Digest

January 30, 2008

$100 million lawsuit filed over police brutality claim

A Baltimore police officer who was charged last week with assaulting an undercover internal affairs detective was named yesterday in a $100 million civil lawsuit by a man who says the officer assaulted him during a stop in Southeast Baltimore last year.

In documents filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, Steven Vernarelli of Rosedale alleges that Officer Jerome K. Hill assaulted him Oct. 22 near Curley and Monument streets.

Two other officers witnessed the assault and did nothing to stop it, and then all three officers drove away, the lawsuit alleges. Those officers were not named in the suit, which was filed by Norris C. Ramsey, Vernarelli's attorney.

Sterling Clifford, a Baltimore police spokesman, declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

Last week, internal affairs detectives targeted Hill, 35, in an undercover investigation after receiving a complaint. Police officials would not disclose the nature of the complaint against the four-year veteran.

Police said detectives set up a sting in which an undercover officer pretended to be a drug buyer at Clinton and Noble streets. A dispatcher sent Hill to the corner where police said the officer got out of his cruiser and punched the undercover officer in the face without provocation, according to court documents. Hill was arrested and charged with second-degree assault, according to police charging documents.

Hill has been suspended without pay and remains free on $25,000 bond.

Gus G. Sentementes

Harford County

: Fatal crash

Police investigate hit-and-run crash

State police and the Harford County state's attorney's office are reviewing information about a fatal hit-and-run accident on Interstate 95 near Aberdeen that claimed the life of a 28-year-old Baltimore man.

Police have not identified the off-duty Anne Arundel County police officer who was taken into custody a few hours after the accident Monday. The officer has been released from custody pending charges, said Elena Wendell, state police spokeswoman.

The unidentified officer, who has worked on county patrol for three years, has had law enforcement powers suspended and will be placed in a paid administrative position on returning to work in a few days, said Anne Arundel police Chief James Teare Sr.

The accident occurred shortly before 6 a.m. Monday, when a Nissan Pathfinder, traveling north, struck the rear of a Ford Explorer. Antonio M. Martinez of Fieldcrest Road, the driver of the Explorer, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Justin Fenton

Statewide

: Taxes

Md. court to hear GOP lawsuit appeal

Maryland's highest court has agreed to hear a Republican-backed lawsuit seeking to invalidate tax increases passed during last year's special legislative session, officials said yesterday. The hearing is scheduled before the Court of Appeals on March 11.

This month, a Carroll County Circuit judge dismissed the suit brought by five GOP lawmakers, but he criticized Democratic leaders for "failing to abide by constitutionally mandated procedures" during the session. The lawmakers appealed and successfully petitioned to bring the suit directly to the state's highest court.

Harford County

: Fawn Grove

Man, 53, clearing site is hit by tree, dies

A Pylesville man who was clearing trees from a residential site Monday died after being pinned under a tree, police said.

William Royston Troyer Jr., 53, was clearing trees in the 1900 block of Eden Mill Road in Fawn Grove about 11:25 a.m. Monday, said Sgt. Christina Presberry, a spokeswoman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office. A gust of wind blew the tree he was cutting, causing it to fall onto a smaller tree, which collapsed on Troyer, Presberry said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Madison Park

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