The Court of Special Appeals yesterday overturned the conviction of two men sentenced as drug kingpins in what Anne Arundel County police called the largest marijuana operation in the county.
In a 57-page opinion, Judge Charles E. Moylan said Anne Arundel Circuit Judge William Goudy erred in allowing testimony not related to the case to be used in the trial of James Emory, 48 and his brother, Roger Emory, 44.
Both men will be retried on drug kingpin and importation of marijuana charges, said their attorney, Peter S. O'Neill. Both men are being held at the Maryland Correctional Institute in Jessup.
"I am sure they are thrilled," Mr. O'Neill. "The other defendants in the case received much less time.
State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee could not be reached for comment.
James Emory was sentenced to 25 years and his brother was given 20 years after their conviction April 19, 1993. The case gained widespread attention because James Emory's wife, Patricia Emory, was the principal of Severna Park Elementary School. Charges against her were dropped.
Larry Leiben of the first block of St. Agnes Road, Glen Burnie, was a key prosecution witness, and he testified that during their friendship the Emorys had been involved in drug trafficking. He also testified that the Emory's father began the marijuana business with the trip to Texas more than 20 years ago.
Judge Moylan wrote that because the Emorys did not deny having a 20-year relationship with Leiben, it was unnecessary for him to testify about earlier criminal acts.
"In any event, Leiben's recounting of criminal activities primarily on the part of James Emory, dating back largely to the 1970s, did not supply a motive for the criminal conspiracy running from June 1991 through October 1992," he wrote. ". . . Such prejudice might be tolerated as an acceptable price to pay if the state could show a compelling need. . . . This, however, was not one of those cases."
Leiben pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute marijuana March 19, 1993, after agreeing to testify against the Emorys. He could have been sentenced to 25 years in prison, but received an 18-month prison term and was allowed to serve most of the time at home.
Although Mr. O'Neill also contended in the appeal that there was insufficient evidence to convict James Emory of importing marijuana into the state, Judge Moylan disagreed.
The Emorys also contended that there were "blatant discrepancies" between the warrant affidavits written by county police Detective Michael Chandler and the evidence provided to the defense. "But we affirm the ruling of the trial judge that they did not support a conclusion that Detective Chandler had been guilty of any reckless disregard of the truth," Judge Moylan wrote.
Leiben and the Emorys were charged after a 10-month investigation that culminated Oct. 29, 1992, when police raided homes, businesses and lockers and found more than 300 pounds of marijuana.