Controversial trooper is top drug investigator

June 04, 1995|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Defense lawyers have called him a liar, and prosecutors have called him sloppy.

But that's OK with Tfc. Robert Heuisler, one of the original members of the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force.

He has been named the top drug investigator in the Maryland State Police.

"I've heard it all, and you come to expect that in this job," Trooper Heuisler, 37, said of the criticism thrown his way over the years. "If nobody ever hears your name, you're not doing anything."

In naming Trooper Heuisler the Drug Enforcement Division 1994 Trooper of the Year, State Police Superintendent David B. Mitchell called the eight-year veteran an example of the highest level of professionalism. Colonel Mitchell cited Trooper Heuisler's participation in two major undercover drug operations that disrupted three major cocaine and heroin rings in Westminster, and the trooper's assistance in bank robbery and kidnapping cases among the reasons he won the award.

It's the kind of recognition Trooper Heuisler has seen little of in his days with Carroll's task force. But, he said, it makes up for the years of "crap" that he -- and lots of other police officers -- have put up with from critics of their law enforcement methods.

"This recognition means a lot to me," said the Manchester father of three.

Being a drug detective is a dream come true for the self-described "good old boy from Hampden." He was raised by his mother and grandmother and worked in a dairy for 11 years before going to the Maryland State Police Academy.

He has been married to the same woman, who was his high

school sweetheart, for 13 years. He credits her with his success as an officer.

"I enjoy what I do, and I can do it because I have a great family behind me," Trooper Heuisler said. "Drugs are a big problem in society, and I think I am doing my part to get rid of them."

For years, his testimony in criminal trials has been challenged by lawyers, who sometimes called him a liar outright. Among his biggest courtroom nemeses are Westminster defense lawyers Judith Stainbrook and Stephen Bourexis, who have at least twice filed lawsuits against him and the task force, claiming he has not told the truth to judges, prosecutors and their clients.

In one case involving the two lawyers, Trooper Heuisler testified before Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold about the hiring of a confidential informant who was upset when some traffic charges weren't dismissed, as he said the trooper promised him they would be.

After listening to a prosecutor, the informant and Trooper Heuisler, Judge Arnold threw his hands into the air and looked at the trooper.

"There are two things that are hot buttons for me," the judge said. "One is when obvious perjury is flying around the courtroom, and another is when inferences are made that the trial and judge are fixed."

Earlier this year, Carroll State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes publicly criticized Trooper Heuisler's involvement in what was touted as the county's biggest seizure of LSD.

Mr. Barnes and the task force publicized the bust, saying they had nailed a Westminster High School senior who they claimed was a big supplier of the drug in Westminster. But several weeks later, a Maryland State Police Crime Lab report confirmed that the 800 supposed LSD "hits" they confiscated were phony.

"I specifically tried to avoid this kind of situation when I asked them to test every bit of drugs they find," Mr. Barnes said at the time. "In this case, even after I specifically asked them to, they did not."

Trooper Heuisler was the lead investigator in the case.

But for every criticism, Trooper Heuisler can point to investigative successes, say his bosses and even Mr. Barnes.

The trooper's work in Operation Center Court -- in which two dozen drug dealers were arrested and charged -- helped cement the second-longest drug sentence in county history when Andre Darnell Webb of Randallstown was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

"Trooper Heuisler's an asset," Mr. Barnes said after that sentence was imposed.

The trooper also played a major role in the 45-year sentence imposed on Noland Maurice Rheubottom, Carroll's only thrice-convicted cocaine dealer.

"He gives his all for the task force," said Detective Sgt. Gary W. Coflin, the new leader of the drug group. "He seems to thrive on work."

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