Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Assault case against editor dropped

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore prosecutors have dropped criminal assault charges filed against Frank J. Keegan, the editor of The Examiner, who was arrested in May after police said he pointed a gun at his neighbors during a dispute over cigarette smoke.

In informing District Judge Charlotte M. Cooksey yesterday that he was dropping the case, Assistant State's Attorney Bill Ebaugh stated that he was doing so "in the interests of justice ... after consultation with the victim and the victim's family."

The 58-year-old editor had been charged with three counts of second-degree assault and three counts of assault with intent to injure.

Walking out of the courtroom in South Baltimore, Keegan told a Sun reporter, "Read about it in The Examiner."

Keegan's attorney, Charles N. Curletts Jr., said of the dismissal: "It's the right result. Mr. Keegan didn't commit a crime."

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office, said in an e-mail yesterday that "following a review by prosecutors to determine whether the case was viable, and after speaking with the victims, the matter was resolved between the parties. I understand from prosecutors that the case had certain weaknesses."

In a telephone interview later, Burns said she did not have more detailed information about the case from prosecutors, except that there were "possible weaknesses" that prevented them from going forward with the prosecution.

Matt Jablow, a Police Department spokesman, said: "We thought it was a strong case and that it was presented in a very well-written report."

Police said that Keegan's neighbor, David P. Ayers, claimed to be engaged in an "ongoing dispute" with Keegan over cigarette smoke that Ayers said was emanating from the editor's rowhouse. The two live next to one another in the first block of E. Montgomery St., an area of expensive red-brick rowhouses in Federal Hill.

About 11:30 p.m. May 24, police said, Ayers, 38, complained that smoke from Keegan's house was causing his 3-year-old daughter, Sophie, to have trouble breathing. Ayers called for a paramedic, then, carrying his child and accompanied by his wife, Christine, went next door to "confront" Keegan, according to the police report.

Ayers told police that he "pounded" on Keegan's front door and heard someone say, "You [expletive] lunatics, get away from my door."

Ayers shouted back through a first-floor window, "Look at what you're doing to my daughter," according to the report.

Next, Ayers said, he saw Keegan holding "what appeared" to be a long gun. Keegan "racked the gun in a manner consistent with a shotgun and shouldered the weapon, pointing it at the entire Ayers family from inside the house and behind the glass of the first-floor window," the report said.

The report said that police seized the weapon and found there was no round in the chamber, but that there were four rounds in a tubular magazine. Police also found and seized a German military P-38 9 mm pistol, the report said.

Ayers did not return phone calls seeking comment yesterday.

Burns said that prosecutors had consulted with the Ayers family about dismissing the case, and that they were "definitely OK" with the outcome.

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