A Baltimore man police say is a suspect in the slaying of 15-year-old Tara Allison Gladden of Columbia was cleared yesterday of sex abuse charges for his alleged relationship with the girl.
County prosecutors say they dropped the charges against Curtis Aden Jamison of Baltimore because they can't pursue the case without court testimony from Tara, whose body was found in a culvert near her home last summer.
Mr. Jamison, 28, appeared before Judge Lenore Gelfman in Howard District Court, where prosecutors dropped charges of battery, perverted sexual practices, three sexual offenses and making falsements to police.
"You are not held responsible for these charges," Judge Gelfman told Mr. Jamison before he was escorted from the courtroom. Mr. Jamison, clad in a black hooded sweat shirt, turned and waved to several relatives before leaving with a sheriff's deputy.
Prosecutors said in September that they expected to drop the charges because they didn't have much of a case without the girl's testimony. The prosecution could refile the charges at a later date if new evidence is found.
"Because of the death of the witness, we were forced to drop the case," Deputy State's Attorney Dwight Thompson said. "The only proof we had was her."
Attorney David Harvis, a Gladden family friend and spokesman, said Tara's relatives were prepared for the prosecution's decision. Prosecutors have kept them informed about the progress of the case.
"It came as no surprise," Mr. Harvis said. "But we're not worried about [Mr. Jamison] going anywhere right now."
Sgt. Pete D'Antuono, head of Howard Police Department's Crime Against Persons Unit, said detectives are proceeding with their investigation into Tara's slaying.
"It doesn't affect the case at all," Sergeant D'Antuono said. "We're still moving forward with the investigation, but we've got a lot of work to do."
George Tindal, a Baltimore attorney representing Mr. Jamison, said the prosecution's decision to drop the charges was not a surprise.
"The state chose not to prosecute," Mr. Tindal said. "They could not have done so anyway. They had no choice. . . . Justice has run its course."
Relatives of Mr. Jamison who appeared at yesterday's hearing declined to comment.
Mr. Tindal and Mr. Thompson said they do not believe the outcome in the Gladden case has any effect on the prosecution of Mr. Jamison for his alleged crimes against two other girls.
Mr. Jamison, of the 3300 block of Oakfield Ave., is being held in lieu of $1.25 million bond at the County Detention Center for his relationships with a 12-year-old Columbia girl and a 13-year-old Baltimore girl.
He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the charges, which include sexual offenses, second-degree rape and contributing to the delinquency of minors. These cases have not been scheduled for trials.
Mr. Jamison also is to stand trial in February for allegedly entering Tara's Vantage Point Road home and assaulting one of her male friends, brandishing a handgun and slapping Tara last May.
According to court records, Mr. Jamison's relations with under-aged girls spanned about three years in which he took them to motels or met them at their homes or in a Columbia park.
State medical examiners ruled that Tara was murdered, probably by suffocation or strangulation, about the time she was reported missing from her home in the 5600 block of Vantage Point Road on July 22.
Her partially decomposed body was found in a culvert under Little Patuxent Parkway near the Columbia Mall on Aug. 17. Mr. Jamison, the only murder suspect named by police, has been questioned -- but not charged -- in the girl's death.