Francisco Rodriguez, already in prison on drug charges, will be eligible for parole before he serves any additional time for the 1990 murder of state police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf, according to a state prison official.
Rodriguez was sentenced last Friday to life in prison as part of a sealed plea agreement with the Howard County state's attorney's office.
But that life sentence is concurrent with a 15-year federal sentence on unrelated drug charges that has no parole provisions. Because the sentences are concurrent, Rodriguez will be eligible for parole when his drug sentence expires under Maryland parole guidelines.
Susan Kaskie, a spokeswoman for the Division of Parole and Probation, said that in Maryland, inmates serving life sentences are eligible for their first parole hearing after serving 15 years of their sentence.
That possibility, combined with the judge's decision to seal the plea agreement at the request of the Howard County state's attorney's office, has Corporal Wolf's widow wondering how justice was served in her husband's death.
"In the state's attorney's office, they're telling me he'll never get parole the first time around," said Virginia Wolf, who had asked Howard County Circuit Court Judge Raymond J. Kane not to accept the plea agreement.
"They say I'm being very emotional and prejudiced, but it looks like he's not going to serve anything for this, or a very minimal sentence at best."
Dwight Thompson, deputy state's attorney in Howard County, wouldn't comment on Rodriguez' parole eligibility and said there were justifiable reasons to place the plea agreement under seal.
"The only thing I can say is that it was done for good, sound legal reasons," Mr. Thompson said. "It was not done for expediency or economic reasons in any way, shape or form."
Judge Kane declined to comment on the reasons for sealing the plea.
Timothy Wolf, who prosecuted the Rodriguez case, said after the sentencing that the plea was placed under seal for "institutional security reasons."
Mrs. Wolf said that she asked the prosecutor, "You mean to tell me that you're trying to protect this man's life?" and that he didn't respond.
Rodriguez, 21, of the Bronx, N.Y., was present when Corporal Wolf, 40, was shot twice in the head during a traffic stop on March 29, 1990, on Interstate 95 in Jessup.
Eric Tirado, 27, also of the Bronx, was identified as the gunman and was convicted of first-degree murder in July. He is serving a sentence of life without parole.
The Sun plans to file a motion today requesting a hearing before Judge Kane on whether or not he should have accepted the state's request to seal the plea.
"The paper thinks the public has a right to know the basis on which the state's attorney's office recommended and the court accepted a life sentence concurrent with the existing drug sentence," said Mary R. Craig, The Sun's attorney. "The paper can't report the facts if they're contained in a sealed court file."
Mrs. Wolf said she believes there is a great deal of public interest in her husband's murder and said that people should know why a man involved in his killing got the sentence he did.
"I think they're keeping it a secret because I know there would be very few people that would agree with it," Mrs. Wolf said of the state's attorney's decision to seal the plea. "How they can get away with doing that I'm not quite sure."
Richard Stefan Lurye, co-counsel for Rodriguez, would not comment on whether he thought the sentence was a fair one but said it would be up to the Maryland Parole Commission to determine if 15 years is a sufficient sentence for Rodriguez.
"What Mr. Rodriguez has here is an opportunity to show by his actions between now and whenever they consider him that he has restored himself to that point where it would be appropriate to release him," Mr. Lurye said.
"For Ginni Wolf, I don't think in a million years she'll perceive of it as being fair; nobody would expect her to," Mr. Lurye said.
"She has had an irreplaceable loss and the one thing she wants she can't get. To her it won't be fair," he added.