Pawnbroker also battered his first wife '77 case not disclosed when he asked judge to erase 1995 assault

He wanted to join golf club

Prosecutor promises to bring information to 2nd judge in case

March 02, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore pawnbroker -- who claimed he had no criminal record when he asked a Baltimore County judge to wipe out his 1995 wife-beating conviction -- beat his previous wife 20 years ago, court records show.

The earlier conviction surprised lawyers for Charles H. Weiner, the prosecutor in the recent case and women's groups that protested the January decision of Baltimore County Circuit Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. to wipe out Weiner's latest conviction.

"It shocks me," said Weiner's lawyer, Steven R. Freeman, when told last week that Weiner received probation before judgment for beating his first wife. "This is a curve ball, in the sense I never heard of it before."

Weiner has been the focus of controversy since his lawyer argued in court that he needed a clean record to, among other things, join a country club.

Bollinger's sentence of probation before judgment in the recent case sparked days of protest by women's groups and state legislators, leading Bollinger to reinstate the conviction and disqualify himself from hearing rape or domestic-violence cases.

Weiner's renewed request in the 1995 case for probation before judgment, allowing him to petition to have the conviction expunged later after finishing probation, will be reconsidered by another judge.

During Weiner's hearing Jan. 31, his lawyer told the judge, "Mr. Weiner had lived 49 years of life and never had a blemish on his record. Never had any problems."

Freeman also said, "The stigma of a criminal record for him is somewhat different than the stigma of a criminal record for somebody who has violated the law before."

But a recent review of District Court records by The Sun shows Weiner was convicted in October 1977 of the assault and battery of Janet Weiner, then his wife.

He was sentenced to 18 months of unsupervised probation and ordered to "stay away from wife," court records show. The probation-before-judgment sentence allowed Weiner to ask the court to expunge his record, but because it still exists in court files it is unclear whether he did so.

Details of the beating, however, were unavailable because the court routinely throws away charging documents after several years.

Weiner did not return a reporter's telephone calls last week. A man who answered the phone yesterday at his pawnshop said Weiner was "unreachable."

James O'C. Gentry Jr., the prosecutor in the recent case, said he was unaware of the 1977 case because the court computer system used to check criminal records dates only to the early 1980s.

"There's no record in the computer for the defendant. And the information available to me from the Division of Parole and Probation was that he had no record," Gentry said.

Finding records of convictions before the early 1980s requires knowledge of the date a crime occurred.

Gentry said he will bring up Weiner's prior conviction at the hearing, which has not been scheduled, to reconsider Weiner's recent conviction for the 1994 beating of Robin Weiner, his estranged wife then. They now are divorced.

"It's a record of a prior assault and battery. Even though it's a [probation before judgment], it's still an indication the incident occurred and shows it's not the first time he's abused his wife. There is no question I will raise this at the hearing," Gentry said.

Bollinger did not return a reporter's call Friday.

Weiner's first wife, whose name is now Janet Huber, declined to discuss details of the 1977 assault case, saying, "It was a domestic abuse, but I was not a [repeatedly] battered wife. It was a one-time incident, and I left the marital home the next day, and we divorced."

Referring to the attack on Weiner's second wife, she said: "Unfortunately, it happened again."

Carole Alexander, executive director of the House of Ruth, a shelter for battered women, said, "This situation involving Mr. Weiner's first wife demonstrates the need for more aggressive justice-system response to domestic-violence cases.

"The majority of domestic-violence cases are prosecuted as misdemeanors in spite of the fact that considerable violence has occurred. And yet, there's a very high rate of repeat offenses," she said.

When Weiner was convicted in the 1995 case, he was sentenced to 90 days of work release, fined $500 and ordered to complete a domestic violence counseling program.

At his sentencing in September 1995, references were made to Weiner having hit a previous wife, but no mention was made of a trial or conviction.

"As far as any allegation about my ex-wife," Weiner said, according to a transcript of the case, "it is something that happened and years ago, she came at me absolutely drunk, absolutely drunk with her fists going all directions, yelling, screaming at me. I hit her. I'm sorry for that."

Huber said Friday she disagreed with her former husband's account.

"I was not drunk," she said, "and I was not hitting him."

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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