Officer's case against wife dropped

Carroll prosecutors say accusation of theft, destruction too weak

Howard County

July 25, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Carroll County prosecutors dismissed yesterday a theft and malicious destruction case filed against a Silver Spring woman by her estranged husband, a Howard County police officer, in a move the officer's lawyer said was akin to "choosing sides."

The case was one of four that Elizabeth M. Williams, 33, and Cpl. Michael K. Williams, 41, filed against each other in Howard District Court last year as a contentious domestic battle between the two began to heat up.

But while the Carroll state's attorney's office, which was assigned to handle the matters, has since declined to prosecute both cases against Elizabeth Williams - the first, alleging assault, was dropped in January - prosecutors are moving forward with two assault cases against Michael Williams in Howard Circuit Court.

Criminal informations filed against the officer include charges of felony assault, obstruction of justice and handgun use tied to allegations that Michael Williams pointed his gun at Elizabeth Williams on Oct. 20 and told her to drop a misdemeanor assault case stemming from an Aug. 26 incident.

Clarke F. Ahlers, who represents Michael Williams, said his client "denies any criminal action" in the cases and said any physical contact in the August incident was in self-defense.

Michael Williams' police powers were suspended, and he was placed on administrative duty after the first incident, authorities said. Michael and Elizabeth Williams have since filed for divorce in separate civil actions.

"Obviously, what the state is doing is choosing sides and trying to protect their witness from impeachment," said Ahlers, who added he expects to ask his client to refile charges or to ask for a chance to address a Howard County grand jury. But Carroll prosecutors say their reasons for dropping the cases against Elizabeth Williams are well-founded.

The assault case against Elizabeth Williams, which also stemmed from the Aug. 26 incident - but was not filed until after the October incident - was "unfounded and retaliatory," a prosecutor said in January.

And yesterday, Carroll Deputy State's Attorney Tracy A. Gilmore said her office does not believe it has "sufficient evidence to proceed to conviction" in the theft and malicious destruction case.

In court papers filed in November, Michael Williams alleges that he left the couple's Columbia apartment after an argument on Oct. 20 - the same day he is accused of pointing a gun at his wife and threatening to kill her. When he returned, he found his wife gone and clothes missing. Shirts were "destroyed by bleach" and compact discs were "deliberately scratched," according to court papers. Williams estimated his total loss at more than $9,000.

But Michael Williams' charging document also notes that his wife was one of three people in the apartment - including two children - when he left and does not list any witnesses who saw her take or damage the items. Both are considerations when determining whether there is a provable case, Gilmore said.

"Obviously, if he persists and there's additional information that comes forward, that information can be evaluated," Gilmore said.

In an interview earlier this year, Elizabeth Williams called her estranged husband's charges against her "vindictive."

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