Police kept off stand in city trial

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Baltimore police Detectives Clarence Grear and Kevin E. Jones, who are under investigation for perjury, did not take the stand in the attempted murder trial of Antonio Hall, but their roles in the case loomed large yesterday.

Hall is on trial in the February shooting of a witness in a Baltimore County murder case. Grear and Jones were the lead investigators in the shooting, but prosecutors decided last month not to put them on the stand.

Grear and Jones are under investigation stemming from a search they conducted in July of a suspect's car. The detectives are accused of lying about having a warrant at the time of the search.

The detectives were suspended in August. Prosecutors have dismissed charges in nearly two dozen cases handled by the two and say about 70 other cases are in jeopardy because they fear the detectives would not be trusted by jurors.

Closing arguments in Hall's case are expected today, and a jury will begin deliberating the case.

Yesterday, a key witness for the state -- a convicted drug dealer -- testified that the two Southern District detectives gave him heroin and asked him to make a statement saying that Hall had told him about the shooting. Later, another state witness called the detectives "crooked."

Hall, 24, is accused of trying to kill Robert Parsons, a witness in a Baltimore County murder case. Prosecutors say Hall is a friend of Freddie Jackson, who has been charged in that murder.

But Assistant State's Attorney Rita Wisthoff-Ito was only able to touch on a possible link between the cases during two days of testimony.

Parsons testified Tuesday that he is a witness in the Jackson case and that he has seen Jackson and Hall together. When Wisthoff-Ito asked Parsons why he was shot, defense attorney Catherine Flynn objected, and the judge did not allow the man to answer.

However, Parsons testified that despite the fact that his assailant was wearing black clothing and a black ski mask during the nighttime shooting, he was "absolutely" sure that the man was Hall.

Yesterday, prosecutors presented another witness who they said could connect Hall to the shooting: Darryl Hobbs, a reluctant witness whom the judge had threatened with a contempt-of-court charge when he refused to testify a day earlier.

Hobbs said on the stand that he had incriminated Hall only after the detectives told him, "We're willing to help you if you help us." They then brought him three gel caps of heroin, which he snorted before making the statement, he testified.

Wisthoff-Ito later called to the stand a detective who said Hobbs had told him he would try to sabotage the case because he believed that prosecutors had mistreated him.

Later in the day, another convicted drug dealer, Juan Stennett, called Grear and Jones "crooked" and said that one of them had misconstrued a statement Stennett made about seeing Hall in a white car to mean that he had seen Hall in a white car at the time of the shooting.

"They've been doing a lot of dirty stuff out there," he said of the detectives.

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