The Baltimore prosecutor assigned to the case of the teen squeegee worker charged with fatally shooting a bat-wielding man this summer has been removed from the case, with her supervisor accusing her of violating the law.
Michael Dunty, the state’s attorney’s office’s homicide division chief, on Wednesday filed a disclosure in the case obtained by The Baltimore Sun. In the filing, Dunty wrote that Assistant State’s Attorney Rita Wisthoff-Ito “provided” a motion to Thiru Vignarajah, who is representing the Reynolds’ family as a crime victim advocate attorney, in violation of laws that keep juvenile records confidential.
The disclosure does not say how the office knows Wisthoff-Ito, a veteran homicide prosecutor who has handled the case against the teen from the outset, allegedly disclosed the document to Vignarajah.
Wisthoff-Ito did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Reached by phone, Vignarajah declined to say if the state’s attorney’s office’s allegations were true.
“I’m not in a position to comment on a filing I haven’t seen,” Vignarajah said. “I know the family is grateful to the homicide detectives and the assistant state’s attorney who has been handling this case for their hard work, transparency and commitment to justice in this case.”
Wisthoff-Ito authored the motion she allegedly shared with Vignarajah. The legal paper responded to a filing from the teen’s defense team. It detailed the teen’s actions, evidence against him and included still photographs from video footage police and prosecutors used to charge the boy.
“Out of respect for the victim Timothy Reynolds, the State notes the following statement as to the facts ... as opposed to the version put forth by defense counsel,” the substantive portion of the motion began.
Vignarajah shared the motion with the news media Tuesday.
J. Wyndal Gordon, one of the lawyers for the teen accused of killing Reynolds, said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the State’s Attorney’s Office had removed Wisthoff-Ito from the case.
Two sources familiar with the office’s decision confirmed Wisthoff-Ito was removed from the case.
Wisthoff-Ito also was taken off the homicide unit Wednesday, according to one of those sources and another with knowledge of the personnel matter who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Online court records show Wisthoff-Ito, who was hired more than 22 years ago, has at least 50 active cases.
Emily Witty, the spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney’s Office, declined to comment, describing the matter as a personnel issue.
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby this week sent out a memorandum, which was obtained by The Sun, to her prosecutors about protecting juvenile records in light of the development in the teen squeegee worker’s case. State law prohibits the disclosure of any police and court records of a juvenile charged as an adult.
“In light of recent events in which shielded information of a juvenile’s case was shared to outside counsel, I, unfortunately, have to reiterate the importance of complying with [the law] to protect the integrity of our cases and our reputations as ministers of justice,” Mosby wrote.
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Vignarajah said the Reynolds family is “just as entitled to the underlying facts and evidence as the defense team is.”
Mosby’s office admonished Wisthoff-Ito several weeks ago for extending a standard murder plea offer to the teen charged in Reynolds’ killing.
The filing accusing Wisthoff-Ito of breaking the law comes on the eve of a consequential hearing to determine whether the teen’s case will remain in Circuit Court, where he faces up to life in prison if convicted of murder, or is moved down to juvenile court, where sentences focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment and cap out at a child’s 21st birthday.
Mosby’s office is supporting the defense’s position to have the teen’s case resolved in juvenile court. If the case is transferred to juvenile court, the teen agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and be turned over to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Services.
News of the plea agreement blindsided Reynolds’ relatives, with his widow and sister saying they were not consulted before the offer was extended to the defense. At multiple public appearances this week, they expressed sympathy for the boy but said the case being resolved in juvenile court would not adequately hold him accountable for killing their loved one.
Reynolds’ widow, Shannon, and his sister, Rebecca, blasted Mosby for her office’s handling of the case.
“It is our belief that Rita was removed for only one reason: She and the detectives have been the only ones fighting for justice and fighting for the victims from day one,” Rebecca “Becky” Reynolds, the sister, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.