Inmates irate at sergeant's release end food strike BALTIMORE COUNTY

January 28, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

A group of inmates at the Baltimore County Detention Center said they would end a brief hunger strike last night after two of them met with reporters to express the group's outrage that a police officer charged with murder won his freedom on reduced bail while some of them remain imprisoned on lesser charges.

"We aren't even charged with murder," said 61-year-old Balogun Olugbala, a city custodian being held without bail on charges of assault and attempted murder.

Sgt. James A. Kulbicki, 36, a Baltimore officer charged with murdering a former girlfriend, had his $750,000 bail reduced to $50,000 after a Circuit Court hearing Tuesday. After posting the bail, the sergeant told reporters he planned to take his 8-year-old son to McDonald's.

Mr. Olugbala and the second inmates' representative, Eddie Goff, 29, of Baltimore, said they have children, too, and would like to be able to take them somewhere.

The release of the officer in a county where defendants in murder and other serious cases are frequently held with no bail or very high bail, provoked cries of favoritism from the men in Pod 4E -- an area where defendants considered the most dangerous are held.

"We are not eating because of the injustice of the judiciary system," Mr. Olugbala said. "We want at least as much justice as the police officer was shown."

Mr. Goff, who had finished a five-year sentence on a 1981 robbery conviction, was charged Dec. 16 with a burglary. He said that police told him he was a suspect in other crimes, but he hadn't been charged with anything else and is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.

"I understand that I have a past record, and they judge you by your past much more out here in Baltimore County than in the city," Mr. Goff said. "But it's outrageous, the prices [bail] they put on you out here."

The men in Pod 4E are awaiting either trial or sentencing. Among them are defendants in some of the most sensational recent homicides.

Of the 29 housed there, 28 refused dinner Tuesday night, while 27 refused breakfast and 25 refused lunch yesterday, said James M. Dean, the jail administrator. After Mr. Dean and Sheriff Norman M. Pepersack Jr. agreed to let the inmates talk to reporters, the inmates said they would end their hunger strike.

The inmates said they were also upset by published reports of threats against Sergeant Kulbicki while he was in jail.

Mr. Dean and Sheriff Pepersack said Sergeant Kulbicki had not complained of threats or harassment. The sergeant was held in a cell on the floor below Pod 4E, in protective custody, with the door to his cell in the direct line of sight of the guard's booth. The guard on duty yesterday said she had not observed any incidents.

Still, the sheriff said, "We gave him special visiting, when no one else was around, because we didn't want anything to occur given his type of work. . . . Criminals have a grave dislike for a police officer that goes bad, allegedly."

Under Maryland law, bail is supposed to be based upon several factors -- including the severity of the offense, the strength of the state's case, public safety, the defendant's prior record and possible punishment. But it focuses on the likelihood

that the defendant will appear for trial, based on his ties to his family, his job and length of residence in the community.

"The inmates are saying there's a double standard, but the inmates' background is probably different than the officer's," observed Deputy State's Attorney Howard B. Merker.

But a public defender, who would not talk on the record for fear of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's gag order on state employees, said, "None of my clients would be treated like this."

"We really have never seen a defendant treated like this police officer. Nobody, nobody gets treated like this in Baltimore County," the defender said.

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