Officers seek end to rape charges

Prosecutors have not disclosed all evidence, their attorneys contend

April 29, 2006|By GUS G. SENTEMENTES | GUS G. SENTEMENTES,SUN REPORTER

Attorneys for two of three Southwestern District police officers charged with raping a woman in a station house have filed motions to dismiss the indictments, claiming that Baltimore prosecutors have not disclosed evidence that could exonerate the men one month before their scheduled trial.

Officers Steven P. Hatley and Brian J. Shaffer were indicted in early January on charges of first- and second-degree rape, conspiracy to commit rape, sex offense, assault and violation of official duties.

Internal police reports obtained by The Sun show that the two officers are accused of failing to intervene while another officer demanded that a female suspect have sex with him in exchange for her release. That officer, Jemini Jones, was indicted on the same charges as Hatley and Shaffer in the Dec. 27 incident.

The case led to the replacement of the specialized unit, known as a "flex squad," that the officers belonged to, and the suspension of several other officers as part of a police corruption probe after a search revealed seized drugs improperly stored in the office.

Attorneys for Hatley and Shaffer said in court papers filed in city Circuit Court this week that they have been asking prosecutors since January to disclose the results of forensic tests and the basic facts that support the charges against the two officers. The three officers are scheduled for trial on May 31.

"There are significant pieces of exculpatory evidence which have been withheld from the defendant in this case," say court papers filed by Hatley's attorney, Michael J. Belsky. "Early on in the investigation of this matter, multiple forensic studies were performed in this case. ... These tests revealed no evidence of sexual contact between the alleged victim and any officer."

Marc L. Zayon, Shaffer's attorney, said he is baffled as to why his client had been charged. "There is no evidence whatsoever implicating him in a rape," Zayon said.

The attorneys disclosed in their motion that they are aware that police investigators have a crime lab report that was never turned over to them. The attorneys said they learned this from a sworn affidavit from Lt. Timothy Devine, the former head of the district's operations units, which includes the flex squad.

Devine said in the affidavit that he received a copy of a crime lab report, with photographs, in his mailbox in mid-January, that indicated that a scientific analysis was done on a chair where the alleged sex offense took place, and "the results of this test were negative." Devine now works in the Southeastern District.

"I do not know who placed the report in my mailbox," Devine advised in the court document, and said that he gave it to his superior.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, said yesterday that the defense's allegations about prosecutors not turning over evidence are "unfounded and inaccurate.

"We've given everything we can to the defense attorneys in this case," Burns said. "We have complied with discovery. We've turned everything we have over."

The spokeswoman also said that as "the Police Department identifies additional evidence and reports, we expect them to turn them over to the state's attorney's office. It could be noted that the issues the defense attorneys are raising relate to the handling of police documents and may indicate how cooperative an agency will be when asked to investigate themselves."

Matt Jablow, a department spokesman, declined to comment on the case.

Belsky said yesterday that the motion to dismiss "speaks for itself" and that he was planning on filing a request for a change of venue in the case.

"It's outrageous that the state would prosecute these charges with such vengeance and take absolutely no steps to ensure there is fairness in the process," Belsky said.

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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