Blogger Baltimore Spectator again denied bail

Frank James MacArthur, 47, faces weapons charges after police searched his home following a standoff.
Frank James MacArthur, 47, faces weapons charges after police searched his home following a standoff. (Baltimore City Police, Handout photo)

A Baltimore circuit judge denied another bail request Friday for the blogger who held a publicized standoff with city police this month that was broadcast live to thousands of listeners.

Judge Lynn K. Stewart said Frank James MacArthur, also known locally as the Baltimore Spectator, posed a continuing threat to public safety and should remain jailed without bail. It was the third time that MacArthur, 37, who lives in the Waverly neighborhood, has been denied bail.


MacArthur's attorney, Jill P. Carter, called the revocation a knee-jerk overreaction when many other suspects facing similar charges are often offered bail.

MacArthur faces two weapons charges: illegal possession of a firearm and possessing an unregistered shotgun. He has no felony convictions, Carter pointed out.


"It's a charge that doesn't warrant his being held without bail," said Carter, a state delegate. "His history doesn't indicate he's a threat to public safety."

Prosecutors said in court Friday that they plan to file second-degree assault charges against MacArthur for the alleged threats he made against officers attempting to execute an arrest warrant on Dec. 1.

Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, said later that the number of charges will correlate with the number of officers MacArthur allegedly threatened; prosecutors did not have a specific number Friday.

MacArthur, a cabdriver, has been a fixture at crime scenes, news conferences and other media events, reporting for his blog, baltimorespectator.com. He described himself an alternative to the mainstream news media and often used his blog, Twitter account and online radio to criticize Baltimore police and city officials.

Arrested in 2008 on a weapons charge, MacArthur received three years of probation in a plea deal. He maintained that he met all probation conditions, but his probation agent requested a warrant in June claiming that he had failed to report in April 2011.

After learning about the warrant, MacArthur began criticizing the police and court system this fall with messages police perceived as threats. It led to a Dec. 1 standoff in which he refused to come out of his house when police tried to serve the warrant.

For several hours, MacArthur tweeted and broadcast online his discussions with a police negotiator while a SWAT team waited outside. He surrendered without incident, but police said they found a sawed-off shotgun in his home, which led to the charges he now faces.

Tyler Mann, a former city prosecutor who works as a defense attorney, was in the courtroom Friday for an unrelated case. He said MacArthur's bail condition was generally high compared with similar cases, but added that judges rarely change rulings other judges have established in bail review hearings.

"Alone, no bail on a gun case with just a misdemeanor record is high, but taking into account everything else, I think they're right on," Mann said, referring to the standoff and social media comments.

Despite MacArthur's outspoken comments on social media, Carter said, her client has never made any credible threats. She said his criminal record includes only disorderly conduct and probation after a past arrest on a weapons charge.

"The bottom line to all of this is it's just fear and an overreaction," she said.

She said she was not sure what her next step will be in defending MacArthur, whose trial has been scheduled Jan. 7.


Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this article.


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