State to probe possible cover-up in Frederick

Focus is on client list of alleged prostitution ring

May 03, 2001|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

The state prosecutor said yesterday that his office will look into allegations that Frederick officials engaged in a cover-up by refusing to release the client list of an alleged prostitution ring.

The head of Frederick County's NAACP recently called for such an investigation. The county prosecutor, in turn, asked State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli to handle it.

"We're going to take a look at it and see if there is anything to investigate," Montanarelli said yesterday.

Charlene Y. Edmonds, president of the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, had called on State's Attorney Scott L. Rolle to conduct a grand jury investigation of the city's handling of the list, as well as of the death in custody this year of a man arrested on drug charges.

Edmonds, a frequent critic of Frederick police and city officials, has said an anonymous tipster told her that elected officials are named on the list. She alleged that city police were using it to protect their embattled chief, Regis R. Raffens- berger, who was suspended and demoted -- but not fired, as she wanted -- for putting Edmonds' house under surveillance.

Police denied misuse of the list, but the furor has continued as city officials balked at efforts by the Frederick News-Post and the Associated Press to see who is named.

In March, Mayor James S. Grimes ordered the list returned to its owner, Angelika Potter, who had sued to get it back. The only person charged in the prostitution investigation, she pleaded guilty to maintaining a place of assignation and paid a $100 fine. As part of the plea bargain, authorities agreed to return all property seized from her.

The news organizations and a Frederick County resident have filed lawsuits accusing the city of violating the state Public Information Act by returning the list, which they contend is a public document.

Rolle said yesterday that he wants an independent prosecutor to review the issue, because he works closely with the city police and he and Grimes are both Republicans.

"If I took this on and investigated it and found nothing, people would say, `Well, you work with the Police Department every day, and you know the mayor,'" Rolle said.

A lawsuit filed by Daniel Trey seeking the list alleges that one of Rolle's brothers is named as a client -- a claim Rolle refused yesterday to address directly.

He said he has yet to see or hear anything worth investigating, but pledged to make the grand jury available to Montanarelli if the state prosecutor turns up anything.

Rolle said he would look into whether an investigation is warranted in the January death of Dwight Randy Hill. The state medical examiner's office found that Hill, who had been arrested on drug charges, died of "cocaine intoxication associated with restraint" put on him by police.

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