Carroll, Howard trials for Staubitz delayed

May 11, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Former state health official John Martin Staubitz Jr. -- convicted last month in a Baltimore County housebreaking spree -- will not go to trial on similar charges in Carroll and Howard counties until at least November, according to prosecutors and his new defense lawyer.

Staubitz's Carroll County case -- which involves more than 30 charges stemming from four burglaries last summer -- was to begin yesterday in Carroll Circuit Court. He also was to face charges in three break-ins in Howard County next week.

Richard M. Karceski, the Towson lawyer now representing Staubitz, said those cases likely won't be heard before November. Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman confirmed the delays yesterday.

The delays of nearly six months were prompted by Staubitz's change of defense attorneys late last month. Days after a Baltimore County Circuit jury convicted the former deputy health secretary on five charges each of grand theft and daytime house-breaking, Staubitz, 45, of Catonsville fired Westminster defense lawyer Frank D. Coleman and hired Mr. Karceski.

While neither Mr. Coleman nor Mr. Karceski would comment yesterday on Staubitz's change in lawyers, a new-trial motion filed late last month in Baltimore County Circuit Court blames Staubitz's conviction on tactical blunders by Mr. Coleman.

The motion, filed by Mr. Karceski, said that Mr. Coleman never asked for separate trials for each of the five break-ins, and that he failed to withdraw from the case when Staubitz's co-defendant reneged on a verbal deal to testify for the defense.

Mr. Coleman was present at a meeting between Staubitz and Robert Ernest Emmons Jr. in October in which Emmons agreed to "do whatever was necessary to exonerate Mr. Staubitz," the new-trial motion said.

Emmons, 29, of Baltimore testified for the prosecution at Staubitz's jury trial. He said that the series of thefts was Staubitz's idea, "because he needed some excitement" after he was released from state prison after serving part of a 10-month sentence for skimming money from the State Games amateur athletics program.

"At that time, Mr. Coleman knew or should have known that he was a potential witness in Mr. Staubitz's case," Mr. Karceski contended in the motion. "It was his obligation to withdraw as Mr. Staubitz's attorney so as to make himself available to testify. He failed to do so."

Emmons, a longtime thief who had befriended Staubitz in prison, pleaded guilty to two of the Baltimore County break-ins in January and got a 20-year prison sentence. He pleaded guilty to three of the break-ins in Carroll and Howard counties in March, and is expected to receive a 25-year term for those burglaries.

The two were arrested in September and charged with the suburban burglaries. Police said that more than $100,000 in guns, silver, cash and electronics was taken from a dozen homes in the three counties.

Staubitz's new-trial motion also said that Baltimore County Circuit Judge J. William Hinkel should have dismissed a juror who asked to approach the bench so she could congratulate the prosecution on its case -- before the trial had ended.

Judge Hinkel will hear prosecution and defense arguments on the new-trial motion before Staubitz is sentenced June 14.

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