Deputy suspended after crash

October 01, 1994|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writer

A Baltimore sheriff's deputy charged with drunkenly crashing his unmarked cruiser into a car and truck parked on a Southeast Baltimore street will be suspended for three weeks, Sheriff John W. Anderson said yesterday.

The disciplinary action against Deputy John Anthony Rutkowski Jr., an 18-year veteran described as a key member of the department's fugitive squad, came four days after criminal charges of driving while intoxicated and illegal possession of prescription drugs were placed on the inactive docket.

For Deputy Rutkowski, it was the second time he had been charged with driving a department vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. In 1979, he was placed on probation after being charged with driving then-Sheriff George W. Freeberger's car while impaired.

The current case was set aside because witnesses did not show up for the trial Monday in Baltimore District Court, said Stuart O. Simms, city state's attorney. The arresting officer arrived late, he said.

Cases placed on the inactive docket often are effectively dismissed, but under some circumstances prosecutors can return them to the criminal docket. Mr. Simms said the case may be reopened.

The suspension came after an internal Sheriff's Department review of the circumstances of the deputy's arrest Aug. 13. Deputy Rutkowski, 40, of the 1200 block of Cooksie St. was found in the 6600 block of O'Donnell St. sitting in a 1993 Ford car with fresh damage to its front end, court records show. Two vehicles parked on the street also had been damaged.

The deputy, who had a "very strong" odor of alcohol on his breath, told the officer he had been drinking beer, and he failed three roadside sobriety tests before being arrested on drunken driving charges, according to the charging document in court files.

Deputy Rutkowski said in an brief interview last month that he had been looking for a fugitive, "chasing him all over the place," including to "a couple of different bars."

The drug charge stemmed from pills found in a black bag in the car's trunk. They were suspected to be oxycodone, a narcotic analgesic contained in Percodan and other brands of prescription medicine, court documents show.

After his arrest, Deputy Rutkowski was placed on administrative duty and his police powers were stripped.

The sheriff said the deputy will be moved to a unit serving civil papers, will be ordered to pay for the damaged vehicles and will be indefinitely barred from driving a city car. Deputy Rutkowski's license is suspended for one year because he refused to submit to a Breathalyzer test, according to motor vehicle records.

Sheriff Anderson said he was not aware of Deputy Rutkowski's 1979 probation until told by a reporter yesterday. "I'm not happy to learn at this point this was his second one," said the sheriff.

"He was a guy you could count on to go out there each and every day and put his life on the line and never gripe. No job was too dirty," Sheriff Anderson said. "He did a thousand things right and did one thing wrong. . . . Do I take away his livelihood?"

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