- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

LA PLATA, Md. — A Charles County Circuit Court judge yesterday questioned testimony and evidence provided by Maryland State Police officials in sustaining administrative charges against a trooper whom a jury acquitted 18 months ago.
The judge's decision on whether the charges should be sustained will likely be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice, which is investigating complaints that the federal prosecutor's office in Maryland — under then-U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia — destroyed evidence and leaked secret grand jury testimony to sustain misconduct and mail fraud charges against Sgt. Michael R. White.
Judge Christopher Henderson yesterday wanted to know why the case file on Sgt. White of Mechanicsville contained little substance beyond a report an investigator filed in 1997 and why it had no indication that police had investigated charges that the report was false.
An internal investigation found the investigator's only violation was failing to maintain a chain-of-custody record for a tape-recorded interview of Sgt. White on which much of the report was based. The tapes of that interview turned up blank.
Maryland State Police Capt. Matthew Lawrence, head of the Internal Affairs Unit, said the investigation of the report was a personnel issue and that officials who needed to know were aware of it.
But the judge also said he couldn't understand why Sgt. White's barracks commander, Lt. Paul Kelly, said he had signed charging documents against the trooper before the Dec. 17 deadline, but could produce no signed and dated copies except those bearing the date Dec. 18 — the day on which he presented them to Sgt. White.
Judge Henderson was clearly disturbed by records that Maryland State Police presented and conflicts between testimony of the state trooper and his commanding officer, who was directed to file the charges.
Asked on the stand if he had received any pressure about the testimony he would give in the case, Lt. Kelly said two troopers had warned him not to let the attorney representing the state police in the case — Assistant Attorney General Betty Sconion — cause him to perjure himself. He said he had no intention to commit perjury.
The judge ordered the hearing to determine whether state police officials violated the rights of Sgt. White by filing the charges without probable cause and by not filing them through proper channels and on time. The court case resumes tomorrow.
Sgt. White's brother, John D. White, said he believes his brother is being targeted because of an incident in the early 1990s, when his brother and another trooper pushed for the prosecution of domestic-abuse charges against a high-ranking police official with connections to the prosecutor, Miss Battaglia, who became a Maryland Court of Appeals judge in January.
A jury acquitted Sgt. White of all criminal charges on Dec. 17, 1999.
Attorneys for both sides agreed that state police had a year from that date to file administrative charges.
The case against Sgt. White — which revolved around accusations that he did secret inspections for a salvage operation that sold cars rebuilt with stolen parts — relied primarily on a report filed by a state police investigator who interviewed him and assisted the prosecution.
That investigator produced the report from memory after tapes of the interview inexplicably turned up blank.

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