`Tired of whole ordeal,' Spicer swaps plea for freedom

Prosecutors claim victory

defense upset by deal made days before beating retrial

February 26, 2000|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

With a high-profile retrial 10 days away and against his lawyers' advice, Brady George Spicer entered a plea agreement yesterday, closing a bizarre Anne Arundel County criminal case with Spicer walking out of jail.

Spicer, 43, of Annapolis, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of common law battery in exchange for the nearly eight years he served while appealing his earlier conviction for assault with intent to murder and 30-year sentence in this case. In an Alford plea, he admitted to Circuit Judge Clayton Greene Jr. that the state had convincing evidence against him, but clung to his innocence.

"I'm kind of tired of the whole ordeal. I wish to get it over with," he told Greene.

In conversations earlier this week, Spicer said from the county detention center that he wanted to get out of jail and did not want to take the risk that a trial entails, that adding the conviction to his record held less meaning for him than getting out.

"Battery, I can live with that. It's been years of hell. You can't imagine what I've seen," he said last night, emerging from jail around 6: 40 p.m. He said he hoped to return to a fast-food job, visit with family on the Eastern Shore and write a book about his case.

One of Spicer's lawyers was so upset at her client's decision to accept a plea agreement deal that she did not alter her schedule to attend the hearing, which was hastily arranged at lunchtime for later in the afternoon.

Prosecutors claimed victory in a case troubled by their office's violation of court rules that led federal judges to order a new trial, as well as by a lack of physical evidence to tie anyone to the crime scene, by a witness recanting, and most recently, by the disappearance from their files of evidence Spicer's lawyers claimed would help them.

"We didn't enter this agreement because we felt he was not guilty," said Assistant State's Attorney Thomas J. Pryal. "I feel he did this, therefore we went forward."

He said the plea reflected the problems and uncertainties of retrying an old case. Annapolis police are still looking for evidence that the defense would like to test for DNA and fingerprints using new techniques, and prosecutors said they would revive the case if results point to someone else.

Pryal and assistant state's attorney Warren Davis III said their office's review of the decade-old case turned up nothing to support Spicer's claim of innocence.

"No one was able to give us anything beyond rank speculation," Pryal said. Spicer was convicted in 1992 of the midday Feb. 22, 1990 near-fatal beating of Francis "Bones" Denvir, an owner-manager of Armadillo's tavern at Annapolis' trendy City Dock. Annapolis police, who doubted Spicer's guilt, testified for the defense at subsequent hearings.

Prosecutors had been led to Spicer by Larry Michael "Blackjack" Brown, who swapped eyewitness testimony for probation in his own drug case, but who recanted in an interview with The Sun last year before he died. On a federal appeal, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte ordered a new trial mainly because prosecutors withheld from the defense information that Brown initially indicated he did not see Spicer, but then "transformed" himself into an eyewitness. An appellate panel upheld the ruling.

"If Larry Brown is wrong, how come Hank Connick [the bartender] picked Brady Spicer's picture out of a photo array?" Pryal said.

The plea came the same day that a retired FBI agent sent the defense an analysis that concluded that the attack on Denvir was not a random assault or attempted robbery -- more than $1,000 was left on the table -- but was "primarily motivated by personal emotion, principally anger" by someone who knew Denvir. Approached from behind while he worked, Denvir maintained he did not see the person who smashed every bone in his face with liquor bottles that were in his office.

"You know, it's pretty tragic when an innocent man takes a plea in order to end a case like this. I feel sick," said Carroll L. McCabe, Spicer's attorney, who skipped the hearing.

"I don't think this is really what he wanted to do. I think he felt he had no choice. He better than anyone knows that just because you are innocent doesn't mean you won't get convicted," she said. "I wish Judge Greene would not have taken that plea."

The plea was nearly identical to one that fizzled last January when Judge Eugene M. Lerner, who gave Spicer the 30-year sentence in 1992, refused a negotiated plea for time served in exchange for a plea to the assault with intent to murder. Lerner was on vacation and unavailable yesterday.

"The state shook Brady's confidence in the system," said Daryl D. Jones, Spicer's other attorney.

Denvir could not be reached yesterday to comment, but his wife, Susan, had mixed feelings colored by relief at not having her husband endure a second trial.

"I hope that if he was set free that he was innocent," she said. But, she said, pointing to Spicer's drug violation while on house arrest, she was worried that a dangerous man had just walked out of jail. Prosecutors said they had talked to Denvir yesterday about the plea arrangement and he said it was fine with him.

As the case progressed, Denvir stopped cooperating with police, saying he wanted to focus on recuperation and his family.

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