Man gets 5 years for death threats

Ex-developer, on parole, made calls to ex-wife, her husband

He had served time for hiring hit man

August 28, 2005|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A former Montgomery County developer will be heading back to state prison for another five years for making death threats against a Mount Airy couple, one of whom is his ex-wife, according to Carroll County prosecutors.

Charles Samuel Shapiro, 65, formerly of Bethesda, was paroled in June 2003 on his conviction in Montgomery County Circuit Court for hiring a moonlighting Prince George's County police officer who twice tried to shoot Shapiro's cousin in a 1993 business dispute.

Months after his parole, Shapiro made death threats against his ex-wife and her husband at their Mount Airy home, according to records in his conviction in Carroll County Circuit Court for telephone misuse, a misdemeanor.

In a May 11 Carroll court appearance, Shapiro agreed that there was enough evidence to convict him without admitting guilt. He had orginally been charged with extortion, a felony, prosecutors said.

Carroll Circuit Judge Thomas F. Stansfield sentenced Shapiro last week to serve two years of a maximum three-year sentence on the telephone misuse, and five years on a Montgomery County probation violation, a case that was transferred to Carroll. The terms will run at the same time.

In the telephone misuse case, state police at Westminster recorded Shapiro threatening his ex-wife, Joni L. Ohman, 50, and her husband, Richard Rothchild, 49. Shapiro was enraged at their planned sale of his Bethesda home, and their handling of furniture, a $1 million trust fund and other financial issues, according to charging documents and transcripts.

Ohman and Rothchild said they were terrified by Shapiro's threats of an attack by a stranger.

"I worry endlessly about our safety," Ohman said, starting to cry. "I know what he's capable of."

"The only thing standing between this man and our safety is this court. You're all we've got," Rothchild told the judge.

Defense attorney Leonard Shapiro, no relation, downplayed his client's threats as unfortunate but not unusual in property disputes among ex-spouses. The lawyer said rough language could be expected from someone who has been in prison. "I don't think you walk out the door and become the person you were before," he said.

Still, the lawyer said Shapiro "is remorseful for having let his frustration at the negotiations get the best of him and saying things [they] interpreted as being threatening. ... This may be the only case of extortion in the history of the country where the alleged extortionist had lawyers drawing up agreements so everybody would know what they would get."

His client, white-haired, bespectacled and dressed in baggy clothing, smiled enigmatically throughout the sentencing hearing. "It's fine; everything's fine," he said when his rights were explained to him.

At one point, Senior Assistant State's Attorney Melissa O. Hockensmith noted for the record that a former jail mate of Shapiro's was sitting in the back of the courtroom and accused him of trying to intimidate the victims.

The victim in the Montgomery County murder-conspiracy case, Marvin Greenfield, 78, also came to court Monday and sobbed as he told the judge of the attempts on his life.

The hit man "shot at me 11 times ... while I was in the car. I got up under the dashboard. [Then] I was driving on Route 270 and they put six holes in the car ... 2 inches from my head, the policeman he hired," Greenfield said.

"There was a lot of notoriety in the newspapers. We couldn't go nowhere," he said. The FBI and Montgomery County officials "told me to get out of town, and I did. I spent three years in a bulletproof vest. ... I carried a gun.

"It's exactly the same thing," Greenfield said of Shapiro's new threats.

Parole and probation agent Yvonne M. Degener said Shapiro stood to lose money in the dispute with his ex-wife and his response in the past was "hiring a hit man to murder his business partner because of a financial situation."

In July 1996, Shapiro pleaded guilty to the murder-conspiracy charge, months after his first trial resulted in a hung jury. He later tried to withdraw the plea, claiming he was addled by Tums and tranquilizers.

He was sentenced to serve 12 1/2 years of a 25-year term, but that later was modified by the Montgomery County Circuit Court, Hockensmith said.

Shapiro was released from state prison June 10, 2003, and began making the calls Sept. 3 that year, according to his attorney and the prosecutor. They ended with his arrest March 10, 2004.

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