Local pianist accused of BWI bomb threat

October 13, 2006|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,SUN REPORTER

Pianist George Spicka and his singing partner were booked to play the lounge at Baltimore's Tremont Park Hotel on Wednesday night, with a set list of smooth jazz numbers and pop hits that included "Just the Way You Are."

Spicka never made the gig.

Instead the composer and recording artist who has performed in the area for years found himself under arrest and in Anne Arundel County - accused of e-mailing a bomb threat to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Yesterday morning, just hours after being released on his own recognizance and walking to a nearby diner in his black slippers to call a taxi, Spicka said he's innocent.

"I'm not saying I don't get feisty, 'cause I do," he said at his Woodlawn-area home. "But I've never threatened anybody."

Spicka, 59, is accused of sending two threatening e-mails to airport officials about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday. Authorities say he tried to conceal his identity by calling himself "George Orwell" and sending the email through software that hides its origin.

Police identified Spicka through a computer investigation and he was arrested early Wednesday afternoon at his home, said Cpl. Jonathan Green, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. No one was evacuated from the airport, and no flights were delayed as a result of the threat.

Yesterday, friends and colleagues of Spicka had trouble reconciling the passionate musician with the allegations.

"It's completely beyond my scope of comprehension," said Barry Glassman, founder of the Baltimore Jazz Alliance and a friend of Spicka's. "He's a gentle, unassuming person who's just completely wrapped up in his music."

An online profile says Spicka has composed 300 pieces, ranging from jazz to contemporary classical music, and has performed with groups in dozens of concerts in Maryland.

Megan Hamilton, co-founder of the Creative Alliance, a Baltimore-based nonprofit organization that promotes the arts, said Spicka seems so devoted to his music that she could not imagine him turning his attention to other activities.

"He's a very serious composer, very involved in jazz," she said.

Spicka said he met with two local musicians at his home Wednesday morning to prepare an application for a grant. He said that after a nap, he started to pack up his keyboard for his evening gig as part of the band, Fifth Avenue, which plays in lounges and other small venues.

Three detectives showed up at his door about 2 p.m., he said.

Charlene Cochran, a singer in his band, said she began frantically calling Spicka's cell phone and house when he didn't show up at the hotel.

"I was in a panic. I thought maybe he was in a car accident," said Cochran, who said she has performed with Spicka hundreds of times since the 1980s. "This has never happened in the entire 20 some years we worked together. One other time I think he had the chicken pox and he couldn't come, but he called me."

Cochran, a real estate agent from Montgomery County, added of the charges against Spicka: "I wouldn't expect it in a million years. I'd stake my life on the fact that George is not guilty of any of those things."

According to charging documents, authorities at BWI received an e-mail from "George Orwell" with "bomb" as the subject line. The message read: "A carrier bag lost (!) before secure area there, contains a chemical bomb. NOTIFY SECURITY."

Spicka was charged with two counts of making a false statement involving a destructive device, each carrying a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He also faces a lesser charge of interfering with airport security procedures.

Green, of the transportation authority police, said authorities seized Spicka's computer and "are learning more and more as we go."

Sitting in his living room yesterday, alternately petting his pit bull, Shady, and cat, Travis, Spicka said he believes he has been wrongly linked to the bomb threat because of his open admiration for Orwell, the author and essayist. He said he has posted political opinions online under the author's name as a tribute.

The threatening e-mail was linked to a computer user with strong views about politics and Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., according to court records. The documents quote an e-mail that Spicka allegedly sent to Dateline saying that he should be interviewed about "black racists," "discrimination by Muslims" and "narrow-minded liberal bigots."

Spicka said it's possible he sent the e-mail and was referring to members of the Black Panthers and an experience in which a Muslim musician refused to play Christmas and Hanukkah songs with him.

Spicka, who said his wife died last year of a heart attack, described himself as a moderate conservative who has posted strong political views, but that he's never taken his views too far.

Spicka said he is awaiting a date for a preliminary hearing.

"It's not going to deter my spirit," he said of the charges.

He said he was scheduled to give a piano lesson later in the afternoon.

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Nick Shields contributed to this article.

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