2 Howard firefighters sentenced to probation

Pair got in a scuffle with other diners outside restaurant in Columbia

October 04, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Two Howard County firefighters were sentenced yesterday to one year of unsupervised probation for their role in a scuffle outside a Columbia restaurant that started when the firefighters hid another man's shoes.

Lt. Timothy J. Dorsey, 32, of the 1800 block of McDuff Court in Eldersburg and Firefighter Daniel J. Marasco, 30, of the 8300 block of Silver Trumpet Drive in Columbia each entered an Alford plea yesterday to a single count of misdemeanor assault in the June 20 incident at the Nichi Bei Kai Japanese restaurant in Owen Brown.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but concedes that the state has enough evidence to win a conviction.

Howard District Judge Sue-Ellen Hantman gave each man probation before judgment, which will allow them to keep the conviction off their records if they successfully complete a yearlong probationary term.

"It was important to our clients that they emerge from this without a conviction on their records," said attorney Craig M. Gendler, who represented Marasco. "They're looking forward to getting back to their regular duties."

Both were described by their lawyers as law-abiding men devoted to firefighting.

Dorsey and Marasco were charged criminally after a group from Montgomery County filed complaints.

Members of the group had been dining in a private room in the restaurant and had left their shoes outside the room. When they left the room, one pair of shoes was missing. Dorsey, who was also dining in the restaurant, later returned the shoes, and the group thought everything was "resolved," according to court papers and a statement of the case.

But outside the restaurant, Dorsey hit Roy Hunt, a paramedic student and volunteer firefighter from Burtonsville, setting off a melee on the parking lot, prosecutors said. Marasco quickly joined in, according to a statement read into the record.

After members of the Montgomery County group pressed charges, Dorsey and Marasco filed countercharges, claiming that they were attacked.

Prosecutors dropped those charges yesterday.

The proceeding left members of the group from Montgomery County unsettled, they said. Their attempts to talk to Howard prosecutors to offer information were rebuffed, they said. They also did not know beforehand that yesterday's pleas would be tendered without an admission of guilt, they said.

"These guys should not be public servants," said Jennifer Hunt, 27, an interior designer from Spencerville. Jennifer Hunt and Roy Hunt are cousins.

But prosecutors said they followed procedure. With two sets of charges - one against the firefighters and another against the Montgomery County group - they could not "build a rapport" with the group as they would normally with victims because members were also defendants, said Michael A. Weal, chief of the Howard state's attorney's District Court division.

And while Weal said he was not happy that the firefighters were given an unsupervised term, the plea guaranteed a resolution to the case, he said.

"We thought this is like a bird in the hand," Weal said.

Dorsey, a 10-year department veteran, and Marasco, who has been with the department for two years, have been on administrative assignments since fire officials learned of the charges, said Battalion Chief Sean Kelly, a fire spokesman.

With the case at an end, Fire Chief Joseph A. Herr will have to decide whether to return the men to the field immediately or to put conditions on their return, Kelly said.

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