Wiretap's OK upheld in Prothero hearing

Evidence, confession cleared for trial use

September 07, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County Circuit judge ruled yesterday that police acted within their authority when they used information obtained from a wiretap to track down and arrest the first of four suspects charged in the killing of Sgt. Bruce A. Prothero.

Lawyers for Troy White argued before Judge John G. Turnbull II that the wiretap was illegal and that evidence gathered after White's arrest -- including his confession and a stolen watch -- should be inadmissible.

"But for the interception of these phone lines, the state wouldn't have the evidence against Troy White that they have," said attorney Jonathan P. Van Hoven.

Prothero, 35, was shot and killed as he chased four suspects out of J. Brown Jewelers in Pikesville after an armed robbery that netted $438,000 in watches

White, 25, was arrested Feb. 8 after police allegedly heard him offer to sell some of the stolen watches to a suspected drug dealer whose telephone was tapped. He was arrested at an acquaintance's home in the 1000 block of N. Ellamont St. in Baltimore after police traced one of the calls to the address.

After his arrest, White gave a statement to police admitting his role in the robbery. Police also found one of the stolen watches under a cushion on a couch where White had spent the night.

White's lawyers argued that county Circuit Judge Kathleen G. Cox should not have approved the wiretap of the drug suspect's five phones because police failed to exhaust other investigative efforts, a state statute requirement.

Assistant State's Attorney Frank C. Meyer said that prosecutors have no intention of using the wiretapped conversations as evidence at White's trial. But he said that the tap was legal because Cox had probable cause to believe that the target was engaging in drug activity when she authorized it.

Jury selection in the case is expected to be completed tomorrow.

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