Jury hears cellmates' taped talk

`I want this guy to suffer,' says man charged in plot against prosecutor

November 29, 2007|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,Sun reporter

Moments after hearing his cellmate talk about his desire for some harm to befall a Baltimore County prosecutor, Timothy Bryce made a promise.

"No matter what happens," the jailed man told fellow inmate Michael B. Martin, "what you have told me will never go beyond us."

But about two hours earlier, detectives had fitted Bryce with a digital recorder that captured much of what was said during the men's conversation.

Excerpts of that recording were played yesterday during the second day of Martin's trial on charges that he solicited his cellmate to kill both the prosecutor who handled a 2005 sex-abuse case against him and a developer who proposed building a child care center in Martin's community, and to set fire to the home of an elderly woman who told people at Martin's church about the abuse allegations.

"I want this guy to suffer the way I have suffered," Martin said at one point during the recording, although it was unclear to whom he was referring.

Jurors also heard yesterday parts of Martin's interview with police, including his adamant denials that he had asked his cellmate to kill or injure anyone.

Characterizing the prosecutor and others involved in his cases as "people I've grumbled about or said they're scum," Martin told a police detective. "Any kind of scheme or whatever is certainly Tim and not me. I'm not that creative."

Martin, 46, of Lutherville, is serving a one-year prison sentence for sexually abusing a young girl and 12 years in prison for obstructing justice and harassing people involved with that case, including a civilian police computer expert who examined Martin's computers.

Martin, a former computer systems administrator and homeowners association president, listened intently during yesterday's testimony. He scribbled notes and whispered in his lawyer's ear. He vigorously shook his head as the recorded conversation with his one-time cellmate was played.

The recording -- nearly two hours long -- was often difficult to understand. Although jurors initially leaned forward and strained to make out the conversation, many of them quickly resorted to reading along with the transcripts of the recording that the prosecutor distributed.

Martin and Bryce, his cellmate, spent a significant amount of time discussing directions to and the configurations of the homes of prosecutor Jason League, the developer who proposed building the child-care center and the elderly woman who spread word at Martin's church of his arrest in the child abuse case.

Martin referred to maps that he is accused of sketching out for his cellmate during the conversation as well as his previous visits to his alleged targets' homes. He described a "blind spot" at one site, characterizing it as "a place that provides the best cover." And he offered detailed descriptions of the prosecutor and real estate developer.

After a brief discussion of staging an armed robbery of the real estate developer, Martin said, "The best option is to do him in the city because of the sheer nature of armed robberies."

Michael Sabracos, the developer who had proposed building the KinderCare center that Martin and his community association opposed, briefly choked up on the witness stand.

Asked how he felt when he heard that Martin was charged with plotting to kill him, Sabracos said, "I was angry that a child care center would put me in that position and fearful for my kids and my wife and their safety."

League testified about similar concerns for his wife and children.

During Martin's interview with police Detective Douglas Patrick, he acknowledged that he had driven by the homes of League and the elderly woman, attributing the visits to "curiosity."

"When I was preparing my defense for my case, I was trying to research the people and get to know them. I did look up his address," Martin said of League's home in northern Baltimore County, "and may have driven by it on the way to my brother's house."

Told by the detective that that "freaks me out a little, and I'm sure it freaks out Mr. League, too," Martin countered that driving by the prosecutor's home was not illegal. "I don't even know that it's improper," he added.

But prosecutors say the scouting mission went further.

Prosecutor Allan J. Webster told jurors Tuesday during his opening statement that Martin sat outside League's home, taking notes about the house, its entrances and the family dogs, and also told his cellmate of seeing League riding a tractor in his front yard.

Martin also attributed the visits to mental illness, explaining that he was suffering from depression and was not medicated.

Asked his reasons for discussing the alleged targets and their homes in jail, Martin said, "It's something to talk about."

Late yesterday afternoon, Webster dropped two charges of solicitation of first-degree assault involving a police detective who investigated Martin's sex-abuse case and a prosecutor who handled the subsequent witness intimidation case against him.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz also acquitted Martin of another charge -- solicitation to commit second-degree murder by setting fire to the elderly woman's home. The judge pointed out that Martin said during the recorded conversation in jail, "I don't want her to die. I just want her to be scared."

The case is expected to wrap up today when the judge instructs the jury on the law and lawyers offer closing arguments.



Related coverage at baltimoresun.com/witness

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