Officer hires Tripp lawyer

Policeman is subject of state investigation

February 23, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Westminster police officer under investigation by the state attorney general's office amid allegations that he tried to plant drugs on suspects has retained one of the attorneys representing Linda R. Tripp in a high-profile wiretapping case.

Detective Richard A. Ruby said that he has hired Joseph Murtha as co-counsel with Shawn Larson, a Westminster attorney.

Murtha, with Howard County attorney David Irwin, is defending Tripp. A state prosecutor is looking into whether the Columbia resident illegally taped White House intern Monica Lewinski's conversations about President Clinton.

Attempts to reach Murtha and Larson yesterday were unsuccessful.

"What impact Ruby's obtaining the legal services of Joseph Murtha remains to be seen, but it was a great decision on the officer's part," said a Carroll County defense attorney, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Ruby has not been charged with wrongdoing, but Carroll County prosecutors have dismissed charges in nine drug-related cases in which he was the sole investigator or would be a key witness for the state.

This month, State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said that his staff was looking into more than 100 pending cases involving Ruby, including 63 new cases since July 17, the date of two unrelated incidents that prompted two officers to file complaints against him.

Westminster Chief Roger Joneckis said he became aware in December of the complaints against an officer, whom he declined to name. He called for an independent investigation and suspended that officer with pay Feb. 5.

Ruby has said he was dumbfounded when stripped of his police powers, but would not discuss specific allegations against him.

Judson K. Larrimore, supervising attorney for the county public defender's office, has said three staff members are looking into closed cases in which Ruby was involved, especially those where defendants pleaded guilty to charges because they feared the officer's credibility would lead to a conviction.

The attorney general's investigation of Ruby could take months, meaning Murtha's involvement in Tripp's defense could be concluded before Ruby might require his services.

Murtha has been no stranger in Carroll County Circuit Court. He negotiated a plea agreement for Mark E. Eppig, one of three men who were racing east on Route 140 near Finksburg in 1998 when Eppig's car went out of control and killed Geraldine "Geri" Lane Wu, a teacher from Westminster.

Eppig pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in the Carroll County Detention Center. He testified against the other two drivers. Both men received lengthier sentences.

Murtha also represented Edward F. Sible, a Harney teen-ager who was convicted by a Carroll County jury in the shooting of Linda Bond, a delivery woman for Pizza Hut in Taneytown. Sible, who was spared life imprisonment, was convicted of second-degree attempted murder and related charges instead of premeditated first-degree attempted murder.

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