Bitten-off fingertip provokes litigation Criminal, civil cases stem from airport fight.

February 28, 1992|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

This much is clear: Frank Freeman bit off the tip of Steve "Doctor Wheels" Walker's pinky during a fight outside Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

With two criminal trials, a $1,000.02 lawsuit and a million-dollar countersuit heading to court, more than one jury may be asked to sort out the two men's stories.

Mr. Freeman, 57, a Baltimore lawyer, says he flew in from Norfolk, Va., and was looking for a $5 shuttle bus to take him downtown when he was accosted by Mr. Walker, a limousine driver trying to hustle business. Mr. Freeman says he was holding luggage in both hands when Mr. Walker punched him three or four times in the face. He says he tried to flee but Mr. Walker kept coming after him.

Asked why he bit off the end of the Laurel man's finger, Mr. Freeman says, "A man sticks his fist in your mouth -- what are you supposed to do?"

Mr. Walker, 47, offers an altogether different version of the Aug. 25 incident.

He says he offered only to drive Mr. Freeman from the airport to a downtown Baltimore hotel for the going limo rate of $14 to $16. He says Mr. Freeman complained about the price -- and then assaulted him.

During the skirmish, Mr. Freeman bit off the end of Mr. Walker's left pinky finger -- and, Mr. Walker says, spat it on the ground.

"I looked right at him and said, 'You bit my damn finger off!' He was half-smiling and half-surprised himself, like, 'I did it. So what?' " Mr. Walker says.

Police arrested Mr. Freeman for assault and battery. Released on his own recognizance to await trial, Mr. Freeman promptly swore out a battery charge against Mr. Walker.

In October, an Anne Arundel District judge dismissed the top felony charge against Mr. Freeman, but in November a county grand jury indicted him on charges of assault with intent to maim, and assault and battery. He also is charged with mayhem, defined as "intentionally depriving [Mr. Walker] of a fighting member of his body, specifically a finger." His trial is set for April 27.

Mr. Walker is scheduled to stand trial in May.

And then there is the civil case of Franklin Ira Freeman vs. Stephen Brandon Walker, filed Sept. 18 in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. The first round of that case had been scheduled for Tuesday, but Mr. Freeman's lawyer, former Circuit Judge Morris Turk, says he is withdrawing his motion to dismiss a portion of Mr. Walker's suit.

Mr. Freeman sued Mr. Walker, listing $90.34 in medical expenses in demanding $1,000 for expenses, both incurred and projected.

In the suit Mr. Freeman also seeks punitive damages -- in the amount of exactly 2 cents.

In his countercomplaint, Mr. Walker charges Mr. Freeman with battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress for the loss of part of his finger. Listing lost pay of more than $5,000 and contending he has been traumatized to the point of needing psychiatric care, Mr. Walker demands a half-million dollars in actual damages and another half-million dollars in punitive damages.

Because the fingertip was too mutilated to be reattached, Mr. Walker is awaiting fitting for a $2,200 prosthesis.

Mr. Walker says he has nightmares since he lost his fingertip, which he keeps in formaldehyde.

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