The state's intermediate appeals court overturned the child-molesting convictions of former Havre de Grace city Councilman Charles A. Maslin III yesterday, because the jury was kept from hearing about the alleged victim's pending civil suit against Maslin.
Harford County prosecutors vowed to retry Maslin and also asked the state attorney general's office to challenge the ruling in the state's highest court.
Maslin's lawyers were pleased with the Court of Special Appeals ruling.
"We believe the jury may have had some questions about the validity of the criminal allegations if they knew there was also a civil suit pending seeking money," said Carl Schlaich, one of Maslin's attorneys in the trial in 1997.
He would not comment on the prospect of a second trial.
James C. Waters sued Maslin for $1.6 million in February 1997, nine months before the criminal trial, arguing that Maslin "tried to kiss and perform other sexual acts" on him in May 1996, when Waters was wearing a body wire in Maslin's home at the request of police. The civil case is scheduled for trial May 5 in Harford County Circuit Court.
Assistant State's Attorney Theresa Garland said the criminal and civil cases were about events from different dates. The criminal charges relate to allegations of incidents between 1978 and 1982, while the civil case stemmed from the recorded 1996 meeting between Waters and Maslin.
A three-judge panel of the court said jurors should have heard about the civil suit because they could have viewed it "as evidence that Waters had a significant financial stake in the outcome of the criminal proceedings."
"I'm completely shocked," said Waters, 29, who had accused Maslin of molesting him and plying him with alcohol and drugs, beginning when he was age 9. "I thought this was over."
Waters, who blamed Maslin for later problems including a suicide attempt, said he is steeling himself for a retrial. "I've got to. There is no way I am going to let this man walk on a technicality," he said. "The reason I did this is it was a way to put this behind me and make sure he did not do this to another child."
Asked if Maslin was suspected of molesting other youths, Garland said "there were no other victims willing to go through what Jimmy Waters went through" to testify.
Waters testified that when he was age 9, he and his mother moved into the home of his riding teacher, Molly Maslin, Maslin's mother, to be close to her and the horses on her farm. Maslin sexually abused him, Waters said, but, fearing he would lose his home and riding lessons, he didn't tell his mother until 1992.
After drug and alcohol problems and a suicide attempt, he told counselors and then police.
A Harford County Circuit Court jury convicted Maslin, 40, in November 1997 of child abuse and three related sex offenses. Judge Thomas E. Marshall sentenced Maslin to 15 years in prison.
Maslin, owner of the Ice Dreams ice cream parlor and Quackers Comedy Club in Havre de Grace, was elected to office in May 1996. He resigned after his conviction.
The appeals court also said that Maslin was incorrectly ordered to register with officials as a child sexual offender because he was convicted of offenses that occurred before the registration law took effect in July 1997.
Pub Date: 1/28/99