State police sergeant probed for actions in Block investigation resigns

June 04, 1994|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,Sun Staff Writer

Facing an internal probe for his relationship with a woman married to the owner of a Block bar under investigation, state police Sgt. Warren Rineker has quit the force -- three years shy of qualifying for a retirement package.

Sergeant Rineker, 43, an undercover officer in the Block investigation, submitted his resignation last month after 22 years on the force. He forfeited his retirement, offered little explanation for his departure and asked only that the department provide him with health benefits for 90 days.

"He resigned straight out," state police spokesman Michael J. McKelvin said yesterday. "He cut all ties. There is no retirement."

Mr. McKelvin said the internal investigation into Sergeant Rineker's conduct during the drug probe of nude dance clubs on The Block will continue. He said the sergeant, who had shared a hotel room with the wife of the owner of the Harem bar, was not pressured or asked to leave the department.

"He wasn't forced to resign," Mr. McKelvin said. "We will complete the internal affairs investigation, make a decision on his case, and place it in his file."

Sergeant Rineker could not be reached for comment yesterday. His home phone number is not listed, and attempts to contact him through the state police office were unsuccessful.

The resignation surprised police supervisors.

"A letter just showed up on my desk a couple of weeks ago," state police Maj. John Cook said. "That's all I know. He packed up his things. He's gone."

The department declined to release a copy of the resignation letter or to disclose its contents, saying it's part of the sergeant's personnel file and is private.

Harem owner Paul Battaglia said he was satisfied with the way the case turned out. "He got his just deserts. I'm extremely pleased he's no longer with the Maryland State Police."

Sergeant Rineker was one of the lead officers in the state police investigation into drug dealing and prostitution in more than two dozen nude dance clubs along East Baltimore Street in downtown Baltimore.

Sergeant Rineker and at least two other undercover troopers assigned to the probe are under investigation by state police internal affairs officers -- the sergeant for sharing a hotel room with Mr. Battaglia's wife, the others because of claims that they paid a dancer at a Block bar for sex.

On Jan. 14, almost 500 troopers raided The Block, carting off suspects and filing dozens of criminal charges. Since then, prosecutors have dismissed nearly half of the charges. The reasons: Evidence was improperly obtained, cases were weak, and Sergeant Rineker and the troopers under investigation had tainted their credibility as witnesses in the cases.

Sergeant Rineker caught the attention of internal investigators after he spent the night in the Susse Chalet hotel in Rosedale on Feb. 12 with Mahala Battaglia, a bartender at the Harem.

Mr. Battaglia caught the couple, filed an internal affairs complaint against the sergeant and filed for divorce.

In court testimony, the sergeant admitted he stayed at the hotel with Mrs. Battaglia, whom he met during the Block investigation, but swore they never had sex. He asked Mrs. Battaglia to share the room after they attended a comedy show and roads had become impassable from an ice storm, according to his testimony in the divorce case.

State police internal affairs detectives have been trying to determine whether Sergeant Rineker violated department guidelines. If the sergeant had stayed on the force and had been found in violation, he could have been disciplined, demoted or fired.

The state police department has declined to say whether Sergeant Rineker had any disciplinary problems in his past, saying that is part of his personnel record and is private.

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