A Baltimore County circuit judge denied bail yesterday for William R. Isaacs, a Baltimore man whose 1997 second-degree murder conviction was reversed in July.
Judge Alexander Wright Jr. issued his decision after a state prosecutor argued that if freed, Isaacs, 47, could pose a threat to a key witness who testified against him.
But Isaacs' lawyer, Donald Daneman, denied that his client was a danger. He asked spectators in the crowded courtroom to stand and show their support for Isaacs, who has a criminal record that includes convictions on federal extortion and witness-tampering charges. More than 40 people rose to their feet.
"They respect him. ... They are not afraid of Mr. Isaacs," said Daneman, who added that at least eight people were willing to put up homes or businesses to bail Isaacs out of the Baltimore County Detention Center.
A jury convicted Isaacs of the 1978 killing of 22-year-old Mark Schwandtner, a Towson construction worker. Schwandtner had been beaten over the head and thrown from a railroad trestle into the Gunpowder River near the Harford County line. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl sentenced Isaacs to 30 years in prison.
In July, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the conviction because Kahl failed to show lawyers in the case a note he had received from jurors saying they were deadlocked.
The jury convicted Isaacs mostly based on testimony from Charles H. Wilhelm, a onetime friend of the defendant who had become a witness for the FBI.
After the conviction was reversed, Isaacs was moved from the state prison in Hagerstown to the Baltimore County Detention Center, where Kahl ordered him held without bail. A new trial date has not been set.
Yesterday, Daneman asked for $250,000 bail, but Wright said, without explanation, that he would not alter Kahl's decision.
Assistant States Attorney James O'C. Gentry Jr. argued that Isaacs "is not the kind of defendant who should be on bail."
Wilhelm "is scared if this defendant were to get out," Gentry said. "It was this witness that the jurors believed."
But Daneman suggested that Wilhelm would be safe if Isaacs were freed. "My client never threatened Mr. Wilhelm," Daneman said.