ARLINGTON, Va. — Chris Geldart, D.C.’s former top public safety official who resigned amid an assault charge, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tuesday.
“You know, this is the justice system," Geldart said. "This is the system that I worked in. And you know, the justice system works. It takes time sometimes to do that. But it does work”
During a hearing Tuesday morning, the Commonwealth attorney's office said they have doubts about who the aggressor was in the incident.
In October, Arlington County police say a personal trainer named Dustin Woodward swore out a criminal complaint alleging that Geldart, then D.C.’s Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice, grabbed him by the neck in a parking lot of a Gold’s Gym in Arlington. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery.
Video of the confrontation appears to show Woodward and Geldart pointing at each other before Geldart walks closer to Woodward. Woodward alleges the deputy mayor grabbed him by the throat, although the footage only shows Geldart appearing to push Woodward before the trainer shoves his arm away.
A second video was played during the Tuesday hearing. The video shows a witness to the incident saying Woodward was the aggressor.
The confrontation stemmed from a dispute over Geldart’s car door hitting Woodward’s. Woodward was in court Tuesday. He said he was angry with the move to drop charges.
"I don't agree with the charge's being dropped. That's not OK," Woodward said.
“We've heard for years of police beating on people and everything and cause their power they walk free it's just the same thing over again, right? It's just a different situation. It's he comes from power," Woodard said.
Woodford did not swear out the criminal complaint against Geldart until two days after the incident. Geldart, a long-time deputy in Mayor Bowser’s administration, was placed on leave and later resigned after additional questions surfaced about his residency. Geldart’s criminal complaint listed a home in Falls Church, VA. Geldart said his family lives in that Falls Church home but he maintained an apartment in DC to comply with the District government’s residency requirements.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County told WUSA9 a magistrate determined there was probable cause to issue a warrant for Geldart’s arrest back in October, although it is unclear if that witness account was part of the decision.
Probable cause is the lowest standard of proof in our legal system. When our office evaluates a case, we consider instead whether we can prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of proof in our legal system. A robust review of the case against Mr. Geldart was undertaken before the decision was made to decline further prosecution of the assault and battery charge. The Commonwealth concluded the charge could not be sustained and justice required dismissal. - Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County
After the charges against her husband were dropped, Heather Geldart broke down in tears when asked what was next for her family.
“Um...I serve my community here in Arlington," Heather Geldart said as her voice began to crack. "And I stand by my husband.”
At the time Mayor Bowser said she was "saddened” to have accepted Geldart’s resignation adding at a news conference “all of the questions being raised are distracting from his job and my job.”
"I am proud of the work we've done together over the last eight years, and I am immensely grateful to Chris for his service to the city," Bowser said. "Chris has been a very capable and effective public servant and I've gotten to know him over the years in several roles."
Geldart served as Deputy Mayor for Public Safety since early 2021, overseeing the city’s police, emergency and fire response, jails, and other public safety agencies. He previously led the Department of Public Works and D.C.’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. Geldart also played a key leadership role in DC Government’s early response to the coronavirus pandemic.