Balto. Co. court candidate says rival defamed him

Republican claims Democrat defamed him with account of sign theft, vandalism

October 14, 2010|By Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

The Republican candidate for clerk of Baltimore County Circuit Court is suing his Democratic rival for $2 million, contending that she defamed him in reporting to police that about 200 of her campaign signs were stolen or damaged.

The suit by Richard J. Reinhardt II of Monkton does not claim that Julie Ensor directly accused Reinhardt of any offense. It argues that by saying Reinhardt signs appeared in locations where Ensor signs had been removed, Julie Ensor and her husband, Mark, "intended to charge, did charge" Reinhardt with the offenses of theft and malicious destruction of property. The theft charge is a felony; the property charge a misdemeanor.

The two-count complaint claims that Ensor and her husband met with a police officer on Oct. 3 to report the thefts and vandalism of signs worth about $1,000 from various locations. Quoting a three-page police report, the suit claims that the Ensors told police that "where the Ensor's signs had been stolen, damaged or moved, the opposing candidate, Richard J. Reinhardt II's signs have been placed nearby."

The suit claims that the Ensors' statements were "maliciously false," that the Ensors knew that, and that the statements to the police were made "with malice, ill will and hatred" toward Reinhardt, a lawyer, legislative secretary for the Harford County General Assembly delegation and former Circuit Court judicial law clerk.

The suit claims the Ensors "injured the reputation of the Plaintiff" by exposing him to "contempt, ridicule, and to attack and impair his reputation for honesty and integrity."

The first count in the suit refers to the Ensors' conversation with a police officer, the second to the police report that was written by the officer. Each count claims damages of $1 million.

Ensor, 49, of Parkton, a former judge of the Baltimore County Orphans' Court, said, "I really would prefer not to make any comment at this point in time."

Ensor won the Democratic nomination over four other candidates, including longtime clerk Suzanne Mensh, who served for 24 years and who was trying to get back into office after retiring in the spring. Ensor also topped Richard D. Arnold Jr., former head of the court's juvenile division, who was named interim clerk after Mensh stepped aside.

Reinhardt, 32, is being represented in the case by his father, Richard J. Reinhardt, and is referring questions to him. The elder Reinhardt said in an interview Thursday that the police wrote a preliminary report on the Ensor complaint, then sent a detective to the candidate's campaign headquarters in Towson.

"It was so outrageous, you were dumbfounded," he said. Later, the elder Reinhardt said, the police dropped the case, because "they didn't have anything."

Reinhardt said his son has "been placed in a false light. He's been made to defend himself."

arthur.hirsch@baltsun.com

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