Campaign worker robbery still fuels debate

October 17, 2006|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

It was one of the unfortunate ironies of primary election day: A campaign worker for the underdog candidate for city state's attorney was held up at gunpoint as he was posting signs.

Though Stephan W. Fogleman lost later that day, the mugging has continued to have the ring of his talking points - that prosecutors are too quick to abandon cases and that state's attorney Patricia C. Jessamy "fights cops, not crime."

On Oct. 4, prosecutors dropped charges against the person arrested in the crime, prompting a snippy e-mail from Fogleman to the state's attorney's office.

This case, however, unraveled because jail records show the person charged, Brandon McGowen, 19, was behind bars when Halsey "Ted" Stevens was confronted in the Pimlico area.

So the case became an opportunity for Jessamy's spokeswoman to point out through her spokeswoman that prosecutors often have a good reason to drop charges, and that really it was the Baltimore Police Department's fault.

The incident occurred about 2 a.m. Sept. 12 when a man approached Stevens, asked him what time it was and then demanded his wallet. Stevens complied and called police after the robber ran away.

Little more than four hours later, Fogleman fired off a news release lamenting the low sentences for handgun criminals.

The primary ended, but the mugging investigation continued.

Area convenience store employees suggested McGowen as a suspect, Stevens said, and Stevens picked McGowen out of a photographic lineup.

And when McGowen was arrested in a similar robbery that took place six days after the Stevens mugging, police said he had an unusual gun that matched the description Stevens had given.

"We were so confident" it was the right person, Stevens said yesterday.

Stevens, 36, a consultant in Washington, said the investigating officer, Detective Wayne Lang, was "awesome." "He did so much work on my case."

But he didn't check jail records.

Barbara Cooper, spokeswoman for the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, confirmed yesterday that McGowen was locked up from July until the afternoon of Sept. 12., about 11 hours after the Stevens robbery. A public defender brought this to the attention of prosecutors.

"This investigation was bungled," said Jessamy's spokeswoman, Margaret T. Burns. "This person clearly could not have committed the crime."

"`Bungled' is an unfortunate, incorrect and irresponsible choice of words," said Matt Jablow, a police spokesman, adding "no one" has been ruled out as a suspect.

Fogleman sighed when he heard about the latest exchange.

"They can go back to their feuding," he said. "I was just a dance partner for one dance."

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