Montanarelli finds no crime in Carroll probe

November 02, 1990|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Carroll County Bureau of The Sun

The state prosecutor, in a 25-page report released yesterday, found no evidence of a crime in allegations that Carroll County Commissioner J. Jeffrey Griffith was set up on phony drug charges last January.

But State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli did find "troubling" some aspects of the accusations that have been flying since Mr. Griffith, an anti-drug activist and Democratic candidate for state Senate, was stopped and searched Jan. 11.

Three police dogs reacted as though there were drugs in his car, but nothing was found and the commissioner was released. Urinalysis showed no drugs in his system.

"One of Griffith's contentions is that someone must have tampered with his vehicle since no drugs were found but three dogs alerted," the prosecutor's report states. "His theory is certainly a possibility.

"It raises the specter that any citizen's vehicle could be contaminated by either rubbing or planting drugs on it. An anonymous call to [the county Drug Enforcement Coordinating Committee] could precipitate a dog sniff without any verification of the caller's information leading to reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed."

Although it hasn't been the major issue in Mr. Griffith's race for the Senate, the incident became the focal point in a bitter race for Carroll County state's attorney. Jerry F. Barnes, who quit his job as a senior county prosecutor to run against Republican incumbent Thomas E. Hickman, criticized his longtime boss for taking a call from Mr. Griffith the night of the search and advising him to have the urinalysis.

Mr. Griffith and Mr. Hickman asked Mr. Montanarelli to investigate the incident, and Mr. Barnes joined in the request with a complaint against Mr. Hickman.

In a letter to them accompanying his report, Mr. Montanarelli wrote, "I am not recommending or undertaking the prosecution of anyone concerned with that incident ."

As for the timing of the report -- days before Tuesday's election -- he said that "to withhold its release until after the election would be viewed as a political decision."

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