he is hoping to get his rank back as well as punitive damages.

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