2 men, 1 crime, 1 name - 1 mess

Courts: The justice system trips over a father and son with the same name, and one is sentenced for the other's crime.

April 05, 2000|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

They share the same name, the same DNA, and, until yesterday, they shared a crime that only one of them committed.

A father and son, both named Gregory W. Kasey Jr., ended up in a judicial tangle that the presiding judge in Baltimore Circuit Court called "one of the biggest messes I've ever seen."

It started out as a routine allegation that Gregory Kasey Jr., 20, had violated his probation. But after five court dates stretched over five months, Gregory Kasey Jr., 41, the defendant's father, pleaded guilty.

The way the defendant's father saw it, the new conviction didn't matter -- he had been in prison since 1991, sentenced to 20 years on a conviction for assault with intent to murder. The new charge brought a 4 1/2-year sentence that was to be served at the same time.

The story of how a father and son came to be charged with the same crime, and how the wrong one was sentenced and no one noticed for months, paints a portrait of how justice is sometimes administered haphazardly.

Apparently, no one asked how the defendant's father violated probation by selling drugs on Baltimore streets in 1998, when he was in state prison.

The men were in court yesterday to sort out the mix-up, which was discovered by the son's lawyer, Louis B. Curran. Judge Allen L. Schwait, who originally sentenced the father, quashed the mistake yesterday and sentenced the son.

It was the first time that 20-year-old Gregory Kasey, referred to yesterday in court as Gregory Kasey Jr., the younger, had seen his father in 17 years. They sat together in court, both in handcuffs.

Kasey said he was touched that his father had accepted a prison term that was meant for him.

"It showed me he still cares," said Kasey, who lives in the 1200 block of Wohler Way. "He wanted me to go home."

The case was complicated by the pair's identical names and their involvement in the justice system. The son was convicted in 1996 on felony drug and gun charges, and received a 5-year prison sentence -- with 4 1/2 years of it suspended -- and five years' probation. He was later charged with violating probation, the crime for which his father was sentenced.

The younger Kasey said in an interview that technically he should be Gregory Kasey III. But his mother labeled him Jr. because his grandfather was no longer alive.

His father tried to put the confusion to rest yesterday. When the judge asked his name, he answered, "Gregory Kasey Jr., the first."

The names weren't the only problem.

The elder Kasey was brought to Schwait's court in July on his son's charge. It was the third time the case had been called to court. Kasey told the public defender representing him that day that the court had summoned the wrong man, and the probation agent told the prosecutor the same thing.

"This is not the Gregory Kasey who is pending your violation of probation," Assistant State's Attorney David Moore told Schwait, a videotape of the proceeding shows.

Schwait was perplexed.

"Where is Mr. Kasey? Where is Gregory Kasey?" Schwait asked.

Moore explained, "What happened, your honor, apparently, was rather than issuing a summons for the correct Gregory Kasey, this gentleman was brought in under the same name from [state prison]," Moore said. "We don't even know if your Mr. Kasey is being held."

Schwait set another date for the hearing, but the defendant, the younger Kasey, did not show up. Another date was set. And the case was postponed again.

On Oct. 1, the sixth hearing date, the case was back in Schwait's court. The elder Kasey had again been mistakenly brought from the prison to answer for his son's charges. Schwait proceeded as if he had the right man.

Yesterday, asked whether he had failed to recognize the father when he was brought in by mistake again, the judge refused to comment. "It's just concluded," he said. "We did get it worked out. I will not comment about cases pending or recently pending before me."

At the hearing in October, the elder Kasey's frustration was evident from the start. When the clerk tried to put him under oath, to swear to tell the truth, Kasey wouldn't answer clearly.

Schwait was furious. Kasey had already angered him.

"You were cussing in open court. I sent you downstairs to cool off. Now you come back and I've asked you to respond, simply yes or no. Now, are you going to do that or do we send you back again?"

Kasey interrupted him.

"Just give me the time," Kasey said. "Just do that, so we can get this over with."

"Go back downstairs," Schwait responded. "Think about it."

"Think about what?" Kasey said shaking his head. "There is nothing to think about."

Two hours later, Kasey returned to Schwait's court. He admitted violating the probation that belonged to his son.

"Do you understand those rights you waive by admitting to the violation?" asked Assistant Public Defender Nicole Love, who was representing him that day.

"Yes," Kasey said.

Kasey, then 40, was then described by Love as being a 19-year-old landscaper who wanted to be a plumber's apprentice.

"That's basically it," Kasey told Schwait.

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