UPPER MARLBORO -- Ten days before the University of Maryland football team begins practice, the state's attorney's office has decided not to continue with assault charges against linebacker Eric Barton.
The decision, approved during a preliminary hearing yesterday morning by Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge C. Phillip Nichols Jr., was made pending further evidence.
Barton, 21, was scheduled to stand trial Tuesday of next week on one charge of felony assault, two charges of misdemeanor assault and two charges of reckless endangerment following a May 1 incident on the university's campus in College Park.
Louis Ezrick and Christopher Giordano, both 19, both of Brooklyn, N.Y., accused Barton of attacking them at McKeldin Mall during a concert.
Barton was indicted by a grand jury later that month, and the state's attorney's office -- led by Stephen O. Russell -- later opened a supplementary investigation of the case after Barton's counsel raised concerns about the omission of exculpatory evidence on the part of the university's campus police.
Though the state's attorney's office wouldn't comment specifically on the claims, spokeswoman Paula Burr said, "Information was given to us and we concluded that there were some missing pieces. On review of a subsequent investigation, we will make a decision on how to pursue that part of it at the time."
While both Ezrick and Barton complained about the conduct of the campus police in the matter, a campus police spokesman said the office did everything it needed to do.
"[The evidence] is not necessarily the issue, this doesn't mean anything about a lack of evidence," Steven Kowa said, citing the grand jury's indictment of Barton. "There apparently was evidence, but there were other things that we're going to look into."
Barton, who led the Terrapins in tackles last season, will be able to join the team when fall practice begins Aug. 15.
Under the university's conduct code, Barton, 21, would have been subject to possible suspension from playing privileges if he had been convicted of the charges, which carried a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Though he declined an interview request following the hearing, his lawyer, Hassan El-Amin, painted the picture of a relieved Barton.
"There's been tremendous pressure on him, and on his family," El-Amin said. "It can happen to anyone, but it's a tremendous relief, not only for Eric, but also for his family and his colleagues."
Pub Date: 8/06/98