Victim's widow favors letting guards keep jobs 2 face dismissal over Carter escape

May 21, 1993|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

Aldona Pilius, whose husband was beaten to death by Dontay Carter, told an administrative law judge yesterday that the two correctional officers facing dismissal for their roles in the convicted murderer's escape should get to keep their jobs.

Asked whether she was sleeping better knowing that the officers from whom her husband's killer escaped are suspended without pay, Mrs. Pilius said, "No. I feel bad about it."

When Jack B. Rubin, lawyer for Officer Frank Beales, asked, "Do you think they should be reinstated?" Mrs. Pilius said Officers Beales and Irvin Curtis should be returned to duty.

Mrs. Pilius' testimony came on the fourth day of a hearing to decide the fate of the officers. Also yesterday, the first of at least three Baltimore Circuit Court judges who are to appear as character witnesses for the guards testified, and lawyers for the officers accused an assistant state attorney general of attempting to intimidate a witness.

Like other witnesses before her, Mrs. Pilius testified that Baltimore Circuit Judge John N. Prevas, who presided over Carter's trials, is prone to angry outbursts when the flow of business in his courtroom is delayed.

Lawyers for the officers are attempting to show that Judge Prevas should share in the blame for the escape through the bathroom window in his chambers because he allowed Carter to use that bathroom as a time-saving measure and because his intimidating personality made questioning that decision an impractical option for the guards.

"Would you equate his behavior with childish temper tantrums?" Mr. Rubin asked Mrs. Pilius.

"I had the feeling that a lot of times the judge was quick to blame people, which I thought was a childish thing," said Mrs. Pilius, who was present nearly every day of Carter's monthlong murder trial.

At times during the hearing, Joan L. Bossman, an assistant attorney general representing the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, objected to testimony regarding Judge Prevas' judicial demeanor as irrelevant.

She has argued that the officers' failure to follow security procedures is the issue at hand and has noted that department policy prescribes dismissal as the punishment for security breaches that lead to an escape.

Testifying Tuesday, Judge Prevas denied any responsibility for the escape, even when challenged by lawyer Leslie A. Stein, representing Officer Curtis, to "be a man" and accept some of the blame.

During his testimony, Judge Prevas also was asked whether he knew of a witness in the case being told ominously that the judge's "people" would be reviewing testimony in the hearing. The judge said he knew nothing of that matter, adding, "I don't operate that way."

That issue arose again yesterday, when Mr. Rubin and Mr. Stein unsuccessfully attempted to call Ms. Bossman to the witness stand. The lawyers accused her of passing on that message in an attempt to intimidate Martin J. Clarke, a city prosecutor who testified yesterday on behalf of the guards.

Mr. Clarke testified that Ms. Bossman called him, asked whether he would be appearing before the judge in the future and added, "Well then, you should probably know I've been contacted by Judge Prevas' people and they've requested transcripts of testimony in the hearing involving the dismissal of the jail guards."

Mr. Clarke said he did not interpret the alleged statement as a threat, adding that he responded by saying, "I do not understand" and "Who are these 'people'?"

Mr. Clarke had been called to the stand to testify that in February 1992, Judge Prevas refused to immediately excuse him from court even after Mr. Clarke said his wife had gone into labor. In a similar vein, another prosecutor, Gary Schenker, testified that the judge refused earlier this year to allow a break in a trial for him to call and check on his mother, who was being rushed to the hospital with a heart ailment.

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