Frederick Co. deputies accused of brutality against two motorists Sheriff's office defends behavior, but drivers may take legal action

June 27, 1998|By John Murphy and Brenda J. Buote | John Murphy and Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The Frederick County Sheriff's Office is defending itself against allegations that deputies used excessive force on a Washington school teacher and a diabetic Virginia man during separate traffic stops this month.

Maj. Francis Tully said deputies acted appropriately when they arrested Ester M. Pena and Frederick T. Moore IV.

"We stopped people. We arrested them and we brought them to jail. That's our job," Tully said this week.

But lawyers for both drivers say the deputies' behavior was BTC uncalled for and their clients are considering legal action.

Both incidents took place June 12.

About 12: 30 p.m., Pena, 58, and a friend were traveling north on Route 15 to a Catholic women's retreat at Mount St. Mary's College. Pena was driving about 38 mph in a 55-mph zone, trying to make a left-hand turn.

When a deputy's car appeared in the rearview mirror with its siren on, Pena thought it was an ambulance, said Laura Kelsey Rhodes, Pena's attorney.

But after being pursued by deputies for 3 1/2 miles, Pena stopped her blue 1976 Dodge in the middle of the left-hand lane.

Rhodes said deputies pulled Pena out of the car by her arm, handcuffed her and pushed her into the patrol car.

"She had no idea what was going on," Rhodes said. She was not told why she had been pulled over until she was almost at the sheriff's office, Rhodes said.

Pena was charged with fleeing and eluding police and impeding traffic. The maximum penalty is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

Tully defended the deputies, saying that Pena was driving too slow, causing a backup. He downplayed allegations that the deputies were abusive.

"There is no gentle way to handcuff someone," he said, adding that Pena never made a complaint to the department.

Rhodes said Pena suffered a bruised arm and remains traumatized by the incident.

"I think there is a problem of excess. What happened to, 'Can I see your license and registration, ma'am?' " she asked.

About midnight the same day, Moore, 33, of Centreville, Va., was on northbound Route 15 when a retired police officer saw him driving recklessly and called 911. State police and Frederick County sheriff's deputies responded.

Moore crossed onto eastbound U.S. 340, near Interstate 70, and began traveling in the wrong direction, police said.

Deputy 1st Class Rick Winer forced Moore's pickup truck onto a grassy area and into a guardrail by the entrance ramp to the interstate.

Winer repeatedly instructed Moore to turn off the engine and exit the vehicle, Tully said. Instead, Moore growled from between clenched teeth and grabbed at the gear shift, he said.

Winer used pepper spray, his nightstick and a police dog against Moore, Tully said.

Moore, a credit union department manager, was struck at least 10 times in the upper body and suffered dog bites on his arms and right thigh, according to his attorney, Peter J. Davis.

After deputies got Moore out of the pickup, a state trooper noticed a medic alert tag hanging from the rearview mirror, police said.

Moore, who has had diabetes since he was 6, was transported to Frederick Memorial Hospital.

Deputies were told by an emergency room physician that Moore had a dangerously low blood-sugar level. But after speaking with their supervisor and an assistant state's attorney, they charged Moore with fleeing and eluding police, reckless and negligent driving, disobeying a lawful order of a police officer and failure to drive in the designated direction of a highway.

The charges were dropped after State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle reviewed Moore's medical records.

Davis said his client may file a claim against the sheriff's office.

Pub Date: 6/27/98

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