By Jeff Barker
The Baltimore Sun
10:55 PM EDT, July 29, 2013
The Prince George's County State's Attorney's Office is dismissing three criminal charges against Maryland running back Wes Brown stemming from a July 3 encounter with police that his attorney labeled an "unconstitutional confrontation."
Maryland, which must now decide whether to lift Brown's suspension, said his status remained unchanged as of Monday evening. The Terps open training camp next week.
Brown had been charged with second-degree assault, wiretapping and stealing a cell phone after Baltimore police detectives arrived in College Park to question the rising sophomore about a nonfatal shooting in Baltimore.
But John Erzen, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, said Monday there is no evidence that Brown committed a crime in College Park. Brown had been accused of shoving one of the police detectives, but Erzen said: "He was resisting what could be considered an unlawful arrest."
Brown, 19, resisted accompanying the detectives to headquarters and said he wanted to have at least one parent with him during questioning, according to a police document. Police moved to take Brown into custody. The player was accused of then shoving a Baltimore police detective with two hands before taking off on foot.
Jason Shapiro, a Howard County-based defense attorney representing Brown, said his client, who has been free on bond, was within his rights to decline to accompany the police.
"I applaud the state's attorney's office for dismissing the charges — which is justified," Shapiro said. "People think the state's attorney's office represents the police, and they don't. Their role is misunderstood. They're supposed to seek justice, and this is a just decision."
Police said in a probable cause statement earlier this month that Brown's car has been linked to a nonfatal shooting in Baltimore. Shapiro said he doesn't believe that Brown "has criminal culpability in Baltimore City." Baltimore police said they couldn't comment because the investigation was ongoing.
Brown, one of Maryland's most promising young offensive players, rushed for 399 yards and a 4.2 average last season. He missed the last two games with a torn labrum (shoulder joint).
Brown is from Baltimore but for part of his high school career lived with the family of one of his assistant coaches so he could be closer to Good Counsel in Olney.
The charges against Brown included a felony — using a cell phone to tape the interaction with police. The police report, filed in District Court in Upper Marlboro, had accused Brown of stealing a cell phone from a student and using it to record several minutes of the confrontation. But Erzen said there was no evidence of such a recording.
Erzen also said there wasn't proof that Brown intended to steal the phone after his own cell phone's battery died. Erzen said it appeared Brown offered the student a form of collateral – including his keys — to borrow the phone.
The case raises the issue of when police can detain a citizen.
"If the police have a valid arrest warrant, they can arrest," said longtime Maryland criminal defense attorney William Brennan, who is not connected to Brown's case. "Without it, they can arrest on a felony if they have probable cause or on a misdemeanor committed in their presence. From reading the statement of probable cause, it's unclear why Mr. Brown was being placed into custody originally."
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