A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge on Tuesday granted a trial postponement to a man charged with leaving a device that police said appeared to be a bomb — a toilet equipped with electric gadgets — outside an administration building in February.
Duane G. Davis, 51, whose trial was to have begun Tuesday, dismissed his lawyer and asked for the postponement so that he would have time to prepare for trial with another attorney or, failing that, to represent himself. A new trial was set for Sept. 13.
Davis, known to his friends as Shorty, has a history of protesting political figures and institutions, and the toilet he admits to leaving on a Towson street was designed, he said, as a "gift" to Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger. He said after today's hearing that he had left similar porcelain gifts to other officials and politicians.
"The toilet is my trademark," he said. "Just like NBC got the peacock, I got the toilet."
Davis was charged with two felony counts under state laws tailored to address items that might be bombs or could appear to be toxic or dangerous. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
The defendant, who is free on bail, told Judge Ruth A. Jakubowski that he no longer wished to be represented by the attorney, Thomas J. Saunders — who had taken the case without charge. He said Saunders had failed to provide him with all the documents he needed to proceed with the trial. Saunders told the judge that he had met with his client for seven or eight hours and that Davis was "entirely apprised of the nature of the case."
In granting the postponement, Jakubowski said there appeared to have been a "breakdown in communication" between Davis and his lawyer, "although I frankly believe Mr. Saunders has done what he's supposed to do." The judge warned the defendant, who claimed to be indigent, that if he did not seek help from the Office of the Public Defender or another private attorney, he would face trial without representation.
The first charge accuses Davis of making a false statement about a destructive device, meaning that the act of leaving the toilet where it was gave the false impression of creating a dangerous situation. The second count refers to the toilet and its gadgets, under a law that forbids the placement of any item "that is construed to represent a destructive device with the intent to terrorize, frighten, intimidate, threaten or harass."
The discovery of the toilet on Feb. 7 outside a former courthouse that now houses the County Council chambers prompted police to shutdown streets and call in a bomb disposal squad. The device was found to be harmless.
The commode was festooned with numerous notes, at least one calling for an investigation into the death of the defendant's son, Gerrell Davis, who was shot to death as he broke into a house in Zion, Ill., in 2006, according to authorities there.