Schmoke, Simms cleared in balked drug raid probe


Maryland's special prosecutor has cleared Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms of any wrongdoing in recommending against a planned narcotics raid at the home of a prominent Baltimore lawyer in 1987.

An investigation by state prosecutors determined that Mr. Schmoke, who in 1987 was the city's top prosecutor, and Mr. Simms, then a deputy state's attorney, gave "reasonable and trustworthy" explanations for why they suggested that a search warrant for attorney Georgia H. Goslee's residence should not be executed.

"I said several months ago that there was no criminal conduct on the part of anyone associated with the Georgia Goslee matter, and I am pleased to see the confirmation of this by the state prosecutor," Mr. Schmoke said in a statement released by his spokesman, Clinton R. Coleman.

The findings are included in the state prosecutor's second interim report on a special Baltimore grand jury's allegations that the city's war on drugs is poorly managed and politically influenced by some members of the police department and state's attorney's office.

The second interim report, made public yesterday, also found no substance to separate charges that top law enforcement officials protected a "prominent wealthy businessman" who was repeatedly under investigation for -- but never charged with -- illegal drug trafficking and money laundering. The report also found no support for charges that a city police investigation into the so-called "New York Boys" drug ring was tainted by corruption.

In September, State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli issued his first interim report. That report found no evidence of criminal conduct by police and prosecutors accused of protecting a prominent businessman and, in a separate case, a legislator, from criminal charges.

The special prosecutor's office still must report on five more allegations raised by the grand jury.

None of those remaining allegations involves the state's attorney's office or Mr. Simms, who called a news conference yesterday to announce that his name had been cleared by the special prosecutor. As he has done repeatedly since the grand jury released its report in March, Mr. Simms described the panel as well-intentioned but uninformed and misguided.

"I was confident at the beginning of March [when the special prosecutor began probing the grand jury findings] that this was a waste of time," Mr. Simms said. "There was nothing there."

Mr. Simms said the allegations have diverted focus from his efforts to combat violent crime in Baltimore. In that vein, he mentioned two projects set to kick off early next year: a "drug court" that would emphasize treatment for drug-addicted, nonviolent criminals, and a "24-hour" juvenile intake facility that would free police officers from time-consuming paperwork and transportation of suspects to scattered juvenile detention facilities.

He complained that the allegations dogging him and his office have made it tougher to prosecute criminals. Asked to provide an example, Mr. Simms said prospective jurors in trials may have come to court with doubts about the prosecutor's office. "In the public's mind, it certainly could be a factor," he said.

Mr. Schmoke said two weeks ago that Mr. Simms "has lost two appointments to high-level federal positions" because of the investigations, but Mr. Simms would not confirm that yesterday.

Mr. Simms was especially incensed about coverage in The Sun on the Georgia Goslee matter. He shared with reporters summoned to his office copies of a letter he wrote to an editor at the newspaper in which he termed a Dec. 2 article on the investigation "mean-spirited, dishonest and ill-researched."

That article revealed for the first time that Ms. Goslee was the previously unnamed "prominent attorney" whose downtown condominium apartment was targeted for a raid by police because of her close relationship with Arnold Mitchell, now serving a 20-year prison sentence after being convicted on drug charges as a result of the investigation. An informant had told police Mitchell was storing drugs and money in a safe in the lawyer's apartment, according to the special prosecutor.

The Sun article also revealed that the special prosecutor had obtained a memorandum from Mr. Simms advising that police not carry out the raid "at this time" because he and Mr. Schmoke found the "probable cause" to be "thin." The memo urged police to gain more information that would bolster their probable cause.

Mr. Simms told the investigators that he and Mr. Schmoke believed that, although they had no evidence to establish that Ms. Goslee was even aware of Mitchell's drug activities, the lawyer was a proper target of the investigation. Yesterday, Mr. Simms said there was no question the residence should be searched, only a question of when.

In his letter to the Sun editor, he said that as time passed in the investigation, questions of "staleness" were raised on the probable cause. He also said that Ms. Goslee had an attorney-client relationship with an individual related to the investigation, which made a search of her residence a more sensitive undertaking.

The Dec. 2 newspaper article also described Ms. Goslee as a political supporter of then-State's Attorney Schmoke's mayoral candidacy. The article is cited as the reason Ms. Goslee is identified by name in the special prosecutor's report.

In addition to interviewing Mr. Simms and Mr. Schmoke, investigators met with police on the case, a judge who was then head of the drug unit in the prosecutor's office and a judge who signed search warrants for other properties.

The special prosecutor determined that probable cause, while "thin," was sufficient to support a search warrant for the Goslee residence. The report added: "It is not surprising that the officers suspected that the 'real' reason for the state's attorney's action was to protect Goslee. However, mere existence of probable cause is not the sole consideration of a state's attorney in evaluating possible execution of a search and seizure warrant. Such considerations as the likelihood of actually finding the items sought, the importance of the evidence to a successful prosecution, and the effect of execution on other related investigations are all factors to be considered.

". . . [it] was not unreasonable for the state's attorney to conclude that the warrant for Goslee's residence was both unwise and unnecessary. There was minimal chance that any evidence usable against Mitchell or Goslee would be found at that location, but a virtual certainty that the raid would severely damage the reputation of a prominent attorney who might not be involved in Mitchell's illicit business."

The report notes that police don't have to get approval from prosecutors to seek a search warrant from a judge and could have gone ahead if they were confident it would be a success.

Among the five allegations still under investigation by the special prosecutor is the suggestion that a top city police official altered a police file to remove an official's name.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad