From: Roger D. Cassell
On Jan. 24, 1992, in the Circuit Court for Howard County, the citizens of this state and county were subjected to a farce of the greatest magnitude.
Francisco Rodriguez was allowed to plead guilty to first-degree murder in the shooting death of Cpl. Ted Wolf of the Maryland State Police, which took place in March of 1990. Rodriguez was given a life sentence for the crime, subject to the terms of the pleaagreement.
Then, to the dismay of all, the judge had the terms ofthe plea agreement sealed. When later interviewed by the press, Assistant State's Attorney Timothy Wolf stated the reason was for the security of Rodriguez while in prison. When asked how many years Rodriguez would serve, Mr. Wolf was able to hide behind the sealing of the plea agreement.
The defense attorney also sidestepped the question,again falling back on the sealed agreement. The defense attorney claimed that the sentence was "fair."
Fair for whom? You can bet thatif the sentence was fair, the State's Attorney's Office and the defense attorney would have had no problem letting the public know what the sentence was.
It is the general opinion that the plea was not released because it was a slap in the face to Corporal Wolf's family as well as the citizens of Maryland. What is even more disturbing is that the State's Attorney's Office has so little respect for the people it serves as to try to slip this past, all in the name of justice.
The judge could have stopped this sham, but by not doing so has become a willing participant in not only the "gift of the century" to acop-killer, but also the effort to deceive the public into thinking this was a "life sentence."
Timothy Wolf stood alone and was left to take the heat from the press, while the others responsible for theplea slipped away prior to court. Is this the conduct we expect fromour public officials? It is also ironic that Jan. 24 was Mr. Wolf's last day with the State's Attorney's Office. He will evade responsibility for his part in this, since he will no longer have to answer to the public.
The family of Corporal Wolf, the police officers and the citizens of this county deserve better. By accepting this lenient plea, the State's Attorney's Office has denied the citizens of this county the right to hear the facts and sentence Rodriguez to what he deserves. Has the State's Attorney's Office lost faith in the citizensof this county to do the right thing after the trial of Eric Tirado?
I urge all of you to push for accountability from our elected officials. Those who do not operate in an honest, above-board manner should be shown the door and asked to seek employment where responsibility is not a factor.
MYSTERIOUS 'LIFE SENTENCE'
From: Jean Cassell
Late Friday afternoon, I had the misfortune to attend a theatrical production at Circuit Court in Ellicott City, a mystery presentation of the State's Attorney's Office of Howard County.
Due to budget problems, there were no programs, but the title of the show was announced as "The State of Maryland vs. Francisco Rodriguez," though someone later told me that it had originally been billed as "ATravesty of Justice."
As the drama unfolded, a man stood up and admitted to killing a police officer. The actors portraying the prosecutors (one of whom was mysteriously absent from the prosecution table) then agreed to accept this admission in return for a lesser sentence to be imposed by the judge.
And then came the mystery.
The judge sentenced the defendant to life in prison "subject to the terms of the plea agreement," which terms were then sealed by the judge at the prosecutor's request. Then the show ended.
Some in the audience, including media people whose tickets had been erroneously stamped "Postponed Indefinitely" in place of the date, went backstage to speakto the directors and producers of the show. But their offices were empty.
I give this farce a rating of -10. The story line was far too far-fetched, the actors (minus one) were unbelievable, and I guess if I pay my money, I expect to know the ending.