2 troopers accused of misconduct during Block probe cleared of charges

June 21, 1995|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Two Maryland State Police undercover drug officers accused of misconduct stemming from a liaison with a dancer in a nude bar during the troubled investigation of The Block have been cleared of all charges by a police trial board, an assistant attorney general said yesterday.

The troopers were acquitted of a combined 15 charges of misconduct by a trial board after a three-day hearing last week in which the dancer -- a key prosecution witness -- failed to appear, said David P. Lunden, an assistant attorney general who presented the case for state police.

"We pursued the case as vigorously as we could and prosecuted the charges as best as were able to," Mr. Lunden said. "Unfortunately, there was insufficient evidence to find them guilty in the opinion of the trial board." Mr. Lunden declined to reveal the names of the troopers, or to specify the charges against them, citing the "confidentiality of personnel matters."

But state police officials had previously identified the officers being investigated as Cpl. Gary F. Manos and Cpl. Gus Economides.

Witnesses claimed that Corporal Manos, who worked on the four-month probe that led to the January 1994 raid, gave a dancer in one of the nude bars under investigation $100 to have sex with Corporal Economides. The dancer said Corporal Economides paid her $150 to have sex with her in a basement room of the club.

A third member of the state police undercover team that investigated The Block who was being investigated for his relationship with the wife of a bar owner quit the force in May 1994. Sgt. Warren Rineker had admitted sharing a motel room with the wife of the owner of the Harem bar.

Efforts to reach Corporal Manos and Corporal Economides through the state police yesterday were unsuccessful.

The troopers' attorney, Jeff Horowitz, was said by a secretary to be out of the office and unavailable for comment.

Mr. Lunden said last week's decision by the trial board -- made up of three state police officers -- meant the end of the misconduct case against the two troopers.

"With regard to these charges, this case is over and done with," he said.

The charges against the two troopers were part of the legacy of the investigation and botched raid of The Block.

State police spent at least $318,604 in tax dollars to launch a four-month investigation and used 500 troopers in the raid. They made 87 drug arrests -- but prosecutors dismissed more than half of those cases because of weak evidence, police misconduct, or both. The supervisor of the operation resigned, and most of the troopers assigned to the case have since been transferred as part of a reorganization of the agency's narcotics bureau.

The trial board hearing involving Corporal Manos and Corporal Economides grew from a months-long state police internal affairs investigation, which concluded in July that enough evidence substantiated claims that the troopers had compromised themselves while investigating drug dealers and prostitutes on The Block.

A similar finding was made against Sergeant Rineker, but charges against him were never brought because he had resigned from the force.

During that investigation, internal affairs officers interviewed Jodi Lyn Waibel, who said she was paid by the troopers to have sex with Corporal Economides when she worked as a dancer at the Harem on Custom House Avenue.

But Mr. Lunden said yesterday that Ms. Waibel -- who he identified only as a "material witness" now living out of state -- decided the week before the hearing not to testify. She could not be compelled to appear because the hearing was an administrative proceeding, he said, although a transcript of her statement to internal affairs detectives was put into evidence.

"We made attempts, the day before the hearing, to get the witness to change her mind. The witness said, 'No, I want to get on with my life,' " Mr. Lunden said.

"The witness was very important to the case," he added.

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