Weeks after his office and home were raided by federal agents, attorney Stanley Needleman is in trouble again — this time for allegedly stealing a judicial clerk's school textbook from a Baltimore County courtroom.
Needleman, 68, has been charged with one count of theft under $100 after police say a check of court surveillance cameras showed him on May 9 flipping through the textbook, "Understanding White Collar Crime," walking away with it and resuming his spot behind the defense table to represent a client.
In an interview with a detective, according to police charging documents, Needleman said he picked up the book because it "had to do with my situation," an apparent reference to raids on his North Calvert Street office and Pikesville home in mid-April by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The City Paper has reported that agents seized $600,000 in cash.
No charges have been filed in connection with the raids, and a DEA spokesman said the case was continuing.
Needleman told the detective in the textbook case that he "did not have any intent whatsoever to take anybody's book," but police noted that he made no attempts to return the book, valued at $41. He did not respond to a request for comment.
The court clerk, Bradford Gorney, also did not return a phone call seeking comment. But on his Facebook page, he posted on May 10: "It's official, someone stole my school textbook from inside my courtroom with cameras … DUMB."
In court papers, a county police detective wrote that Gorney, a clerk for Judge Susan M. Souder, said he had put the book on his desk and left the courtroom to get a copy of a pre-sentence investigation report for Needleman, who was in court with a client.
After realizing the book was gone, Gorney asked sheriff's deputies to check surveillance tape, which showed Needleman approach Gorney's desk, flip through the book, and walk away, according to the charging document. Seventeen minutes later, the court documents say, the video shows him returning, placing paperwork on top of the book and picking it up.
"This time, the male subject leaves the desk area with the textbook in his possession," the officer wrote in charging documents. "He walks toward the public seating area, leans over and appears to place something down, then he engages in a brief conversation with someone as the two of them walk out of the courtroom."
Later in the tape, Needleman is seen behind the defense table with a client. The detective noted that he recognized Needleman and his trademark bow tie from prior interactions.
Court records show Needleman was in court with a client named Philip Anthony Eldridge, a Baltimore man who was in court for a disposition on charge of possession with intent to distribute drugs. Records show Eldridge received a 10-year sentence from Souder that day.
The detective asked Needleman to meet with him at the Baltimore County state's attorney's office, and Needleman said he had noticed the textbook and begun reading because "it's about my situation," records show. He said he might have "without any intent at all" failed to return the book. He said he checked his car for the book, and later found it among his files for Eldridge's case.
Needleman gave the detective the textbook and said he had been "curious" about it but said he had no intent to steal the book. The detective noted, however, that Needleman had not made any attempts to return the book before the detective contacted him three days later.
Needleman was charged on May 18, but records were not immediately available because court officials said the summons had not been served. Needleman is scheduled to make an appearance in court on the theft charge in July.
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