State opts to dismiss drug cases

Prosecutors lose key witness when officer is suspended

`We can't go forward'

Policeman accused of trying to plant drugs on suspects

February 11, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Three more criminal drug cases were dismissed yesterday because a suspended Westminster police officer, who is accused of trying to plant narcotics on suspects, would have been a key witness.

Officer 1st Class Richard A. Ruby, 36, was the sole investigator in those cases or was the officer who seized suspected crack cocaine as evidence against the suspect, said prosecutor Theresa M. Adams, an assistant Carroll County state's attorney.

"We can't go forward on any case in which this officer [Ruby] is materially involved because we can't call him as a witness," said State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes. "He's suspended, so he is not available as a witness and, even if we tried to go ahead with or without him, the defense attorneys would raise a red flag concerning his involvement in the case against their clients."

Yesterday's court proceedings brought the number of dismissed cases involving Ruby to six. Three were dismissed last week for similar reasons, Adams said. Charges in another case are expected to be dismissed today.

The state attorney general's office is investigating Ruby because of two complaints made by members of the Westminster force. They accuse Ruby of misconduct in office, stemming from unrelated incidents July 17.

Prosecutors are checking more than 100 pending drug cases in which Ruby has been involved as the arresting officer or principal investigator.

Reached yesterday, Ruby declined to comment. He said he was eager to tell his side of the story but that his lawyer had advised him to remain silent. His lawyer could not be reached yesterday.

In Carroll District Court yesterday, Adams went before Judge JoAnn Ellinghaus-Jones to formally drop all charges against three Westminster women.

"Do you know how hard it is for Jerry Barnes to drop drug charges against anyone?" asked Frank D. Coleman, a Westminster attorney representing two of the women. They were accused of conspiring to obtain a prescription narcotic.

Ruby was the only law enforcement witness against them.

Public defender Barbara Kreinar represented the third woman, who was accused of having crack cocaine in her bedroom. Ruby signed the application for a search warrant and was the officer who reported finding the suspected drug.

"In light of the accusations, the first thing I ordered was to notify State's Attorney Jerry Barnes," said Assistant Attorney General Carolyn H. Henneman, whose office was asked to investigate.

Henneman would not discuss specifics of the case. She confirmed her office's role because Barnes had made the investigation public.

Barnes' "only choice was to fully disclose to defendants, or their attorneys, the complaints raised against the Westminster officer," Henneman said.

The complaints, dated Dec. 13 and Jan. 5, described colleagues' reports of seeing Ruby holding a small bag containing what appeared to be marijuana in the presence of suspects.

According to Barnes, no drugs were planted and no suspects were arrested, but Ruby's colleague in one instance felt he clearly implied that it would be acceptable to plant the bag on a suspect.

In one instance, Ruby's actions were reported to a superior, who said he would take care of it. In the other instance, it is unclear whether Ruby's actions were reported to a superior or directly to Chief Sam Leppo, who was killed in a traffic accident Aug. 4.

Chief Roger Joneckis, who was appointed chief of the Westminster force after Leppo's death, said Tuesday that he became aware of the complaints about Ruby "within the last several weeks," and called state police officials, requesting an independent investigation last month.

State police turned the matter over to the attorney general's office, and Joneckis said he was ordered not to discuss the case.

The chief has never named Ruby, but confirmed he suspended an officer with pay and stripped that officer of police powers Friday.

Sun staff writer David L. Greene contributed to this article.

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