Francisco Rodriguez, already in prison on drug charges, will be eligible for parole before he serves any additional time for the 1990 murder of State Police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf, according to a state prison official.
Rodriguez was sentenced Friday to life in prison as part of a sealed plea agreement with the Howard County state's attorney.
But that life sentence is concurrent with a 15-year, no-parole federal sentence on unrelated drug charges. Under Maryland parole guidelines, Rodriguez will be eligible for parole when his drug sentence expires.
Susan Kaskie, a spokeswoman for the Division of Parole and Probation, said that in Maryland, inmates serving life sentences are eligible for their first parole hearing after serving 15 years of their sentences.
That possibility, combined with the judge's decision to seal the plea agreement at the request of the state's attorney, has Corporal Wolf's widow wondering how justice was served.
"In the state's attorney's office, they're telling me he'll never get parole the first time around," said Virginia Wolf, who had asked Judge Raymond J. Kane not to accept the plea agreement. "They say I'm being very emotional and prejudiced, but it looks like he's not going to serve anything for this, or a very minimal sentence at best."
Deputy State's Attorney Dwight Thompson wouldn't comment on Rodriguez's parole eligibility and said there were justifiable reasons to seal the plea agreement. "It was not done for expediency or economic reasons in any way, shape or form," he said.
Judge Kane declined to comment on the reasons for sealing the plea.
Timothy Wolf, who prosecuted the case, said after the sentencing that the plea was sealed for "institutional security reasons."
Rodriguez, 21, of the Bronx, N.Y., was present when Corporal Wolf, 40, was shot twice in the head during a traffic stop on March 29, 1990, on Interstate 95 in Jessup.
Eric Tirado, 27, also of the Bronx, the gunman, was convicted of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life without parole.
The Baltimore Sun newspapers planned to file a motion today challenging the seal order and requesting a hearing before Judge Kane on whether he should have accepted the state's request to seal the plea.
"The papers think the public has a right to know the basis on which the state's attorney's office recommended and the court accepted a life sentence concurrent with the existing drug sentence," said Mary R. Craig, The Sun's attorney. "The papers can't report the facts if they're contained in a sealed court file."
Mrs. Wolf said she believes there is a great deal of public interest in her husband's murder and people should know why a man involved in his killing got that sentence.
"I think they're keeping it a secret because I know there would be very few people that would agree with it," she said of the state's attorney's decision to seal the plea.
Richard Stefan Lurye, co-counsel for Rodriguez, would not comment on the fairness of the sentence, but said it would be up to the parole commission to determine if 15 years is a sufficient sentence.
"What Mr. Rodriguez has here is an opportunity to show by his actions between now and whenever they consider him that he has restored himself to that point where it would be appropriate to release him," Mr. Lurye said.