Simms drops perjury counts against officers Court setbacks prompted Baltimore prosecutor's action

April 22, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer Staff writer Michael A. Fletcher contributed to this article.

Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms dropped perjury charges against four city narcotics officers yesterday, a decision that hasn't swayed Mr. Simms and the mayor from seeking further punishment.

"This doesn't end the matter by any stretch," said Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, explaining that the officers could face departmental -- or even federal -- charges.

"I was sorry that one officer's case didn't go to trial," said Mr. Schmoke, in an apparent reference to Officer Nicholas S. Constantine, who led a drug raid last summer at the home of the mayor's wife's cousin. "I thought that case had facts very different than the others."

Mr. Schmoke's comments were sparked by two recent courtroom setbacks that prompted Mr. Simms to drop the charges.

Charges against one officer were thrown out of court last week by Baltimore Circuit Judge Andre M. Davis.

On Monday, Judge Davis found Officer Constantine innocent of the first of three perjury counts.

Mr. Simms said he plans to make a recommendation to the police commissioner that the officers -- who currently are assigned to desk duty -- probably should not be involved in any more arrests.

"I have some concerns. It was incontroverted that there were false statements" made by the officers, Mr. Simms said.

As a result of what he called credibility problems, Mr. Simms previously had dropped the charges against about 100 or more drug suspects who were arrested by the five officers.

"Regardless of the outcome of this case, the same credibility issues remain. We won't reopen the cases we've dropped. And I will express [to the commissioner] an opinion with respect to the future involvement -- if any -- of these individuals in criminal cases."

The officers were not reissued their guns after yesterday's dismissal of the criminal charges, which they said is an indication they will be confined to desk duty while they await departmental charges.

Each of the officers was accused of lying in search warrant applications in which they claimed that they had submitted suspected drugs to a police crime lab when in fact they hadn't.

One of the search warrants led to a July raid of the Taney Road home of Ronald E. Hollie, who is married to a cousin of Dr. Patricia Schmoke, the mayor's wife.

No drugs were found at the home, which was targeted for the raid when an informant claimed to have bought crack cocaine there.

In the months after the botched raid, police internal affairs officers and prosecutors examined more than 150 search warrants that had been written by the officers.

That examination turned up six raids -- including the Taney Road

raid -- that were carried out after the officers had allegedly lied on the search warrant applications.

But the officers said the painstaking and exacting detail of the investigation smacked of pressure from the mayor, who angrily responded to that charge yesterday.

"They are just blowing smoke. They know that," he said of the officers. "The information was false and the police officers lied, that's a matter for the state's attorney to pursue."

After being cleared of the remaining two charges yesterday, Officer Constantine declared Mr. Schmoke "shouldn't be upset, because he said all he wanted was justice, and that's what he got."

Charges against Officer Bernard Douglas were thrown out of court last week by Judge Davis.

And Monday, Judge Davis had found Officer Constantine innocent of one perjury count.

Both those losses were cited yesterday by the prosecution in its decision to drop the remaining cases, against Officers Efren Edwards, John Mohr, and Chris Wade.

Mr. Simms said he had no choice but to drop the perjury charges in light of Judge Davis' expressed view that the officers did not act corruptly by putting false information on the warrant applications.

The judge ruled that the violations were technicalities and did not constitute perjury because the officers had nothing to gain by lying.

The officers argued -- and Judge Davis concurred -- that they mistakenly included language on the warrant application.

But without malicious intent, there can be no perjury, Judge Davis ruled.

Mr. Simms disputed the judge's interpretation of perjury.

"The state did not have to show some kind of a nefarious motive. . . . It didn't matter if the foul committed was intentional or unintentional," Mr. Simms said.

Police Commissioner Edward V. Woods couldn't be reached for comment about why the officers weren't issued their guns after being cleared of the charges.

But Agent Arlene K. Jenkins, a city police spokeswoman, said "several administrative procedures need to take place" before the guns are returned.

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