Grand jury report due wider probe City officials said to thwart drug investigations


The state special prosecutor will broaden the investigation of a Baltimore grand jury's findings that the city Police Department's drug enforcement effort is badly managed and the city state's attorney's office thwarted investigations involving prominent drug suspects.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms have assailed the report, calling it shallow and amateurish. But State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli decided yesterday that the allegations are serious enough to warrant further investigation.

"Our investigation begins immediately and will address those matters which allege criminal misconduct in the city Police Department and the state's attorney's office," said James I. Cabezas, Mr. Montanarelli's chief investigator.

Mr. Cabezas said interviews will be conducted and records inspected and "if necessary, we will present the case to an independent grand jury."

The report alleges that police and the city prosecutor's office blocked or dropped investigations linked to elected officials and other well-known suspects, that the police focused on street-level drug arrests instead of more important targets and that federal money meant for drug enforcement was misspent on police overtime pay.

During the state prosecutor's investigation, it's possible that most, if not all of the 50 witnesses who appeared before the city grand jury will be interviewed in addition to the 23 grand jurors, Mr. Cabezas said.

Richard Bennett, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, also has obtained a copy of the unedited report. The public report -- heavily edited to protect the identities of the witnesses and targets of the police investigation -- was released March 9.

Agent Doug Price, a spokesman for the city Police Department, said yesterday that the department will cooperate fully in Mr. Montanarelli's investigation. The department's position was made clear, Mr. Price said, when police Commissioner Edward V. Woods met with the state prosecutor when the public version of the grand jury report was released.

"This is not a Police Department that runs for cover in the face of controversy," Agent Price said. "Nor will we shrink from our responsibility to provide a full accounting of police activities bearing on the allegations presently being investigated."

Agent Price said the department's top commanders hope the investigation will proceed quickly because "public confidence in us is endangered when we appear to falter."

Mr. Simms said yesterday that he spoke with Mr. Montanarelli "and we offered our full cooperation.

Mr. Simms said he "advised" the state prosecutor to investigate the grand jury's charges after obtaining an unedited copy of the grand jury report. While the investigation proceeds, "there is no cause to disbelieve our office will discharge our duties effectively," Mr. Simms said.

Mr. Montanarelli's office must petition Judge Joseph H. H. Kaplan, administrative judge of the Baltimore Circuit Court, before investigators can question the grand jurors. The petition is necessary because Judge Kaplan directed and extended the grand jury and a state law prevents panelists from discussing testimony.

Yesterday, after learning of Mr. Montanarelli's decision, Toni Talbott, the assistant forewoman who wrote the grand jury's final report, said she was "glad and sad. I'm glad because a group of honorable people did lots of work in the six months we were on the grand jury. I'm sad because it's not a pleasant exercise to have an investigation of your city."

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