A county circuit judge dealt a severe blow to the criminal case against jail officer Thomas V. Kimball yesterday, prohibiting prosecutors from using the testimony of a former inmate who said he was handcuffed and beaten by Kimball at the Howard County Detention Center in February 1996.
Circuit Judge James B. Dudley ruled that Michael Saukas, relinquished his right to press criminal charges against Kimball by signing an agreement not to pursue litigation for injuries he may have sustained during a struggle between the two.
"Under the circumstances, the court finds that there was a mutual intent from all the parties to solve this matter without going to trial, and it would be inappropriate to allow Mr. Saukas to testify," Dudley said.
"Because of that, the court will preclude Mr. Saukas from testifying on the events of Feb. 24, 1996."
The decision was welcomed by attorneys representing Kimball, a veteran corrections officer who was acquitted in May of beating another handcuffed prisoner.
Kimball's attorney, Richard O'Connor, said the ruling should bring an end to the prosecution.
"It looks like a fatal blow," O'Connor said. "The way things stand now, I would suspect that they will have difficulty bringing a case against Captain Kimball."
Saukas was not present at yesterday's hearing. Christine Gage, an assistant state's attorney, declined comment, adding that the case is scheduled to proceed July 28.
On another issue, Dudley also refused to recuse himself from the case because of his previous contact with Saukas.
Dudley gave Saukas a three-year suspended sentence in June 1993 for hitting a police officer. Dudley then brought Saukas to court twice more when Saukas was found guilty of violating the terms of his probation after testing positive for marijuana, failing to enter required drug treatment and refusing to see his probation officer.
Dudley sent a letter to Saukas in August after Saukas battled with his probation officer over the length of his probation, court records show.
"If Mr. Saukas were to testify today on the events that occurred on Feb.24, 1996, I would weigh his testimony as I would weigh anybody else's," Dudley said.
Last June, Kimball took Saukas to court on charges that he had been assaulted by Saukas in a struggle between the two at the jail.
After consulting with Kimball, prosecutors, jail administrators and county officials agreed to drop charges against Saukas if he signed an agreement not to sue for injuries he might have sustained.
But the same day, he filed an assault complaint against Kimball, alleging that Kimball beat him while he was handcuffed, leaving bloody cuts on his wrists and breaking his glasses.
Though the agreement did not prohibit Saukas from filing criminal charges, Dudley said it was obvious that all parties involved had signed the agreement to prevent trial -- civil or criminal -- from proceeding.
Pub Date: 7/08/97