A Baltimore judge dismissed Tuesday state charges filed against a man who had been acquitted of similar charges in federal court, calling the local indictments a "sham" prosecution that violated the defendant's constitutional protection against being tried twice for the same offense.
On Oct. 3, 2008, a U.S. District Court jury found Lenny Lyle Cain not guilty of federal drug charges. Three weeks later, the state filed new charges against him, based on the same incidents and investigation, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Paul A. Smith held in a 10-page opinion.
"The state prosecution is a sham and a cover for a federal prosecution, and thereby in actuality another federal prosecution," Smith wrote, dismissing the cases as being in violation of the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment and the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.
Antonio Gioia, chief of the narcotics and special investigations division of the Baltimore state's attorney's office, said the state "strongly disagrees" with the trial court's decision and plans to consult with the attorney general's office Wednesday about filing an appeal.
No case has ever been reversed under similar reasoning, according to the state.
Cain was charged with identity theft, Social Security fraud and cocaine distribution, and was tried in federal court in 2006. He was acquitted on the drug charge, but pleaded guilty to identity theft and related crimes and was sentenced to 33 months in prison.
Shortly after, a Baltimore grand jury indicted him on state drug charges.
"These charges allegedly arose out of the same alleged conduct as the federal charges for which the defendant had been acquitted," Smith wrote. "The federal authorities obviously decided immediately after the [first] trial to make a second try at convicting Lenny Lyle Cain; and since the federal courthouse was barred to them by the Fifth Amendment, they turned to a state prosecution for that purpose."
Gioia said the state and federal agencies ran "parallel" but independent investigations.
"This agency acts independently," Gioia said. "We were very disappointed in the decision. We don't believe it reflects the existing state of law."
"The opinion appears to confuse federal funding with federal control," Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, wrote in an e-mail to The Baltimore Sun. "Many state agencies receive federal funding, but the state's attorney and her supervisors decide independently whether to pursue state charges and which assistant state's attorneys to assign."
Cain's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Louis Brendan Curran, said the state's prosecution was "surprising" and could not even be characterized as a "twin."
"It's the same thing," Curran said. "It certainly from the beginning had the aura of poor sportsmanship, to put it very simply. [They] lose in one place and run over to some other court with the same issue."
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