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Prosecutors drop drug case affected by alleged evidence room theft

A week after a Baltimore County police cadet was accused of stealing drugs from the department's evidence room, prosecutors said they had dropped charges against a defendant in a case in which some of the drugs were seized.

The trial of 50-year-old Joseph Thorn was scheduled to begin Thursday in Baltimore County District Court. But with the case seven years old and the drugs now missing, State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger said, "we decided the most reasonable thing to do was to dismiss the case."

Thorn is in Florida serving a sentence for a drug-related offense from 2012, Assistant State's Attorney John Cox said.

Thorn was the target of an "ongoing investigation pertaining to the passing of numerous forged prescription drugs in the west side of Baltimore County," police said in charging documents from July 2007.

Thorn's case is one of 18 in which evidence was allegedly taken by Nicholas Michael Ishmael. Ishmael, 20, is accused of stealing more that $125,000 worth of Oxycodone, cocaine, morphine and other drugs from the department's evidence room in the basement of its Joppa Road headquarters.

Shellenberger said his office has not made any decisions regarding the other cases.

"We're doing it all on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Police began investigating Ishmael after evidence from a Towson homicide case went missing.

One defendant in that case, Kenneth Johnson, 24, was found guilty of second-degree murder in April and sentenced to 10 years in prison. A second defendant, Deonte Robinson, was scheduled to appear in court next week, but the trial has been postponed.

Both men were charged with murder in the death in November 2012 of Al-Sawab Sawab, 27, at the Fairways apartment complex in Towson.

Police say they are reviewing 30,000 cases in which materials were stored in the evidence room to determine whether other drugs might have been stolen.

Police Chief James. W. Johnson says all evidence is tracked using an electronic bar code system and monitored by security cameras, and the department regularly conducts audits.

Johnson said the department would "review all policies and procedures, and technologies and other techniques we can use to prevent this from happening in the future."

Ishmael, who became a cadet last August, has been fired from the department. He was released from custody last week pending a preliminary court hearing scheduled for July 25. He does not have an attorney listed in online court records.

Police say they found evidence from Thorn's case in Ishmael's trunk and in his bedroom at his mother's Parkville home.

Before the charges against Thom were dropped, police said he used a false prescription at a Reisterstown Road pharmacy to pick up pills that he planned to sell.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/janders5

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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