A Baltimore County man acquitted of attempted murder in July after a judge ridiculed the prosecution's case is suing a police officer and the county for $6 million, claiming he was deprived of his civil rights.
Robert James Smith, 60, a retired millionaire businessman, was charged last January with firing six shots at the door of Christopher's (now Graffiti's), a bar at Padonia and York roads, early Dec. 17, 1993. More than 100 patrons were inside. In the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Mr. Smith claims that he was deprived of his civil rights when county police went to his 40-acre estate in northeastern Baltimore County, placed him in leg chains and handcuffs, and jailed him for several hours on the basis of what the suit calls a fraudulent warrant. The suit alleges that the warrant obtained by the investigating officer, Sylvia J. Reddy, was supported by a "false, perjurious and/or misleading affidavit."
Mr. Smith had been at the bar the night of the shooting with a young woman, but left after the two got into an argument. The woman later that day told police that Mr. Smith had threatened to kill her.
Mr. Smith was charged after bar patron Kevin Earle told Officer Reddy almost three weeks after the incident that he had seen an "older gentleman" fire at the door from the parking lot. Testimony at the trial indicated that Mr. Earle did not talk to officers at the scene the night of the shooting and only met Officer Reddy nearly three weeks later by coincidence when she went to Christopher's to question several people.
Jonathan Hawes, another bar patron, testified at Mr. Smith's trial that he told police officers the night of the shooting that he had witnessed a young man, who had been ejected earlier from Christopher's, shooting at the door from the parking lot.
Mr. Smith's suit alleges that Officer Reddy ignored statements by the Christopher's doorman that supported Mr. Hawes' story, and repeatedly contacted Mr. Hawes in an effort to get him to change or recant his statements concerning the youthful shooter.
Mr. Smith was acquitted of all charges in a nonjury trial before Circuit Judge John Grason Turnbull II, who said, "I would not convict Attila the Hun in this case."
Mr. Smith wrote a letter after the trial to county State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor asking for a public apology and reimbursement for the $91,000 in legal and investigative fees he said he spent in his defense. County Attorney Stanley J. Schapiro would not comment on the lawsuit but said the matter is under investigation by his office.
Police spokesman E. Jay Miller said the Police Department would not comment.