2nd probe hits official in Aberdeen Police chief allegedly stole evidence, put clerk on crime case

September 19, 1993|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Staff Writer

Maryland's state prosecutor is investigating allegations that Aberdeen Police Chief John R. Jolley took for his personal use a pornographic videotape seized as evidence and that he assigned his secretary to help investigate a criminal case.

State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli said his office is investigating the alleged theft of the videotape and Chief Jolley's assignment of his secretary to work on a missing person case. The body of the man reported missing turned up in Michigan. He had been slain.

The investigation is the second such probe of the chief this year. Aberdeen Mayor Ruth Elliott, who unsuccessfully sought to fire Chief Jolley after the earlier investigation, said the new probe raises more questions about his performance.

"My biggest concern is that we had a clerk investigate a missing persons case that ended up in a murder," said Mayor Elliott, who said she asked for the new investigation.

In July, the state prosecutor found that Chief Jolley had misappropriated public money and illegally voided dozens of parking and traffic tickets.

Though no criminal charges were filed, the findings prompted calls for the chief's resignation and a vote of no confidence from the union representing Aberdeen's police officers.

Mr. Montanarelli confirmed that his agency began an inquiry into the new allegations several weeks ago.

Chief Jolley declined to comment on the latest investigation.

Several sources familiar with the investigation, including attorney H. Edward Andrews III, said investigators from Mr. Montanarelli's office have questioned at least three people, including the secretary, Vickie Horne.

Mr. Andrews, who declined to discuss the investigation in detail, represents Ms. Horne.

Sources said the latest investigation centers on the handling of a report in December that Aberdeen resident Andrew Seth Cowin, 42, was missing and that foul play was suspected.

According to many sources, Chief Jolley assigned his secretary and a rookie officer to look into the missing person report.

Ms. Horne and the officer, though they did not have a search warrant, were directed by Chief Jolley to use a local locksmith to break into Mr. Cowin's home in the 100 block of Hawkins Drive, sources said. They took nine videotapes from the home in hopes of finding clues to Mr. Cowin's whereabouts, sources said.

In January, Mr. Cowin's body was found buried in an isolated area of rural Gratiot County, Mich. Mr. Cowin, who also maintained a residence in Montgomery County, was believed to have been killed in his Kensington home, Montgomery County police said.

By March, the tapes, described as "homemade" pornographic videos, were still in Ms. Horne's desk and had not yet been logged into the department's evidence room, according to sources.

They also said Ms. Horne told state investigators that Chief Jolley had asked her for one of the tapes for his personal use. She told investigators that she gave it to him, the sources said.

Mr. Andrews, who also represents Aberdeen's police union, said he was disturbed by the assignment of Ms. Horne to handle the missing person report. "She has no law enforcement experience whatsoever," he said.

At one point, several sources said, police from Michigan called the Aberdeen police and asked to speak to "Investigator Horne."

The earlier investigation of Chief Jolley, also requested by Mrs. .. Elliott, sparked a feud between the mayor and the four other members of the City Council, who thwarted her attempt to fire the chief. Before a story appeared in The Sun in July detailing the findings of Mr. Montanarelli's earlier investigation, Council President Ronald Kupferman said the chief had been "exonerated."

In late July, a week after the city council rejected Mayor Elliott's bid to oust the chief, City Administrator Peter Dacey suspended the chief for five days, made him forfeit 10 days' pay and denied his next scheduled pay raise.

Mayor Elliott and the police union called the punishment light.

Chief Jolley, who has headed the 35-officer department for four years, is paid $48,804.

In the earlier probe, Mr. Montanarelli said investigators could not "prove with certainty" that Chief Jolley benefited personally from mismanagement of a discretionary fund under his control or from the voiding of tickets. The prosecutor did, however, find that Chief Jolley engaged in official misconduct.

Mr. Montanarelli's 21-page report said Chief Jolley, in addition to voiding tickets in violation of state law, wrote three checks, totaling $150, against the department's discretionary fund to pay bills for his personal credit card. Nearly $2,500 known to have been deposited in the discretionary fund could not be accounted for.

Mr. Montanarelli's report also said many checks for cash had been written against the discretionary fund. Those included one to pay $100 for tickets to a political fund-raiser for Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly and three checks totaling $200 for the chief's participation in golf tournaments.

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