Another scare arrives in city courthouse mail

Package with bullet, white powder, threatening letter found in judge's chambers

  • A hazmat truck is parked Monday outside City Hall, which was evacuated for about 40 minutes after a mail clerk found an envelope containing a threatening letter and white powder that was determined to be harmless, authorities said.
A hazmat truck is parked Monday outside City Hall, which was… (Baltimore Sun photo by Jed…)
March 17, 2010|By Tricia Bishop |

For the fifth time in six days, a package containing a bullet, harmless white powder and a threatening letter was found inside the Baltimore City Circuit Courthouse, this time in a judge's chambers.

An employee discovered the package Wednesday morning on the second floor of the westside Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse and notified the Baltimore City Sheriff's Office, which called 911 about 9:30 a.m.

The Fire Department and its hazardous materials team responded, cordoning off the front of the building with yellow caution tape while onlookers milled outside. The powder tested negative for biological materials, fire spokesman Capt. Roman L. Clark said.

The package, which wasn't addressed to a specific judge, is "now part of evidence," he added.

A similar package led to the evacuation Monday of City Hall, and four other threatening letters have arrived at the courthouse since Friday. All of them were addressed to Circuit Court judges, including Administrative Judge Marcella M. Holland.

In an internal memo, sent to courthouse personnel Wednesday and obtained by The Baltimore Sun, Holland assured staff that they were not in danger and explained the decision to avoid evacuation.

"If there was a hint of danger, out [sic] protocols would have been put in place and you would have been evacuated," she wrote. "This is, as you know, a very busy court with various agencies and entities located in our buildings. If we were to advise you and evacuate with every threat or incident that might occur, this Court would grind to a halt. Rest assured that the leadership of this Court is doing everything necessary to address all real, not perceived or rumored threats."

She continued: "We ask that you ignore rumors and speculation about these incidents and resist the urge to worry whenever you see a fire truck or Hazmat truck pull in front of our courthouses, as is the case today."

Bewildered attorneys, defendants and office workers stood outside the courthouse, guessing what was going on inside. Some heard it was a bomb threat, while others heard a package was involved.

Ronald Chenworth showed up for his motor vehicle case about 9:30 a.m. and was turned away from the door, he said. He communicated with his lawyer, who was inside the building, via cell phone. When asked what he thought about the incident, he grumbled simply, "I think it makes me late."

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