After a woman picked out a photo of Tyree Threatt and said he was the man who robbed her off Reisterstown Road a month and a half ago, Baltimore detectives quickly got a warrant for his arrest, and they hauled him down to Central Booking over the past weekend, where he was held in lieu of $75,000 bail.
There was just one problem: Records show that the 21-year-old Baltimore man was jailed in another case at the time of the robbery.
A public defender who represented Threatt this week says he laid out jail records before a judge Monday showing that his client had what might have been the best possible alibi.
But prosecutors said the issue should be sorted out at trial, according to the public defenders office, and the judge declined to release Threatt (he did get $25,000 shaved off his bail).
"All I could do is present the information to the court," said Nicholas Cooksley, the public defender. But after The Baltimore Sun asked prosecutors and the Police Department about the case, the charges against Threatt were dropped Wednesday.
The unusual case began June 27, when the woman was robbed on a street just off Reisterstown Road in the city's Lucille Park neighborhood. She told police that her assailant was wearing a hooded black sweatshirt, but she could see his face and dreadlocks poking out of the hood.
In the woman's account, the man told her: "Drop the pocketbook, I have a gun." She complied. He told her: "Walk away and don't look back."
Police got their apparent break a few weeks later when a detective saw a man who matched the description given by the woman in the area where the robbery happened, they said in court documents. A patrol officer identified the man as Threatt, and the victim subsequently picked him out in a photo array, according to the documents.
Two days after that, a court commissioner signed a warrant for Threatt on a raft of charges, including armed robbery and using a firearm in a violent crime, each of which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence. Threatt was arrested over the weekend, according to court records.
But once he got to jail, the lawyer appointed to represent Threatt at his initial bail hearing and the public defender's office began investigating the case. That's when they pulled the jail records.
On June 27, Threatt was being held on charges that included second-degree assault and false imprisonment. Prosecutors dropped those charges that day, but jail records indicate that he wasn't freed until the early hours of June 28.
Prosecutors did not respond to requests for comment about the case. Before the robbery charges were dismissed Wednesday, Lt. Sarah Connolly, a police spokeswoman, said officers were investigating and would seek to have the case dropped if he had indeed been incarcerated at the time of the robbery.
Garland Sanderson, the attorney who handled Threatt's initial appearance in front of a court commissioner, said the case shows the value of having lawyers involved in cases from the very beginning. Sanderson represented Threatt under a program launched in July after the state's top court ruled that defendants have a right to legal representation when their bail is first set.
Still, Sanderson said the responsibility for Threatt's incarceration lies with the authorities.
"Our system of justice depends on police and state's attorneys fully investigating cases before someone is put in jail," he said, "rather then an innocent person having to prove their innocence from a jail cell."
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