Delegate acquitted in DUI case

No proof Gilleland, of Anne Arundel County, was driving at time of accident, lawyer says

April 06, 2006|By NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON | NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON,SUN REPORTER

Del. Terry R. Gilleland Jr., who was charged last year with driving under the influence of alcohol after losing control of his car in an early-morning accident, was acquitted yesterday after prosecutors were unable to locate the police officers who first encountered him after the accident.

Gilleland, 28, an Anne Arundel County Republican who lives in Glen Burnie, was arrested about 4:30 a.m. July 13 after losing control of his black 1999 Mercedes SLK while rounding a curve on Route 100 near the Interstate 97 interchange in Glen Burnie.

His defense attorney, Laura Robinson, said he left the scene of the accident on foot. Two Anne Arundel County police officers found him nearby and took him back to the car. They turned the case over to state police because the accident, in which prosecutors said Gilleland's car hit a tree, occurred on a state highway.

After conducting a field sobriety test, a state police trooper arrested Gilleland and charged him with failure to reduce speed, negligent driving, driving while impaired and driving while under the influence of alcohol.

During a 30-minute trial in District Court in Glen Burnie yesterday, however, the focus was on the police report, which did not identify the Anne Arundel County officers who initially arrested Gilleland.

Because they could not be found to testify, and the state police did not see Gilleland behind the wheel of his car, Gilleland's lawyer argued that there was no proof he was driving the car when the accident occurred or cause for police to arrest him.

The report also failed to indicate that Gilleland was found away from the scene of the accident.

"Police just can't walk up and arrest you," Robinson said in an interview after the trial. "There was no evidence presented that he was operating a vehicle after consuming alcohol."

District Judge Thomas Pryal agreed and acquitted Gilleland of all charges.

The state's attorney's office attempted to find the two county officers who detained Gilleland but could not, according to Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office. Even with the paperwork technicalities, Riggin said, the state's case was strong.

"We felt we had sufficient evidence based on the report that the trooper did provide that led to the charges," she said.

Gilleland, former chairman of the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee, was named to the House of Delegates in 2003 to complete the unexpired term of James E. Rzepkowski, who resigned the seat when he was appointed associate deputy secretary of the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

The year before, Gilleland unsuccessfully ran for the state Senate seat held by James E. DeGrange Sr., a Democrat.

Gilleland said yesterday that he was pleased with the outcome.

"The facts that were presented in the trial prove my innocence," said Gilleland, who is an account manager with Thomson Prometric, a Baltimore educational testing service. "I'm very happy that this chapter of my life is over and I'm moving on."

nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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