A judge today freed a Baltimore man who had languished in the city jail for five months without a trial on probation-violation charges stemming from traffic violations.
Baltimore District Court Judge Joseph A. Ciotola today dismissed all charges against Joseph Robert Walter Seymour, 48, saying he already had served more time in jail than the charges would merit if he were convicted.
The maximum sentence Seymour faced was 60 days, Ciotola said.
"He'd have had more than ample time in the city detention center," if he were convicted, Ciotola said.
Seymour, a tall beefy man, suffers from "psychiatric problems" and wants to get help, said Daryl T. Walters, Seymour's public defender.
Walters said confusion over Seymour's name had forced him to miss at least four court dates since his incarceration last March. On some records he was identified as Joseph Robert Seymour. On others, he was called Robert Walter Seymour.
Assistant State's Attorney Dana Karangelen said Seymour "kind of played with the system using both those names," a charge Walters denied.
When Ciotola asked Seymour for his full name, Seymour replied: "Joseph Robert Walter Seymour."
"I would suggest, counsel, you advise your client, if he is involved in any other violations, to give all his names," Ciotola told Walters.
City detention center spokesman Leonard A. Sipes Jr. said Seymour originally was arrested New Year's Day 1987 for five traffic violations -- two counts of failure to obey a traffic light, failure to use a seat belt, possession of a suspended license and driving with a suspended license.
In April 1987, a traffic court judge sentenced Seymour to three years on probation on the traffic charges, Sipes said. In July 1988, the Division of Parole and Probation sought a warrant for Seymour's arrest after he failed to report to his probation officer.
Even though Seymour subsequently was brought to court on unrelated traffic charges, police did not serve the warrant for violation of probation. Police eventually served the warrant and arrested Seymour March 10, 1991, three years after the warrant was issued, officials said. Failing to meet the $7,500 bond, Seymour went to the city jail the next day.
Seymour's case emerged in the wake of last week's release of Martin R. Henn, the 54-year-old homeless man who had been held for more than a year without a trial on an arson charge. Officials at the jail said they have discovered that as many as 93 men were being held at the jail without court dates scheduled. Nearly all of those prisoners now have trials or court appearances scheduled, Sipes said.
The state of Maryland took over the jail July 1, as a way of easing Baltimore's financial crunch. Henn and Seymour cases emerged when state officials began searching the jail's records to see how many of the approximately 2,800 inmates did not have court dates.
State officials have said the city's old records were inadequate and have pledged to overhaul the jail's operations.