Jury convicts man of drug charges


A Baltimore County man was convicted last night of drug charges that stemmed from a police chase on Route 140 in November.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for nearly 4 1/2 hours in Carroll Circuit Court, deciding in the end that Brian Lamont Magruder, 25, was the driver whose 1989 Honda nearly rammed a city police officer's car Nov. 15.

Police found 23 grams of marijuana and a box of rolling papers in the Honda, which was abandoned at Koons Toyota after the driver almost crashed into Pfc. Mark A. Shobert's vehicle at the 7-Eleven store and sped away on Route 140.

Magruder -- of Phlox Circle in Owings Mills -- was convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia, fleeing and eluding police on foot and driving on a revoked license.

The jury acquitted him of fleeing and eluding police in a car.

Carroll County Circuit Court Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. revoked Magruder's bond after the conviction. He is being held in the Carroll County Detention Center.

"It's a tough thing, being a juror," said Carroll County Public Defender Daniel Shemer, Magruder's attorney. "I thought they hadn't proved it beyond a reasonable doubt."

During the two-day trial, Assistant State's Attorney Clarence W. Beall III argued that Private Shobert had positively identified Magruder as the driver of the Honda.

Police had said that after the near accident, the driver fled and ignored Private Shobert's siren. The driver pulled into a parking space at the car dealership about one-tenth of a mile from the convenience store, left the car and ran down an embankment into the darkness.

Throughout the trial, Mr. Shemer insisted that police charged the wrong man. He told the jury that Private Shobert didn't see the driver clearly enough that night to provide a good description.

"He saw nothing but heels and elbows," Mr. Shemer said, adding that Private Shobert hadn't included details about eye color, hair color or hair length in his description.

Private Shobert testified yesterday that he didn't include those details because Magruder's dark hair and eyes were consistent with what a police officer expects in the description of a black man.

Mr. Shemer also said that because Jennifer Flagg -- Magruder's girlfriend -- testified he was at home when she went to bed and when she woke up in the morning, jurors should assume his innocence.

Ms. Flagg testified yesterday that she came home early from work that day with the flu, went to bed and, except for getting up to go to the bathroom, stayed there all night.

"You know Brian Magruder was home, and you know that from Jennifer Flagg," Mr. Shemer said. "If this was about being positive, we wouldn't need a jury. He [Private Shobert] would have identified him and that would have been it."

Mr. Beall, in closing arguments, characterized Ms. Flagg's testimony as lukewarm, possibly because she didn't want to lie but wanted to protect her boyfriend.

"She doesn't want to get involved with what he's involved in, but she doesn't want to get him in trouble," Mr. Beall said. "She gets up a couple of times during the night, he knows she's sick but doesn't say anything to her. Isn't that a bit odd?"

Magruder chose not to testify because prosecutors could have questioned him about his criminal record, which includes a felony theft conviction.

In February 1993, Magruder, also known as Ryan Lamont Magruder, was sentenced to two years in prison for driving with a suspended license. It was the third time that year he was convicted of a license violation.

In June 1993, he pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $80,000 from Baugher's Enterprises in Westminster. He received a three-year jail sentence.

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