Carroll's state's attorney didn't break any laws when he released a police report detailing a drug search of a car belonging to the former campaign chairman of his rival in the bitter 1990 campaign, the state prosecutor said Friday.
But when Thomas E. Hickman used a police report filed on Scott W. Markle -- in which no charges were filed -- he was doing so for "political advantage" and caused Markle to be "depicted in his community as a criminal without benefit of a trial."
The 35-page report, released by State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli 16 months after Hickman used the report as the basis for allegations against Markle in an attempt to discredit unsuccessful state's attorney candidate Jerry Barnes, does not recommend filing any misconduct charges against Hickman.
"This is a prosecutor's quagmire which we do not choose to enter," the report said.
Hickman said he is pleased and feels vindicated by the report.
"But I'm not surprisedthat the police and I were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing," he said.
Markle, while clearly upset that Montanarelli chose not to prosecute the state's attorney for misconduct, said the report at leastclears his name.
"It wasn't worth a year-and-a-half wait," Marklesaid. "But the value of the report is that now all of the facts are out. If ruining my reputation is worth finding a leak in his department, then what's next? Who else's reputation will he be willing to savage?"
On Oct. 23, 1990, Hickman displayed a police report detailing an April search of Markle's car for drugs, in which he was arrestedand strip-searched. No drugs were ever found, and no charges were ever filed. He said he released the report as a way of backing up allegations he made a week earlier that Barnes was associating with "knowncriminals."
According to the report, Hickman's intention in bringing up Markle's investigation was to see if there had been a leak within what was then known as the Carroll Drug Coordinating Committee.
Markle was offered the chance to be an informant in exchange for immunity from prosecution; he agreed to cooperate. However, the report shows, Markle believed he didn't think any information he could provide would be valuable to the committee.
Markle quit as Barnes' campaign chairman after his arrest. When he began appearing with Barnes later on, the report says Hickman thought that news that police had found no drugs in the Markle investigation was leaked.
"This arousedHickman's suspicion that someone from the (drug coordinating committee) had told Markle that . . . there was little likelihood that he would be charged," the report said.
The campaign between Hickman andBarnes -- a longtime employee and friend of Hickman's -- was unusually bitter and aggressive. Hickman's election was by a narrow margin.
Republican and Democratic leaders at that time denounced Hickman'stactics, saying the release of a file on a private citizen who was never charged with a crime was shocking.
"I don't think it had a major impact on the party (in 1990)," said Joseph M. Getty, chairman ofthe county Republican Central Committee, adding he did not think thetiming of the release of Montanarelli's findings would effect Tuesday's primary.
Montanarelli may have closed the possibilities for criminal prosecution of Hickman, but he opened the door for civil courtaction.
"Our answer is that prosecutors are not unaccountable," he wrote in the report. "The have immunities, but the immunities are not absolute. Markle has other forums in which to pursue his grievance."
Both Markle and Hickman said they are looking toward possible further action, but neither would specify what the action would be.