Discipline panel considers judge's future Even his boss calls Montgomery District jurist 'unstable'

November 30, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

He has been called unstable by his boss, accused of risking the lives of people in his courtroom and of having sex with a prostitute in his chambers.

Montgomery County District Court Judge Henry J. Monahan, 63, is the first Maryland judge to be subjected to a public disciplinary hearing before the Judicial Disabilities Commission.

The judge's friends and supporters have lined the back rows of a second-floor Annapolis courtroom, where today a prostitute is expected to tell the commission of two trysts that could cost the judge his $93,600-a-year job.

"Judge Monahan categorically denies those allegations," said his lawyer, William Rowan II.

Mr. Rowan staged a pre-emptive strike yesterday, focusing on discrepancies in the prostitute's statements about who supplied the condoms, whether the judge had a mole on his groin and what type of furnishings they used in his chambers.

Darlene Shepard told one investigator they used a leather recliner and another investigator that they used a leather love seat.

But Mr. Rowan had the judge's chair brought from Rockville to Annapolis.

"This is the chair the judge has in his chambers," Mr. Rowan said, tapping the back of the judge's red, cloth-covered office chair with a flourish.

Judge Monahan has maintained his innocence with an amiable charm.

But even his most staunch supporter has testified that he feels Judge Monahan is "emotionally unstable."

Judge Robert Sweeney, chief judge of the Maryland District Court, said he stuck up for his colleague even after Judge Monahan was arrested for breaking into a Hagerstown house and assaulting two police officers in 1985.

Judge Monahan was acquitted after his lawyers later argued that his erratic behavior was the result of a stroke.

Seven years later, Judge Monahan raised eyebrows again when he refused to clear his courtroom, despite several warnings by bailiffs who told him there was a fire in the courthouse basement.

John Matthews, a former bailiff in the Montgomery County District Court, told the seven-member commission that Judge Monahan chewed him out on Sept. 25, 1992, the day after he told the judge about the fire.

"He said, 'This is my courtroom. I run it. Do you understand?' " Mr. Matthews testified.

Judge Sweeney told the commission he met with Judge Monahan four months later in Rockville and told the 14-year jurist that he should resign.

The allegations about prostitution surfaced in May 1994 when Mrs. Shepard was caught with a $60,000 stolen check, said Christopher Romano, investigative counsel for the commission.

Mrs. Shepard stole the check from Robert A. Jacques, one of her clients and an assistant county attorney for Montgomery County.

Then she called her brother, a private investigator, for advice on how to cash it, Mr. Romano said.

Her brother, James J. Ortee, testified yesterday that he was worried that his sister, who had prior drug problems, had gotten in over her head.

He discussed the matter with his parents, then called Montgomery County police.

"I wanted to do what was right for her. I thought that she should get the help she needed," Mr. Ortee testified.

Mrs. Shepard was arrested May 25, 1994.

During questioning she told Montgomery County police Cpl. Robert W. Frebertshauser that she had sex with Judge Monahan in his District Court chambers once in January 1994 and again a month later.

Mr. Romano said in a brief statement to the commission yesterday that the meetings came after Victor Crawford, a Montgomery County lawyer and former tobacco lobbyist, gave Judge Monahan Mrs. Shepard's telephone number.

Mr. Crawford publicly renounced his career of lobbying on behalf of the tobacco industry after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Mr. Crawford is too ill to testify, but he acknowledged in a deposition to providing the judge and other associates with Mrs. Shepard's telephone number, Mr. Romano said.

According to the deposition, Mr. Crawford said, "If the judge wants the number of a hustler, that's his business."

Mr. Crawford, who had represented Mrs. Shepard in a criminal case, kept his former client's name on a clipboard in his office to provide it to associates, including Mr. Jacques, Mr. Romano said.

Mr. Jacques has been placed on administrative leave, he said.

Mr. Romano admitted Mrs. Shepard is not an extremely credible witness and said she may be inconsistent in her descriptions of the office and the sexual liaisons.

"I make no apologies for Darlene Shepard. I did not pick her as a witness," he said. "Judge Monahan chose her to be a witness."

Testimony before the panel of four judges, two lawyers and one citizen is expected to wrap up by the end of the week.

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