Suspect's statement OK'd for trial use

He spoke to police investigating killing

No `improper police action'

3 accused in stabbing of pizza shop owner

March 08, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County circuit judge ruled yesterday that statements a suspect made to a police detective and a jailhouse informant can be used when he is tried in the killing of a 72-year-old pizza shop owner.

Judge Robert N. Dugan said after a hearing yesterday that Martin L. Hoffman Jr. was advised of his rights before he talked to police in a series of interviews that led to his arrest July 4.

"The court does not find any coercion or any improper police action in interviewing this defendant," Dugan said.

Hoffman, 39, his brother Michael J. Hoffman, 35, and Michael's wife, Jennifer Hoffman, 20, are charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing July 3 of Peter Makris, the owner of Pepe's Pizza in the 6000 block of Falls Road.

Martin Hoffman is scheduled to go on trial in the first week of June; Michael Hoffman is scheduled for trial April 30; and Jennifer Hoffman is tentatively scheduled for trial in late May.

Makris was found about 6 a.m. in the kitchen area of the combination restaurant and carryout business. Martin Hoffman lived above the restaurant, which he managed, and called police to the scene. He was arrested after investigators found no signs of forced entry and several thousand dollars from the business in his room, according to a statement of charges filed by county police Detective David Jacoby.

Police said Michael Hoffman, a Sykesville resident, used keys supplied by his brother to enter the restaurant and began gathering cash. They say he fatally stabbed Makris during the robbery.

Dugan said yesterday that prosecutors can use statements Hoffman allegedly made to an informant at the Baltimore County Detention Center, ruling that the informant was not working with police when he heard the statements in the fall.

"The state was not directing him as to what to do," Dugan said.

Assistant Public Defender Thomas Nugent Jr., Martin Hoffman's lawyer, had argued that Hoffman had a lawyer by fall and that from that point on, statements obtained by anyone working with the police could not be used.

The informant, identified by prosecutors as David Geiman, 37, of Dundalk, began serving a one-year sentence Sept. 19 after he was convicted of assault and resisting arrest, according to court records.

Nugent said Geiman had made phone calls to police and wrote letters to prosecutors, offering to testify against Hoffman. In one letter, Geiman said Hoffman had implicated himself by agreeing to collaborate on a book.

"I have found out all your office don't know and needs to know about the case. I even got a full confession out of him," Geiman wrote to prosecutors Oct. 16.

In testimony yesterday, Jacoby testified that he took a nine-page statement from Geiman on Oct. 18 about a conversation Geiman allegedly had in Hoffman's cell.

Assistant State's Attorney James O. Gentry also acknowledged that he had Geiman transferred from the jail to a state prison facility after Hoffman learned that Geiman was an informant. But Gentry said police and prosecutors neither encouraged nor directed Geiman's efforts.

"Whether Mr. Geiman thought he was acting as a secret agent or thought that he was acting as a police detective has nothing to do with it, because the fact is that we did not direct him to do anything," Gentry said.

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