A confidential informant, who said he helped the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force nab a three-time cocaine dealer, told a Circuit Court judge at a hearing in October that the drug group's coordinator told him he didn't need an attorney in an unrelated traffic case.
Judge Francis M. Arnold was upset at the allegation from Michael F. Cartwright, especially because he and the other two Carroll Circuit judges thought they had heard the last of such allegations against the task force.
"I think you know -- well, this came up once before, and [Task Force Coordinator Barton F. Walker III and State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman] came over and saw the three judges back here . . . and swore to God they never told, made anybody any promises," Judge Arnold said.
"They never told [defendants] they weren't going to jail," the judge said. "They never told them not to get an attorney. They never told them to pray a jury trial, which this man did downstairs, because Mr. Walker has influence up here, and I'll tell you, I don't like it one damn bit."
The allegations, and Judge Arnold's remarks, were made at a bench conference, out of earshot of the courtroom audience. A transcript of the bench conference was obtained by The Sun.
Because of Cartwright's allegations, Judge Arnold postponed the traffic case to give the defendant a chance to hire an attorney. Cartwright was due in court today to face a charge of driving on a revoked license.
Mr. Hickman and Mr. Walker denied Cartwright's allegation yesterday.
Judge Arnold said yesterday he was "quite angry" at the Oct. 18 hearing. He declined to comment further, but said his remarks at the hearing adequately expressed his concern about the way in which defendants are treated by the task force.
During the bench conference, Judge Arnold told Cartwright and Deputy State's Attorney Edward M. Ulsch, who was prosecuting the traffic case, "What concerns me is the concern . . . the last time Mr. Walker brought one of these things . . . is that he advised the defendant, apparently, or the defendant told me that he was advised, not to get an attorney in the District Court and to pray a jury trial and to come up here [to Circuit Court] unrepresented, and I think it's a very dangerous practice for the state."
In Carroll, it is common for a defendant who is facing charges more serious than speeding tickets to ask for a jury trial, a process that moves a case from District Court to Circuit Court. It is often a delaying tactic that gives a defendant time to work on a plea bargain or hire an attorney.
Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. declined to comment on Mr. Hickman's and Mr. Walker's meeting with the three judges. Administrative Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. could not be reached yesterday for comment.
Court records say Cartwright, 21, of Owings Mills was stopped in June by a Taneytown police officer after his car was clocked at 49 mph in a 30-mph zone, court records said. He was charged with driving on a revoked license and with giving a false name to the police officer.
Cartwright is currently on probation for a felony theft conviction for his part in a scheme to steal thousands of dollars from Baugher's Orchards in Westminster.
According to the Oct. 18 transcript, Cartwright said he appeared to answer the charges in District Court, where Mr. Walker had told him to request a jury trial.
"He told me to come upstairs [to Circuit Court], because he had more . . . this is where he was . . . this is where his court was," Cartwright told Judge Arnold.
"He had a little more leverage up here, he said?" Judge Arnold asked.
"Right," Cartwright said.
Then the defendant explained to the court the deal he allegedly was offered. He said Mr. Walker told him that the work he did for the task force "would work my charges off."
Some of that work, he said, included providing information that helped put someone in jail for 30 years under Maryland's three-time loser law.
When Cartwright came to Circuit Court Oct. 18, Mr. Ulsch, not Mr. Walker, was at the prosecution table. Cartwright told the judge he "was a little surprised . . . when I came in and found out that I get 12 points" on his driving record.
He told Judge Arnold that Mr. Walker told him he wouldn't go to jail or get the points for the traffic violation.
"Mr. Walker said . . . he didn't promise me, but he said that he was pretty sure," Cartwright said in the transcript. "He said, 'You won't go to jail on that,' because I did all of this. I busted, like, four drug dealers for the task force."
Cartwright admitted that he was guilty of driving on a revoked license, but pleaded with Judge Arnold to keep him out of jail and give him a chance to get his license back.
At the end of the hearing, the defendant asked Judge Arnold if Mr. Walker was in trouble because of what he said.
L "Right now, it has him in a lot of trouble," the judge said.
Mr. Walker yesterday declined to comment on the transcript or the judge's remarks because, he said, Cartwright's case is "a pending matter" and he does not discuss open court cases.
Mr. Hickman said Cartwright's allegations are untrue.
"That is absolutely not what we'd do," he said. "The only advice we give them, that we can give them, is to get an attorney. We'd really rather deal with an attorney anyway."
Late yesterday, Cartwright's attorney, Judith S. Stainbrook of Westminster, filed a motion to dismiss the case against her client. In the motion, she says Cartwright promised to continue helping the task force in exchange for no jail time on the revoked license charge.
"Dismissal of the charges is therefore the appropriate remedy when the state's attorney's office provides 'one-stop' shopping and assumes the role of judge, prosecutor and defense counsel," she said in the motion.