Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said yesterday that early-release credits earned on a prior sentence should not have been used to free rapist and robber John Frederick Thanos 18 months early.
Mr. Curran stopped short of saying that the Division of Correction made a mistake in releasing Thanos by reducing his term with so-called "good time" from an earlier sentence, because he said he did not know the specifics of the case.
"I don't know where the 'good time' came from that was credited to Mr. Thanos," he said. "But there's no way in the world you can use your good-time credits twice."
Thanos would still be in prison on a robbery conviction if the Division of Correction had not adopted a policy a month before his release that radically changed the way Maryland applies good-conduct and other credits to sentences that overlap, a correction official has said.
It was the policy change that was used to determine Thanos' April 5 release date from Eastern Correctional Institution by reducing the robbery sentence with early-release credits earned on an earlier rape sentence, said the correction official, who requested anonymity.
Since his release, Thanos, 41, has been charged with two murders, an attempted murder, two robberies and other crimes between Aug. 29 and Sept. 4, when he was arrested after a shootout with police.
The attempted murder charge is expected to be upgraded to murder, now that a teen-ager who was shot on Labor Day has died. Thanos, of Joppa, is being held at the Worcester County Detention Center.
Since Sept. 5, when Thanos first was charged with murder, correction officials have said they do not know whether he was released as a result of the new policy on so-called "overlapping, concurrent sentences."
Last night, Leonard A. Sipes Jr., spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, issued a statement saying that "Thanos was not serving a concurrent sentence" and that the policy "did not apply to his release." Mr. Sipes would not answer other questions about Thanos' release.
Whether the policy should have been applied is still under investigation, but a correction official who has seen Thanos' records said that the reduction of his sentence, in fact, was calculated using the new policy.
Mr. Curran said Bishop L. Robinson, state secretary of public safety and correctional services, has launched an investigation, calling on the Division of Correction's Internal Investigation Unit to interview agency officials at ECI and headquarters.
"He's doing a complete analysis of exactly what happened and whatever decisions were made by the classification people," Mr. Curran said.
Delegate Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's, chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees corrections issues, said yesterday he too wants an explanation of the incident from Mr. Robinson, who is scheduled to appear before his panel next week.
"This points out a larger problem, which is the recurring misinterpretation or confusion at DOC with sentencing orders and commitment rules," Mr. Maloney said.
At the time of his release, Thanos was serving a seven-year sentence for a robbery in Harford County -- a term that began May 19, 1986, and ends May 19, 1993, records show. He served only about four years of that sentence.
Although Thanos would have been given early-release credits on the robbery sentence, it was the credits earned during a sentence he served earlier on a 1969 Baltimore County rape conviction that won him early release in April, the correction official said. Without those credits, he would have been released in September 1991, the official said.
Because of the new policy, credits Thanos earned while serving the rape sentence, in effect, were applied twice, the official said.
But Mr. Curran and Mr. Maloney agreed that the credits from the rape sentence should not have been applied to the robbery sentence.
A Baltimore County circuit judge gave Thanos a 21-year sentence -- a term with a beginning date of Oct. 2, 1969, and an end date of Oct. 2, 1990, records show.
Thanos was released from prison on April 23, 1986, but was arrested 26 days later, May 19, 1986, on a robbery charge. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, which began from the day he was arrested.
The sentences were considered overlapping because the robbery sentence began before the official end date of the rape sentence, the official said.
Mr. Curran said, however, that Thanos' sentences should not have been considered overlapping because under Maryland law affecting pre-1970 convictions, the rape sentence "expired" when he left prison in 1986.