Widow wants court to overturn deal sparing accomplice in trooper's death

October 10, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Six years after a New York man was sent to prison for murdering a Maryland state trooper, the victim's widow and law enforcement agencies are fighting a once-secret plea bargain they say will let his killer's accomplice off the hook.

Today, a Howard County circuit judge will hear arguments that some hope will lead to the voiding of that plea agreement and send Francisco Rodriguez, 27, to prison for the rest of his life.

Rodriguez, who admitted participating in the 1990 murder of state police Cpl. Theodore Wolf, could be released from federal prison in 2003, prosecutors say, after finishing a sentence on an unrelated drug conviction.

Ginni Wolf, the victim's widow, said that because of the plea bargain negotiated by Howard County prosecutors, Rodriguez will not spend a single day in prison for her husband's murder.

The plea agreement, which had been secret until August, trades Rodriguez's cooperation with prosecutors against his partner for a prison sentence of no longer than 15 years, time that Rodriguez had to spend in prison because of another case.

The Howard County state's attorney's office is asking the court today to appoint a special prosecutor to determine whether the agreement should be nullified on grounds that Rodriguez lied during a police interview.

Five years ago, when Rodriguez pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. But terms of the agreement -- those allowing him to be released after serving his drug sentence if he agreed to testify against his partner in any possible retrials or appeals -- were sealed.

His partner, Eric Tirado, also of New York, was convicted of first-degree murder in July 1991. Tirado shot Wolf twice in the face when he stopped the pair. Tirado was sentenced to life without parole.

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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