Court battle rages in Anne Arundel over traffic stop

Davidsonville man files six lawsuits to get police records on misconduct.

On a Friday morning in September 2010, Gary Glass steered his Mercury Mariner along the curves on Rutland Road in Davidsonville, past horse farms and McMansions, toward a gym in Gambrills.

On his way, the retired accountant nearly collided with a Ford Escape. But he blew his horn and kept driving.

Moments later, Glass spotted a flashing blue light behind him. It was the Ford. He pulled over. A man walked out of the SUV, leaving two small children inside, approached Glass, showed a gun and demanded identification.

The 17-minute traffic stop — and the citation in which Anne Arundel County Police Officer Mark Collier said Glass was following him too closely — started a legal battle that has raged for four years and counting.

Glass, 60, has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Collier violated his civil rights in a false arrest. The Davidsonville man is seeking $5 million in damages.

In a succession of suits filed in state courts, Glass also alleges that county officials are improperly withholding records that would help him prove his complaint.

Now a confidential settlement in the federal lawsuit is due to go before a county panel on Tuesday. And the judge who presided over a four-day trial last month on one of the state lawsuits is expected to issue a ruling soon.

In court papers, Glass has accused Anne Arundel County leaders, police officials and the state's attorney's office of violating the Public Information Act by denying him the records he has sought. He has filed complaints against county lawyers and judges with the state's Attorney Grievance Commission.

In reams of documents, Glass says high-ranking police officers frequently shield junior officers — some of whom, like Collier, have relatives on the force — from misconduct allegations.

County lawyers have scoffed at the claim. In one court filing, Supervising County Attorney Andrew Murray calls Glass a "vindictive malcontent and conspiracy theorist the likes of which Hollywood film director Oliver Stone would be proud."

County lawyers estimate the county has paid at least $23,000 to defend itself from the federal case and the case that went to trial last month.

Amid the dispute, one thing is certain: As U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. wrote in one ruling, Glass and Collier "offer dramatically different accounts" of the traffic stop.

Glass was driving westbound on Rutland Road on the morning of Sept. 14, 2010, as Collier was leaving a doctor's office with his children.

In Glass' telling, he spotted Collier's county-owned Ford stopped in the office driveway. As Glass approached, he says in one court filing, the SUV "suddenly entered" the road in front of him.

Glass says he braked and blew his horn to alert the driver, then drove another 300 yards before he noticed the flashing blue light.

He says he pulled over and tried to get out of his car, but Collier ordered him back inside. He says Collier yelled "there are laws against blowing your horn," lifted his shirt to show the gun and didn't identify himself as a police officer.

Glass says he explained to Collier that he blew the horn because Collier didn't yield, but Collier became agitated. Glass says he called 911 because Collier didn't identify himself as an officer.

Collier, who joined the county police department in 2006, has a different version of events.

The plainclothes officer says in court filings that no other vehicles were approaching as he pulled out of the parking lot. As he accelerated, he noticed a car very close to his bumper, and the driver "shaking his head."

He says the car continued to follow him closely for several hundred feet. After the driver sounded the horn, Collier says, he pulled the car over.

Being off duty, Collier says, he lifted his shirt to uncover his gun in case he needed it. He says he asked Glass for identification and issued the citation.

Glass says he called the Police Department after the stop, and was told he would need to file a written complaint, according to court filings.

Days later, he says, he received a call from Lt. Scott Davis, the head of internal affairs in the Police Department. According to Glass, Davis urged him not to pursue the complaint, saying "Collier was just having a bad day," and "did not know that you cannot treat people in South County the way you treat people in North County."

Collier and Davis declined through a department spokesman to be interviewed for this article.

Glass received a trial summons in early 2011 for the traffic citation. His lawyer issued subpoenas for witnesses and made Public Information Act requests for internal affairs records.

The county objected to the request for internal affairs records. A judge sided with the county.

Glass sued the county in May 2011 for withholding public records.

When Glass went to trial in November 2011 for the driving offense, Davis testified that investigators never questioned Collier about Glass' complaint. Collier also testified that he wasn't interviewed. (Records show he was questioned in January 2012.)

A judge acquitted Glass of the driving offense.

He filed the federal lawsuit in June 2012 against Collier, the county and six other police employees. The federal judge dismissed some of the defendants in March 2013, but allowed the lawsuit to proceed.

Glass says in court filings that police leaders are protecting Collier because six relatives are current or former members of the department. Collier confirmed the relations in a deposition.

Glass' attorneys also have tried to raise questions about Collier's credibility. In a deposition, attorney Cary H. Hansel III asked Collier about his resignation from the Maryland State Police academy in 2004. Collier said he was accused of cheating on a test.

Glass' attorneys asked why detectives didn't ask Collier about Glass' allegations. Cpl. Alfred Barcenas, an internal affairs investigator, said Davis told him not to question the officer until a year after Glass filed the complaint — a delay that could allow Collier to avoid discipline.

"My direction was we're not going to interview [Collier] until after the court trial," Barcenas said, "and it just dragged on and on and on."

Davis explained his decision in a deposition to attorney Brian Patterson, who is Glass' live-in partner. Davis said "that the best course of action was to wait" to get answers from "Collier on the stand at the [traffic] trial subject to cross-examination."

Davis said Collier could have been disciplined despite the delay because the one-year limit starts over if investigators uncover new misconduct.

Neither Glass nor county attorneys would discuss details of the settlement to be presented Tuesday to Anne Arundel's Self-Insurance Fund Committee.

In state court, Glass is seeking $1.4 million in damages for alleged violations of the Public Information Act and another $225,000 for legal fees and other costs.

Senior Assistant County Attorney Philip Culpepper, in court papers, called it "shocking" that Glass would seek such a "gratuitous windfall."

Patterson, meanwhile, wrote in a filing that officials ignore the Public Information Act and court orders, treating requests "like a game of hide and seek. But this is not a game."

mpuente@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MarkPuente

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