The Baltimore State's Attorney today dismissed perjury charges against four of five city narcotics officers who found themselves in hot water last summer after leading an ill-advised drug raid at the home of a mayoral relative.
A perjury charge against a fifth officer was thrown out of court last week. Another officer was acquitted of perjury in a trial yesterday.
Both those losses were cited today in court by prosecutor Haven H. Kodeck in the state's decision to drop the remaining cases.
State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms was unavailable for comment this morning as to what the dismissals would mean to dozens of drug cases -- as many as 100 or more -- that were dropped because the indicted officers made the arrests.
Officer Nicholas A. Constantine, who was acquitted yesterday of one of three perjury charges he faced, said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke should be happy about the decision "because he said all he wanted was justice, and that's what he got."
The five officers were accused of lying in search warrant affidavits that claimed they had submitted suspected drugs to a police crime lab when in fact they hadn't.
But the officers claimed the violations -- each involving a different drug raid -- were mere technicalities. They argued that prosecutors pursued criminal charges because each of the officers was involved in a July raid at the home of a relative of the mayor's wife.
The owner of the home, Ronald E. Hollie, is married to a cousin of Patricia Schmoke. No drugs were found at the Taney Road home, which was targeted for the raid when an informant claimed to have bought crack cocaine there.
In the months following the botched raid, police internal affairs officers and prosecutors examined more than 150 search warrants that had been written by the officers.
That examiniation turned up six raids -- including the Taney Road raid -- that were carried out after the officers had allegedly lied on the search warrant applications.
After Mr. Kodeck said he would not continue pursuing the charges today, the officers hugged each other and said they were hoping to go back to their normal routine. All have been on administrative duty.
But several said they expected that they will now face police department sanctions from the internal affairs division.
"This has been a nightmare, both physically and psychologically, for Officer Constantine," said his attorney, Leslie A. Stein. "He believes he can still be a productive member of the police force."
Another of the accused officers, John Mohr, said, "I'm going to Disney World" as he came out of the courtroom after hearing about the dismissals.
The other indicted officers were Chris Wade, Efren Edwards and Bernard Douglas.
The decision to dismiss all the cases came as no surprise today in light of Judge Andre M. Davis' decision Thursday to throw out the case against Officer Douglas. And yesterday, he found Officer Constantine innocent of the first of three perjury charges he faced.
Judge Davis, in finding Officer Constantine innocent, stuck to his conclusion in the Douglas case that the charges are based on technicalities and Officer Constantine did not act with malice or corruption.
"In this case, like in the last case, and in all the cases, the state has to prove that there's been a willful falsehood," the judge said. "When we talk about perjury, we're talking about purposeful and intentional" untruths.
Judge Davis said that although the statement -- sworn to before a judge -- is false, it does not constitute perjury because the officers had nothing to gain by lying.
"There's no motive to deceive" or to lie, he said, adding that the officers still had probable cause to get the search warrant even without the statement being on the application.
Mr. Stein cut right to the quick in Officer Constantine's trial, saying that the officers never would have been targeted for criminal prosecution if they had not been involved in the raid at the Holley home.
The attorney loudly asked a former police internal affairs investigator who was testifying: "Isn't it true that the only reason this was dredged up was because Detective Constantine . . . had the misfortune of raiding a home of the mayor's relative last July?"