Inmate Angell sues Patuxent, citing 'politics' of transfer Furlough controversy blamed for decision

July 11, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Convicted police killer Robert Daly Angell, who is serving three consecutive life sentences, is suing the Patuxent Institution, claiming that its decision to move him to another prison violated his right to due process.

But prison officials say the decision was fair and Angell is being moved because they can do no more for him at Patuxent. Angell's suit asks for a new hearing and seeks $1 million in damages from Patuxent's director.

Angell, 35, whose unsupervised furloughs from Patuxent led to major changes there in 1989, alleges that a prison board did not follow proper procedures when it decided in January to transfer him. The board has not announced where Angell is to be sent.

Howard County Circuit Judge Cornelius F. Sybert Jr. granted Angell a 10-day injunction July 2, blocking the transfer that Angell's lawyer feared was imminent. The lawyer, Dana Whitehead, said she intends to ask the court to prevent Angell's hTC transfer until his lawsuit is decided.

Angell was convicted in 1976 of killing two Montgomery County police officers and a teen-ager, and he has been an inmate at Patuxent since August 1977.

Ms. Whitehead maintains that the board's decision to transfer him was motivated by political concerns stemming from the 1988 disclosure that Patuxent allowed him to go home alone on weekends.

The controversy over his furloughs was compounded because the disclosure coincided with the 1988 presidential campaign's focus on unsupervised furloughs for Willie Horton, a prisoner who attacked a Maryland couple after fleeing Massachusetts, Ms. Whitehead said.

"Robert Angell is essentially a victim of politics," she said. "It became very apparent that Patuxent was going to do whatever they could to remove him. They didn't want people there with three life sentences anymore."

After the furlough controversy, Patuxent ended Angell's leaves, and the General Assembly amended the prison's admission criteria so that any inmate serving three consecutive life terms would be ineligible for Patuxent programs, the lawsuit states.

Patuxent has a unique inmate treatment program involvinpsychological therapy.

The new criteria did not apply retroactively, but the lawsuit claims that Patuxent's director, Joseph Henneberry, and its Board of Review decided to "take all the necessary action" to find Angell ineligible at his next review hearing.

Angell claims he was not given access to evidence against him or permitted to present witnesses at his Jan. 16 hearing before the Board of Review. In addition, Angell maintains that the board denied him the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and that it failed to provide him with a written statement outlining its findings of ineligibility.

Richard Rosenblatt, an assistant attorney general with the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Angell received a fair hearing and was ordered transferred because Patuxent staff determined he had benefited as much as he could from their programs. The Board of Review affirmed the staff's decision, he said.

"He could be a perfect inmate," Mr. Rosenblatt said. "It may just be that he's not ready to be paroled, but he's gotten everything that we have to give him."

Mr. Rosenblatt said all Patuxent inmates are evaluated annuallby staff and then by a Board of Review, which consists of Patuxent's director, three associate directors and five members of the public, including one from a victims' rights organization.

The question of Angell's status at Patuxent first came up iMarch 1990, when state corrections Secretary Bishop L. Robinson informed him that the prison's Board of Review would determine at his next annual review whether he should remain there, according to court records.

When Angell learned that he might be transferred, he tried to commit suicide and was hospitalized for six months. He returned to Patuxent on Oct. 1, 1990, and learned two days later that his hearing was set for Oct. 4. That review hearing and two others were postponed or their decisions revoked because Angell was given insufficient advance notification.

The Court of Special Appeals ruled June 2 that Angell was not entitled to have a lawyer present at the review hearing, but it also ruled that Patuxent had failed to adopt regulations enacted in 1989 concerning eligibility review.

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