Another scare arrives in Baltimore courthouse mail

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

March 18, 2010|By Tricia Bishop | tricia.bishop@baltsun.com | Baltimore Sun reporter

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

An employee found the package Wednesday morning on the second floor of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse and notified the sheriff's office, which called 911 about 9:30 a.m.

Firefighters and a hazardous-materials team responded, cordoning off the front of the building while onlookers milled outside. The powder tested negative for biological materials, said Capt. Roman L. Clark, a Fire Department spokesman.

The package, which was not addressed to a particular judge, is "now part of evidence," he said.

A similar package led to the evacuation Monday of City Hall, and four other threatening letters have arrived at the courthouse since Friday. All 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, our 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.

"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."

Attorneys, defendants and office workers stood outside the courthouse, speculating on what was going on. Some had heard that there had been a bomb threat, while others heard that a package was involved.

Ronald Chenworth showed up for his motor vehicle case about 9:30 a.m. and was turned away, 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, "I think it makes me late."

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