Severna Park principal says she's innocent

Patricia Emory says she's innocent.

The elementary school principal, charged last week as a "drug kingpin" in Anne Arundel County's largest marijuana bust, said Tuesday her arrest is politically motivated, a ploy by police and state's attorneys to get favorable publicity for themselves.


"The whole thing is so totally ridiculous," she said during a four-hour interview, in which she discussed her family, job, lifestyle and the charges against her. "This is outrageous. They said I've been a leader in this. I have no knowledge of any of it."

But police called her allegations ridiculous. They believe Mrs. Emory knew about her husband's alleged activities and reaped the benefits.


"What she says simply isn't true. We don't just arbitrarily charge people," said Lieutenant Harry Collier.

Early last Thursday morning, county police raided the Emory house and 15 other locations in the metropolitan area. They confiscated 800 pounds of marijuana, seized $320,000 and arrested 10 people.

How, police ask, could Mrs. Emory, 45, have lived in a $437,000 Pasadena house near the water and not have known something was going on? Surely she did not believe they could have afforded it on her $63,000 salary when her husband was unemployed. And what about the expensive antiques and original artwork police said they saw in the home? Where did the money come from for all that?

Detective Michael Chandler said his continuing investigation has turned up more evidence linking Mrs. Emory to the alleged drug ring, although he declined to elaborate.

"There is no doubt in my mind she knew what was going on," Detective Chandler said. "I don't charge people unless I think I can convict them. It would be a waste of everyone's time."

But Mrs. Emory says the picture of an opulent lifestyle with luxury cars, expensive antiques and piles of cash is simply wrong.

"You ask about 'all the money.' My husband and I are constantly arguing about money. We don't have lots of money," she said. "We have an ultra-conservative lifestyle. Our recreation centers around our son's soccer games. I have no good artwork. This stuff is from J. C. Penny's."

During a tour of the house yesterday, there were no antiques or original artwork on display. Most of the furniture was well worn. The living room was almost barren.


Nothing had been removed from the house, said Mrs. Emory, adding that police had videotaped every room and documented the contents.

"This is it. This is all my expensive stuff," Mrs. Emory said. "And here's my jewelry. My most expensive watch cost $25. My earrings are Monet," she added, opening a jewelry chest. "I don't own one piece of gold."

Mrs. Emory's colleagues say they believe her account and have raised $12,000 for her bail.

"Let's put it this way," said her supervisor, Nancy Mann. "A 12-hour day at Severna Park Elementary School was a short day for her. She spent 70 to 80 hours a week at the school. She didn't have time for anything else."

Mrs. Emory's lawyer, E. Thomas Maxwell, said he is so convinced of her innocence that he requested she appear before a grand jury when it considers the indictments next week.

In a letter to the grand jury foreman dated Nov. 4, Mr. Maxwell states: "As you know, potential criminal defendants do not volunteer to appear before a grand jury . . . any statements made by Mrs. Emory could subsequently be used against her. Knowing this, Mrs. Emory still wishes to address your grand jury."


Although Mrs. Emory's husband, James Mitchell Emory Sr., also has been charged as a kingpin, she does not believe he was involved in smuggling.

Mr. Emory, who is being held without bond at the county Detention Center, could not be reached. His lawyer, Peter S. O'Neill, would not discuss the case in detail.

Police say Mr. Emory allegedly held "board of directors" meetings for an extensive drug ring with ties to several states and Mexico at the couple's home. And they say they have found marijuana stems and half-smoked marijuana joints in the Emorys' trash.

"That tells me that they were smoking marijuana in the house," Detective Chandler said. "With that type of odor, she has a college education, she had to have known."

Police also say they confiscated $12,000 from Mr. Emory's briefcase the day of the arrests. They have surveillance reports stating that known drug dealers frequently visited the house and the arrest of Mrs. Emory's brother in January for drug distribution.

Mrs. Emory said she knew of her brother's arrest but wouldn't comment on it. Mr. Maxwell said there was no connection between the two arrests, and her brother's case is still open.


And the house on the 1-acre lot that police insist should have been the giveaway is not what it seems, she insisted.

It was built with a $200,000 construction loan from Reisterstown Federal, she said. The couple pays $1,980 a month, court and county records show.

Mr. Emory, who has worked in construction for the past 10 years, did most of the work with the help of friends who are subcontractors, she said.

"I don't think it's unusual at all that we have the house," said Mrs. Emory, adding that it has been her husband's dream to build such a house for many years. "Friends helped build it. Lots of stuff came from other jobs. That's how he did it."

Some of the money for the lot came from the sale of two smaller houses that the couple bought and Mr. Emory renovated .

But the "dream house" she shared with her husband and two sons, one a high school student, held few happy memories, Mrs. Emory said, recounting her 25-year marriage.


The two, she said, didn't see eye to eye on many things and have spent much of the last 10 years living apart. The couple separated frequently during Mr. Emory's long bouts of heavy drinking, she said.

But he would beg her to come back. And she always did, she said.

She did not want to divorce, she said, because she was reared as a Catholic and thought the family should stay together for the sake of the boys. After each reconciliation, she said, the couple's relationship would improve briefly, then deteriorate again.

At one point, the family sought counseling because their older son, now 25, was having difficulties, but the counseling had no lasting affect, she said.

The couple grew farther apart, she engrossed in her career and getting her doctorate in education, and he in his various business ventures.

He sold insurance for a while, then started a construction company -- Brandon Construction -- in 1985. By 1990, the company had fallen on hard times.


Yet Mrs. Emory claims she knew little about her husband's business or finances. They kept separate bank accounts, she said, and had specific financial responsibilities. She paid all the household bills; he made the mortgage payment.

She maintains her husband continued to make money from construction jobs, even after Brandon Construction folded. He also owned a small earth moving machine that he frequently leased to other contractors and used for his own work.

Mr. O'Neill, Mr. Emory's lawyer, said he was unable to comment on the family history because he had not discussed that with his client.