Officer accused of magazine theft won't be retried

April 08, 1997|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

The National Institutes of Health police officer accused by the federal government of stealing a People magazine from the facility's library will not stand trial a second time.

A U.S. District Court jury in Baltimore last week was unable to decide unanimously if Sgt. Bruce Blum was guilty of the misdemeanor theft charge, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial. It was up to the prosecution to decide if it would retry Blum.

U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia yesterday filed a motion to dismiss the case "on the ground that proceeding this time would not be in the interest of justice."

"That is one of the greatest understatements I've ever heard in my 30 years of practicing law," said Blum's lawyer, Henry L. Belsky.

The jury heard two days of testimony from nine witnesses, including an FBI fingerprint expert, and deliberated for six hours.

The evidence the prosecution was banking on -- a surveillance video -- was out of focus, off-kilter and in reverse angle.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hollis Weisman told the jury that the tape showed Blum was the only person in the library from the time it was locked by the librarian at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 until she opened it at 11 a.m. the next day. The tape, she said, shows Blum stuffing People inside his clothes.

But Blum, 45, a nine-year veteran of NIH, testified that he entered the library as part of his rounds after he noticed that a piece of paper was taped over the door's window and the lights were on. He said he checked what he considered an unusual situation and left.

Although Blum apparently will not be prosecuted on criminal charges, he remains on paid leave pending the outcome of an administrative hearing at NIH that could lead to his dismissal.

Pub Date: 4/08/97

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