Spicer files complaints with panel against his attorney, prosecutors

Convict serving 30-year sentence for Annapolis beating

September 01, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An angry Brady G. Spicer, who maintains he is innocent of the vicious attack on a Annapolis bar manager that put him behind bars, is now seeking state penalties against Anne Arundel County prosecutors and his attorney, claiming they all should be punished for unprofessional work.

"The problem started with James Salkin and his failure to do the proper investigation and with the state's attorney's office," Spicer said yesterday at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center.

Spicer, 42, is serving a 30-year sentence for the beating in 1990 of Francis "Bones" Denvir, who ran Armadillo's at City Dock. A federal judge last year faulted prosecutors for failing to disclose that a witness enhanced his story and criticized the defense lawyer for his trial performance. That did not free Spicer, however, and the state has asked a federal appeals court to reinstate his 1992 conviction.

Spicer filed two complaints with the Attorney Grievance Commission. In one, he said that State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee and Assistant State's Attorney Steven Sindler, who prosecuted him, "participated in a fraud and withheld evidence."

He wrote that they violated court rules, failed to completely investigate the case, knew one of their witnesses -- who recanted this spring shortly before dying -- was unreliable, and allowed another witness to sit in the courtroom before testifying in violation of the judge's order.

In the other, he claimed Salkin botched his case by being unprepared, doing a slipshod investigation, and failing to present evidence of Spicer's broken kneecap to the jury. That injury, Spicer said, made it impossible for him to run fast; witnesses said the person who beat the bar owner ran quickly from the scene. Salkin, Spicer said, should have objected when prosecution witness Sam Novella watched part of the trial before testifying, despite a judge's rule barring witnesses from the courtroom.

All three lawyers denied yesterday they had done anything improper.

Witness Larry M. Brown, who swapped testimony against Spicer for probation in his own drug case, recanted to The Sun and in an interview tape-recorded by Spicer's new lawyers a few days before his death earlier this year. Two other witnesses, whose identifications of Spicer were faulted by the federal judge for inconsistency and weakness, stuck by their identifications.

In January, two judges refused a plea prosecutors were happy with that would have limited the sentence to time served and freed Spicer. Spicer took a lie-detector test at the behest of his lawyers, and the examiner said it showed he was truthful in denying involvement in the crime.

Spicer said he would like the Attorney Grievance Commission to see suspension or revocation of their law licenses by the Court of Appeals.

Yet the complaints do nothing to win Spicer what he says he wants most: freedom and exoneration. Still, he said, he'd like the lawyers held accountable.

The commission has never sanctioned a prosecutor for not providing the defense with exculpatory information. U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte in Baltimore wrote in December that the witness Brown went from saying he spoke with Spicer before and after the attack at Armadillo's to testifying that he saw Spicer run from the tavern. Prosecutors, Messitte wrote, should have told Spicer's lawyer about that change.

Weathersbee, noting that his office may end up retrying Spicer, said he would not comment on details of a pending case. He did say he did not "have a feeling one way or the other" about Spicer's guilt, though a jury did.

"There is absolutely no possible way that he will have my head or Frank Weathersbee's head on a platter. His grievance is without any merit whatsoever," said Sindler, now in private practice in Odenton. He said he would not have brought the case against Spicer if he thought he was trying the wrong person.

"There was nothing done to cheat him or lie to him. It certainly was not an under-investigated case. We never hid anything from his attorney. I disagree with the federal judge in that regard."

Salkin, a Baltimore lawyer, was hired by the county Office of the Public Defender to represent Spicer because every attorney in the office knew the victim. He said he thought he did a good job, and used everything that would have helped the case.

He said sometimes a convicted defendant files a complaint because he is looking for "somebody to lash out at."

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