A prominent Prince George's County judge charged with groping a policeman in an Annapolis Mall bathroom asked for a Circuit Court trial in Anne Arundel County yesterday, after a district judge refused to inactivate the case without a finding of guilt or innocence.
The request will give Larnzell Martin Jr., 47, of the Prince George's County Circuit Court a chance to find a judge who might accept the agreement worked out between his lawyer and the prosecutor. Other options are trial by jury or by a judge, or to enter a different plea.
Neither Martin of Bowie nor his lawyer, William Brennan Jr., would comment.
Brennan and Assistant State's Attorney Sue-Ellen Hantman, who was brought in from Howard County to prosecute the case, had agreed to place the misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure, fourth-degree sex offense and second-degree assault on the "stet," or inactive, docket. The offenses carry a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison and $4,500 in fines.
But District Judge Vincent A. Mulieri turned down the agreement.
"I am not convinced that the stet is the proper way to do it," he said.
Hantman, who has been a prosecutor for 18 years, said neither she nor Brennan had ever before had a judge turn down a stet.
The Anne Arundel state's attorney's office brought in Hantman to avoid any conflict of interest because it had hired Martin's law clerk two weeks before the incident Jan. 14.
Hantman said she did not consult Anne Arundel prosecutors in the Martin case, but reviewed it herself.
"It is what I think is appropriate, under all the circumstances," she said.
Prosecutors can revive a charge within a year after a case is "stetted," or made inactive. But a judge must then reinstate the charge within two years or it dies.
Most first offenders in men's public-venue sex cases receive probation before judgment -- in which their convictions can be erased after a year if they comply with the terms of probation -- or the cases are inactivated, said Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office.
Several high-profile cases in Anne Arundel, including those of Navy Capt. Michael W. John, then-chief spokesman for Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton, and Oscar W. Kidd, then-principal of Tyler Heights Elementary School, have been inactivated this year.
Like Martin's case, theirs were part of police sting operations in -- response to complaints about homosexual activity in public restrooms.
Martin, one of 21 Prince George's circuit judges, was the respected chief of the court's family division, but has been assigned to paperwork duties. The case is being closely watched by the Attorney Grievance Commission, which can seek to disbar a lawyer, and the Commission on Judicial Disabilities, which sanctions judges.
County police set up a sting operation in the men's bathroom of the Hecht Co. in Annapolis Mall after receiving complaints about sexual activity there. Martin is accused of grabbing a police officer's crotch and leg, and exposing himself in the bathroom around 8: 30 p.m. Jan. 14. When police arrested him, they had no idea who he was and he did not tell them, they said.
A Dallas native, Martin moved to Maryland after graduating from Georgetown University Law Center in 1975. He was in private practice in Prince George's County until then-County Executive Parris N. Glendening appointed him county attorney in 1986. Martin held the post for two years, and shortly thereafter was appointed to the District Court. He has been on the Circuit Court since 1990.
Pub Date: 6/09/98