A former Anne Arundel County police officer who admitted threatening his wife with his service revolver last year, had his sentence reduced yesterday to probation before judgment, effectively erasing the conviction from his record.
The ruling by Circuit Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth opens the door for Eric Steen, 41, of the 7500 block of Fort Smallwood Road, to resume a career in law enforcement.
It does not expunge his record, but allows him to say that he was never convicted of the crime. A federal statute banning people convicted in domestic assault cases from carrying a handgun exempts people who have received probation before judgment, according to Assistant State's Attorney Anne C. Leitess.
Steen was convicted of second-degree assault, a misdemeanor, in May as part of a plea agreement in which he did not admit guilt, but conceded that the prosecution had enough evidence to convict him. He also resigned from the county police department after a 21-year career.
Steen was sentenced to six months' probation in July.
Leitess, who opposed the change in sentencing, argued that Steen should not be allowed to carry a gun again and be sworn to protect the public.
"Part of the whole plea agreement in this case was to ensure that he not carry a gun," she said. "This kind of undermines the state's goal in this case."
Steen kicked in the door of the home of his estranged wife, Marie Steen, in December 1996, grabbed her by the throat and put his 9-mm Beretta to her chin in front of their 13-year-old son. He was angry about the money she intended to spend on a divorce lawyer, Leitess said. The couple had been separated for 18 months at the time.
Eric Steen left the house but refused to turn over his service revolver to police investigators.
The couple have divorced, according to Eric Steen's lawyer, Leo P. Hylan. Marie Steen has custody of their son. Eric Steen has custody of their 17-year-old daughter.
Hylan did not know if Eric Steen planned to re-enter police work. He would have to apply to the Maryland Police Training Commission for certification in law enforcement.
"The issue would be there, and he would have to confront it," Hylan said of the assault case.
The December outburst was an isolated incident, according to Hylan. He said his client has completed anger-management counseling since his conviction and is working as an apprentice electrician.
Pub Date: 2/24/98