A Kent County Circuit Court jury yesterday awarded $42,000 to a Chestertown man who sued Maryland State Police after he was mistakenly arrested twice and held in jail for a month on drug charges.
The charges against Allen P. Wickes, 46, were dropped when the undercover officer in the drug transaction Mr. Wickes was accused of saw Mr. Wickes in court as his 1988 trial began and realized that the wrong man had been charged.
The trooper "took one look at the defendant, Mr. Wickes, and said, 'There's been a mistake, this is the wrong man,' that the man who sold him drugs was much taller and much heavier," said R. Stewart Barroll, one of Mr. Wickes' lawyers.
The mix-up began when Trooper Donald T. Wiggins made an undercover narcotics purchase on Aug. 15, 1987.
During the two-day trial, Trooper Wiggins testified that an informant later identified the man he bought the cocaine from as Mr. Wickes, Mr. Barroll said.
Based on that information, Trooper Wiggins drafted an affidavit charging Mr. Wickes with cocaine distribution and possession and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Mr. Wickes was arrested at his home on Oct. 28, 1987, by state troopers, but Trooper Wiggins was not among them.
Mr. Wickes was held at the Kent County Detention Center for 29 days until his family could raise bail, two days before Thanksgiving.
On New Year's Eve, Mr. Wickes was arrested again on the same charges by troopers who were not aware that he had already posted bond. He was released the next day.
Assistant Attorney General Betty A. Stemley, who represented the state, said that as far as she is aware, the award is the first judgment against the state police for false arrest.