Jury fails to reach verdict in retrial of man accused of threatening governor

No decision has been made about a third trial

March 30, 2011|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

A judge declared a mistrial Wednesday after a Baltimore County jury became deadlocked in the case of a construction worker accused of making a death threat against the governor.

Walter C. Abbott, 47, who admitted sending Gov. Martin O'Malley a curse-filled email three years ago threatening to strangle him, maintained that it had merely been a ploy to draw attention to the cause of illegal immigration and that his words were protected by the First Amendment.

It was Abbott's second trial on the charges. In February 2010, Maryland's second-highest court threw out a conviction against him after concluding that a Baltimore County judge failed to tell jurors how to determine whether the email constituted an actual threat to the governor's life.

After that trial, Abbott was given a six-month suspended sentence and two years of probation. On Wednesday, he walked out of court uncertain whether he would be tried again. The prosecutor, Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Tompsett, said no decision had been made.

Abbot's lawyer, Arthur M. Frank, said it would be pointless for prosecutors to do so. "After the state spent a small fortune trying a case against a person who is obviously not a violent person, trying him a third time would be a complete waste of government resources and judicial time and energy," he said.

Tompsett said the jury explained later that there had been a 10-2 deadlock, with the majority favoring conviction.

"I was really hoping to get an answer" from O'Malley, Abbott said outside the courtroom after the mistrial had been declared. "I believe it was my First Amendment right to write a harsh statement to try to get a reply. I just got a much bigger reply than what I wished for."

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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