A police report documenting last month's altercation between Baltimore Clerk of Courts Frank M. Conaway Sr. and a blogger says officers saw Conaway display a holstered handgun, but also lists him as the victim of an assault.
Conaway, 78, and blogger Adam Meister, 35, have given different versions of the incident, and the eyewitness account of police who were driving by contradicts some of their key assertions. Police had withheld the report, citing the investigation by a special prosecutor, but released it Thursday morning after inquiries from The Baltimore Sun.
The report is written as a "common assault," with Meister listed as the suspect and Conaway's name redacted from the "victim" field. A follow-up report for a "handgun violation" says Conaway's permit to carry a concealed weapon had expired, and officers later seized the weapon from him at the courthouse.
Carrying a handgun without a valid permit is a misdemeanor that carries a minimum penalty of 30 days in jail and a maximum of three years in prison.
Conaway's attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, said he was largely "pleased" with the police account of the confrontation, saying it bolstered his client's version of the events. He denied that Conaway committed a gun violation, but offered a hypothetical question about whether carrying a weapon with an expired permit should carry the same penalty as never having obtained a permit at all.
"I don't think that's what the law intended," Gordon said. He said the permit issue should be dealt with as an administrative issue.
Meister, who has denied trying to kick Conaway, declined to comment Thursday, saying only: "I stand by every word I have said about this situation."
According to the report, officers with the citywide robbery unit were driving through the Ashburton neighborhood on Nov. 21 when they witnessed a "younger white male screaming at an older black male" on the sidewalk — later determined to be Meister and Conaway. Police said they saw the white man "take a fighting stance and attempt to kick the black male with his right foot," according to the report.
The officers said Conaway then swept his raincoat to the side, "displaying a tan leather holster containing a handgun," something both Conaway and Meister deny. The officers made a U-turn and saw the younger man running away, broadcast his description to other units, and stopped to talk to the man with the gun, the report says.
Conaway identified Meister as the man who fled, and said Meister had been banging on the front door of his home while screaming, the report says. Conaway said he followed Meister down the sidewalk and exposed the holstered weapon after Meister kicked at him, according to the report.
Conaway has said he never left his property. Meister maintains that he never stepped onto Conaway's property.
Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, citing the closeness of Conaway's duties as the chief court clerk, has referred the investigation to a special prosecutor, Steven Kroll. Kroll declined to comment on the status of the investigation Thursday.
Conaway's permit to carry the handgun had expired in March, according to state police. Though he is legally allowed to possess the weapon in his home or on his property, the gun can't be taken anywhere else. Investigators wrote that after determining his permit had expired, they met Conaway at the courthouse and seized the weapon, ammunition, and the holster.
Gordon said Conaway was told by police to bring the gun to work so it could be picked up, meaning that police instructed Conaway to commit another violation.
Asked to respond, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said: "Mr. Gordon has a role to play as a defense attorney. … We stand by our investigation."
The altercation between Meister and Conaway was the latest in their political feud. Meister has written about property tax credits received by the Conaway family, and was sued by Conaway's daughter, City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, for $21 million after he noted that she claimed a Randallstown home as her primary residence. She later dropped the suit and was defeated in the fall election.
Meister, an avid jogger, has said he was running home when he saw Conaway and began yelling at him. He said Conaway took a swing at him and missed.
Conaway, meanwhile, told reporters last week that he heard a sound at his door and saw Meister on his property, then confronted him. He says Meister tried to kick him.
Conaway said he never displayed a weapon; Meister said he never saw one, either.
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