Paper Makes Shield Plea

Police and fire scan

January 12, 1992

BALTIMORE — WESTMINSTER -- An attorney for a Carroll County Sun reporter subpoenaed to testify in a case in which a Taneytown man contends his plea was coerced, has argued that the journalist's testimony should be limited to already published information.

Mary R. Craig, an outside attorney hired by The Baltimore Sun, publisher of The Carroll County Sun, argued that the testimony of reporter Maria Archangelo should be consistent with the Maryland Shield Law, which protects reporters frombeing forced to testify about news sources.

The county State's Attorney's Office has asked that the motion bedenied. The state argued that the reporter should be allowed to testify in Carroll Circuit Court about information that "is relevant to asignificant legal issue in the case," court records show.

A hearing is scheduled at 10 a.m. tomorrow before Judge Luke K. Burns Jr.

Fernando A. Hernandez, who was sentenced in December to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to misdemeanor drug charges, is attempting to have the plea withdrawn, charging misconduct by the State's Attorney's Office.

In documents filed in Circuit Court, Hernandez's lawyers say the plea agreement -- reached after the state's attorney dropped charges against Hernandez, his wife and his brother under Maryland's "drug kingpin law" -- "was not entered into voluntarily" and was made without "an intelligent understanding of the nature of the offenses to which (Fernando) pleaded guilty."

The lawyers also contend the plea agreement was unfair because of coverage by the news media.

Prosecutors say they never approach the press with news of the plea agreement. The reporter may be asked to reveal how she learned of the plea agreement.

Under the Maryland Shield Law, reporters areprotected from having to reveal their sources and cannot be asked toreveal their notes or news-gathering methods except when that information is "relevant to a significant legal issue . . . could not, withdue diligence, be obtained by any alternate means . . . (and serves)an overriding public interest."

Meanwhile, the state has denied several allegations in Hernandez's motion to withdraw the plea, including Hernandez's contention that the "plea was not entered into voluntarily and with an intelligent understanding of the nature of the offenses to which he pleaded guilty and of the possible consequences of the plea."

The state denied any "prosecutorial misconduct in misrepresenting the plea to the news media prior to the taking of the plea was inherently coercive and vitiated the voluntariness of the plea."

Also denied were allegations that "special care should have been taken to ascertain the voluntariness of his plea" because it involved the possible lenient treatment for Bonnie Hernandez, his wife.

ACCIDENT VICTIM STABLE

WESTMINSTER -- Three city women were transported to the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore following a two-car crash Jan. 3 in front of the Carroll County Recycling Center.

Both drivers, Karen D. Johnson, 25, and Suzanne E. Placek, 45, have been discharged from the hospital.

Marilee Matz, 23, a passengerin Johnson's car, remains hospitalized in stable condition.

Statepolice continue to investigate the accident. No charges have been filed.

FIRE HALL ELECTS OFFICERS

TANEYTOWN -- Members of the Taneytown Volunteer Fire Department recently elected their officers for 1992.

The officers began their duties on Dec. 16th.

The new officers are Earl Lookingbill, president; Donald Shoemaker, first vice president; John Perry, second vice president; Randy Tracey, recording secretary; Merv Staub, financial secretary; James Parker, treasurer; JohnAlexander, assistant treasurer; James Salley, chief, and Jesse Salley, ambulance captain.

The three members at large are Morris Parrish, Feren Haines and Wayne Staley.

Line officers under the chief are Mike Glass, assistant chief; Graham Wildasin, captain; Brett Six, first lieutenant; Glenn Haines, second lieutenant, and Jeff Stitley, third lieutenant.

Three lieutenants under the ambulance chief are Tom Vandebussche, first; Jim Haines, second, and Dale Kline, third.

In other fire news, the Westminster Volunteer Fire Company has also elected new officers for the upcoming year. New officers will be notified and announced at the annual banquet Wednesday night.

TROOPER TO BE HONORED

WESTMINSTER -- Troopers at the Westminster state policebarracks plan to honor retired Trooper Donald A. Newcomer at a sold-out program next Sunday.

Newcomer, a second-generation trooper, retired from the Westminster barracks Oct. 1. He began his career at the former Randallstown barracks in 1964. He was transferred to the Westminster barracks in the late 1960s. He worked undercover there the past eight years.

"Words do not explain this guy," said Detective Sgt. Pete F. Edge. "It's sort of like 'The Last of the Mohicans.' You can't police like Donny did."

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