Judge sets bails for 2 in inmate-beating case

Third defendant, held in Harford, has review today

August 23, 2005|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

A Howard County District Court judge ordered two former correctional officers indicted in a Baltimore jail detainee's death each held on $100,000 bail yesterday, while a third suspect is expected to have a bail review today in Harford County.

The move by Judge Neil E. Axel caught the city state's attorney's office off guard because prosecutors had attempted to arrange bail reviews for all three men tomorrow in city Circuit Court.

The men, who were indicted by a Baltimore City grand jury last week, face second-degree murder and assault charges in the May death of Raymond K. Smoot, 51, who died after a violent confrontation with correctional officers in his cell at Baltimore's Central Booking and Intake Center.

FOR THE RECORD - An article yesterday about a bail review held in Howard County District Court Monday for two correctional officers charged in the death of a detainee included inaccurate information about the court proceeding. A spokesman for the county State's Attorney's Office said that a prosecutor asked the judge to postpone the hearing, not hold the men without bail.
The Sun regrets the error.

The men surrendered Friday and worked out arrangements with authorities to be held in facilities outside the city for their safety. They had been fired in June.

The two officers being held in Howard County - James L. Hatcher, 43, of Northeast Baltimore and Nathaniel D. Colbert, 42, of West Baltimore - had been held without bail until yesterday.

Upon learning of the bail reviews in Howard County, an attorney for the third suspect - Dameon C. Woods, 33, of Rosedale - said she asked authorities to have her client's bail review scheduled in Harford County today. Woods is being held on $1.5 million bail, which was set by a court commissioner.

"I think it's outrageous," said Woods' attorney, Margaret A. Mead. "He's not a flight risk."

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office, said that a Wednesday bail review remains scheduled in city Circuit Court, but would only be held for officers unable to post bails set in Howard and Harford counties. All three had not posted bail and remained in custody last night.

Burns said the city prosecutor handling the case, Mark Cohen, thought the $100,000 bail set for the two men held in Howard County was reasonable.

City prosecutors were working with Harford County officials to ensure a bail review for Woods today in Harford County.

"We agree it's certainly within the interests of justice," Burns said. "If two defendants had their bail review, we would want to see the third co-defendant have the same bail review."

Edward Hopkins, a spokesman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, which runs that county's detention center, said they took Woods "out of the process" because they expected his review to occur in the city.

But in Howard County District Court, Hatcher and Colbert were on yesterday's court docket for bail reviews. After consulting with Cohen in the city state's attorney's office, a Howard County prosecutor asked Axel to hold the men without bail, said Wayne Kirwan, a spokesman for that county's state's attorney's office.

But Axel set bail at $100,000, a move that fell within the District Court's authority.

"Maryland rules require that if a defendant's not able to post a bail set by commissioner, or is held on no-bail, then the defendant must immediately be presented" for a bail review on the next available court date, said Robert D. Cole Jr., who represents Colbert.

Axel did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Sun staff writers Laura Cadiz and Josh Mitchell contributed to this article.

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