Detective under investigation in theft

Balto. County prosecutors remove officer from witness lists pending outcome of probe

January 25, 2007|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,sun reporter

A longtime Baltimore County police detective is under investigation for theft, prompting prosecutors to strike him from the witness lists of cases in which he was expected to testify.

Detective Charles W. Allan, a 34-year veteran of the county Police Department who is assigned to the unit that investigates sex crimes, was suspended from duty last week pending the outcome of an internal investigation, according to a department spokesman and the officer's lawyer.

Soon afterward, prosecutors in the county state's attorney's office began mailing letters to lawyers representing defendants in cases that Allan had investigated, informing them of the allegations and that the detective would not be called as a witness at those trials.

"This is certainly the high road for the prosecutors to take to let defense attorneys know the situation," said David B. Irwin, who received one such letter this week indicating that Allan would not be called to testify against one of Irwin's clients - a Woodlawn pastor charged with sexual abuse and other sex crimes in five Baltimore County cases and one Howard County case.

State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger estimated that fewer than 20 cases are affected by the theft investigation of the detective.

"In every case in which he was listed as a witness, we thought it was our ethical obligation to inform defense counsel," said Shellenberger, who took office this month. "We do not believe that any of our cases will be compromised."

Reached yesterday afternoon at his home in the White Marsh area, Allan declined to comment.

Police officers accused of misconduct - particularly theft, perjury or other crimes of "moral turpitude" - can suffer credibility problems when called to the witness stand in a trial.

Lawyers interviewed yesterday said prosecutors' decision to inform defense counsel of the theft inquiry is admirable - but also unusual because the detective under investigation has not been charged with a crime.

"What Baltimore County is doing is something that doesn't happen very often," said Joseph Murtha, a criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor who has represented police officers accused of crimes. "It's very unusual to have that kind of pre-emptive disclosure of an investigation when there hasn't been a finding of any kind. Most of the time, the state likes to wait until a case is resolved involving a police officer and then make a decision."

In several high-profile cases, Baltimore City prosecutors dismissed hundreds of charges in cases tainted by the involvement of police officers accused of various crimes.

In 2005, city prosecutors dropped more than 100 cases associated with two detectives accused of perjury and lost about 10 cases that they took to trial without using the detectives as witnesses.

They reviewed more than 375 cases last year, dismissing dozens of cases, amid allegations of rape, drug possession, theft and evidence planting by members of the Southwestern District's flex squad.

One former member of that specialized police unit, Officer Jemini Jones, was acquitted Tuesday on charges that he coerced a woman to have sex with him at a police station house to avoid being jailed on marijuana charges.

Allan joined the county Police Department in March 1973 and worked for 22 years as an officer in the Fullerton and White Marsh areas, said police spokesman Bill Toohey. He was promoted in 1995 to detective and has been assigned to investigate rapes, child abuse and other sex offenses in the family crimes unit, Toohey said.

Allan was honored in 1997 with the Exceptional Police Performance Award for his work as an investigator of sexual child abuse cases. He had investigated 104 allegations and made 44 arrests in those cases.

Toohey, who would not comment on the nature of the investigation regarding Allan, confirmed that the detective moonlights as a security officer in different parts of the county.

Defense attorney Michael Marshall, who is representing the detective, would not say whether the theft investigation stemmed from Allan's work as a police officer or his second job.

Court records indicate that Allan has worked as a uniformed, but off-duty, police officer at White Marsh Mall. Attempts to obtain comment from mall officials, including a spokesman for General Growth Properties Inc., which owns the mall, were unsuccessful yesterday.

Two assistant state's attorneys who regularly prosecute the types of crimes that Allan investigates declined to comment.

Prosecutor Jason G. League signed at least two of the letters received this week by defense attorneys representing clients whose cases were investigated by Allan.

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