Officer indicted in raid on mayoral relative

November 07, 1991|By Ann LoLordo and David Simon h

A 26-year-old Baltimore police officer has been indicted for allegedly falsifying information on a search warrant used in a raid this summer on the Northwest Baltimore home of a relative of the mayor's wife. No drugs were found in the house.

A city grand jury last week indicted Officer Nicholas S. Constantine, an eight-year veteran assigned to the Northwestern drug enforcement unit, on a single misdemeanor count of perjury for misstating a fact in an affidavit he wrote for the search warrant in the July 17 raid.

In applying for the warrant, Officer Constantine swore under oath that he had already submitted to the police lab a package of suspected cocaine allegedly purchased at the home by an informant. In fact, the suspected drugs were submitted to the lab immediately after the raid at the home in the 2800 block of Taney Road, according to police and city prosecutors.

The house raided by Officer Constantine and other officers is owned by Ronald E. Hollie, the former head of the local hospital workers union. Mr. Hollie, who declined to comment on the case last night, is married to a cousin of Dr. Patricia Schmoke, the wife of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

Mayor Schmoke learned of the raid that evening from his wife and called Mr. Hollie, said Clinton R. Coleman, the mayor's spokesman.

The following day, Mr. Schmoke called Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods and asked him to look into the circumstances of the search, Mr. Coleman said. In subsequent weeks, Mr. Schmoke received and reviewed information about the incident -- including the search warrant.

"One concern in his mind is that Dr. Schmoke often eats dinner with the Hollies, with her cousin, and this incident could have occurred during one of those times," Mr. Coleman said. "After reviewing the facts in the case, the mayor's comment to the police commissioner was, 'I smell a rat' . . . and that he was very upset with what happened."

But the mayor contends that "he had no part to play in any of what happened after that," Mr. Coleman said. A grand jury of 23 citizens who "may not even know that this person is any way related to the mayor's family" found there was sufficient evidence to indict, Mr. Coleman said.

Officer Constantine said yesterday that, during the raid, a man at the house angrily told him, "I'm going to call Kurt. I'll have your f------ job," and then made several calls in an attempt to locate the mayor.

During the raid, police broke down the front door. It was later repaired by the city as is customary in raids that turn up nothing. One of Mr. Hollie's daughters, in her 20s, was "thrown to the floor" and searched during the raid, Mr. Coleman said.

John Denholm, a lawyer for the officer, said the indictment only came after repeated suggestions by Assistant State's Attorney Haven Kodeck that Officer Constantine resign rather than face charges. Only after the officer repeatedly refused was the indictment handed up.

The indictment of Officer Constantine does not allege that he falsified the "probable cause" he used to obtain the warrant on Mr. Hollie's house. Instead, the officer is charged only with stating that suspected cocaine allegedly obtained by an informant during a previous purchase had already been submitted to the police chemical analysis lab.

Officer Constantine said he was led to the house by an informant they had used in earlier cases. The man claimed to know someone who on occasion sold drugs at the Taney address. The officer said that he used the informant to buy drugs at the house and that he saw the man enter the house and return with a small package of suspected cocaine.

Officer Constantine said he then dropped the informant at another location and returned to the Northwestern District station, where the informant called him to alert him that the drugs were to be moved from the house. That call prompted the officer to seek the warrant immediately and delay submitting the drugs obtained earlier, he said.

After raiding the Taney Road address and discovering no narcotics, the officer drove downtown and submitted the suspected cocaine obtained earlier.

"It was a mistake and I know it," said Officer Constantine, who has been placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of the case. "But if you ask anyone involved in drug enforcement, they'll tell you it isn't the only mistake of this type ever made. Doesn't anyone get a second chance? I have faith in the criminal justice system. I'm going to be cleared of this."

Prosecutors acknowledged yesterday that the misstatement about the laboratory submission was not a falsehood essential to obtaining the warrant. Officer Constantine could have accurately described the need for haste and a delayed drug submission and still received a warrant.

Nonetheless, Stuart O. Simms, the Baltimore state's attorney, said he looks on any misstatement under oath as a serious breach of a police officer's ethic, and for that reason his office decided to seek the indictment: "The allegations are fairly straightforward," Mr. Simms added.

Mr. Simms said he was never contacted by the mayor with regard to the case and denied that any pressure was brought by the mayor's office. Mr. Denholm disagreed, however, saying that the case is being pursued more aggressively than other recent incidents involving false statements by officers.

Prosecutors refused yesterday to make public the search warrant and affidavit.

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