Investigation of Westminster officer imperils dozens of Carroll drug cases

February 10, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh and Sheridan Lyons | Mike Farabaugh and Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Westminster police and Carroll County prosecutors braced yesterday for the dismissal of dozens of criminal drug cases because of the state attorney general's investigation of a Westminster officer accused of trying to plant drugs on suspects.

Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said charges probably would be dropped against more than a hundred defendants, many of them charged with possession of crack cocaine. "In this particular situation, the cost of justice is extremely high," he said.

Raymond E. Beck Sr., administrative judge for Carroll County Circuit Court, said Barnes had notified him last month of the investigation of the officer. "From the court's point of view, we'll just have to wait until the cases are presented to us," he said. "It's ugly, but it's necessary, I think, in order to maintain faith in the system."

The attorney general's investigation began six months after two members of the Westminster police filed separate complaints against Officer 1st Class Richard Ruby, accusing him of trying to plant drugs on people when they were stopped for questioning.

Ruby, 36, was relieved of police powers Friday and suspended with pay. He did not respond to messages conveyed to him yesterday.

Defense attorneys were beginning to review the cases of clients convicted in proceedings in which Ruby was the arresting officer or a witness. Attorney Michael S. Levin praised the officers who filed the complaints against Ruby, but expressed concern about the effects of the allegations.

"This is so dangerous that it really does undermine our criminal justice system at its very base," he said.

Assistant Public Defender Brian D. Green said clients were contacting him to review their cases.

Police Chief Roger Jonekis said morale among his 40 officers was "as good as can be expected." But he expected criticism from the public. "First, I'll say I'm sorry ," he said. "Then I'll tell them we can recover and work to do better."

Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said the city's anti-drug enforcement would not change. "Our goal was to make clear to people selling and using drugs in Westminster that we will make it very uncomfortable for you to do this to the point that you might have to take it elsewhere."

Sun staff writer Jennifer McMenamin contributed to this article.

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