High court upholds search, seizure of evidence in sports-betting case

April 17, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of a Brooklyn Park man on gaming charges yesterday in a divided opinion on the prosecution's use of evidence found by police searching his house for burglars.

The evidence in George Wengert's home, including papers and $42,000 in cash, were legally seized because police - after catching a burglary suspect there - observed them in plain view while checking the house for other intruders or victims, the state's highest court held on a 5-2 vote.

"It was reasonable for the officers to enter the house for the safety of the residents and to investigate whether there were additional suspects or victims in the house," Judge Irma S. Raker wrote. The decision upheld the October 1999 Anne Arundel Circuit Court convictions of Wengert and his son Joshua for running an illegal sports betting operation.

Cynthia E. Young, Wengert's lawyer, said she views the ruling as contrary to the Fourth Amendment, which protects private homes from unreasonable search and seizure.

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