Charges dropped in attack at jail

Officer, inmates won't be tried after victim dies in street fight while on bail

October 08, 2005|By GUS G. SENTEMENTES | GUS G. SENTEMENTES,SUN REPORTER

A former correctional officer and two inmates will not go to trial in connection with an attack at the Baltimore City Detention Center because the alleged victim was stabbed to death last month in a street fight while free on bail.

Ronald Scott - the main witness in the case - suffered multiple stab wounds on Sept. 14, during a fight in the 2100 block of Orleans Street in East Baltimore. He had been awaiting trial on felony narcotics charges.

In early May, Scott was stabbed while he was being held at the detention center. A trial was scheduled to begin yesterday in city Circuit Court for three men charged with the attack at the detention center, but a prosecutor asked for the dismissal of the charges because of Scott's death.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Saturday's editions about a case of attempted murder involving a correctional officer that was dismissed by a city prosecutor mistakenly described the dates of two incidents. Ronald Scott was stabbed May 11 at the Baltimore City Detention Center; Raymond K. Smoot was fatally assaulted three days later at the adjacent Central Booking and Intake Center.
The Sun regrets the errors.

Police and prosecutors say the fatal stabbing during the street fight appears to be unrelated to the incident at the detention center. No arrests have been made in connection with the slaying.

According to charging documents, the former correctional officer, Sherman Lawrence, 21, set up Scott's stabbing, which allegedly was carried out by inmates Ronald McClary, 36, and Darnell "Donte" Smith, 25, in a common area at the jail May 11.

The attack on Scott came during a tumultuous summer for the state-run pretrial facilities in Baltimore. At the Central Booking and Intake Center, a 51-year-old inmate was stomped to death, allegedly by three correctional officers. That incident occurred three days before Scott's stabbing at the adjacent city detention center.

Yesterday, Lawrence's attorney, Howard Miliman, said his client should not have been arrested and charged in the attack on Scott. He said he believed Lawrence was used as a scapegoat.

Lawrence, who had started at the detention center in April 2004, was also charged with attempting to smuggle alcohol into the detention center on another occasion, but he was found not guilty, Miliman said.

The detention center's internal investigative unit charged Lawrence in both the alleged smuggling and attempted murder cases. He was held in Central Booking for two months and three days before his release on bail, Miliman said.

"They lost a good correctional officer," Miliman said. "There wasn't even a question of innocence from Day One. It was just a matter of getting everything back in his life."

Lawrence could not be reached for comment yesterday. His father, Ernel Lawrence, said yesterday that his son had been falsely accused.

"For my son to be locked up for two months and three days, and he was not guilty ... and we could not see him?" Lawrence said. "He was done wrong because the system, my friend, is not working."

As part of the agreement to drop the case, Lawrence vowed not to seek work in corrections again. He was allowed to resign from his position for "personal reasons." And, in the future, he would receive a "neutral reference" from the state, according to the agreement Lawrence signed.

"The whole incident from beginning to end is very unfortunate for all parties concerned," said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which is responsible for the city pretrial facilities. "To hear that the case was dropped because of an apparent homicide just adds another element of tragedy to this whole thing."

The charging documents alleged that Lawrence allowed the attack to occur. Scott was stabbed in a secure common area at the jail. Someone threw a sheet over his head and he was then stabbed in the back and head, the documents said. Scott told authorities that the only two inmates in the room with him were McClary and Smith, while Lawrence stood guard.

Lawrence was charged with conspiracy to commit attempted murder and assault; McClary was charged with conspiracy to commit attempted murder, and assault and weapons violations; and Smith was charged with attempted murder, assault and weapons violations.

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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