Maryland tightens access to sealed indictments — after leak to gang members in Anne Arundel

Phil Davis
Contact Reporterpdavis@capgaznews.com

The same day a civilian employee in the Anne Arundel County Sheriff’s Office was charged with leaking sealed indictments to members of a criminal gang, Maryland officials said they took a long- planned moved to restrict easy police access to that kind of information.

Maryland Judiciary spokeswoman Nadine Maeser said sealed indictments, like the kind police say Chanel Holland accessed to alert 10 suspected gang members, are no longer viewable by law enforcement agencies in the state.

Maeser said the timing was coincidental and was recommended in January after a review of access to the Maryland Judiciary Secure Case Search. The system is an expanded, password-protected version of the public website.

It provides select agencies and individual staff members with more information than publicly available. It is managed by the state court system.

“It wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction,” she said.

Anne Arundel County police charged Holland, a management aide from Glen Burnie, with obstruction of justice and illegally accessing a computer Wednesday. Police said she used the secure database to give information to the 10 suspected gang members.

Police wrote in charging documents that Clerk of the Court Robert Duckworth’s office had specific instructions not to put arrest warrants into a public database or provide copies of the indictments to anyone outside of the Marland State Police or county prosecutors.

Assistant Deputy Clerk Doug Arnold said his office has asked that the Judiciary clear further authorizations with the clerk as well as provide more information on how employees are approved for access.

“Because we are the custodian of that information, we want to make sure nothing like this happens again,” Arnold said.

The arrest and questions about access to the database come as Sheriff Ron Bateman is seeking a fourth term. He faces three opponents in the Republican primary Tuesday.

Arnold also is on the GOP primary ballot seeking to replace Duckworth, who is retiring. He faces Bonnie Shepke.

Maeser said each agency that wants access to the system designates a “security representative” to fill out a standardized form on behalf of any employee requesting access.

Arnold said the Clerk’s Office has asked for three people to have access.

“We keep it very limited very specifically to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen,” Arnold said.

A spokesman for Bateman declined to comment on his office’s security representative and how Holland got access.

Scott Poyer, who’s running for the office as a Democrat, said he wants to see a statewide audit of access to the system as well as random spot checks on which employees are viewing in the system.

“If it’s not already being done on a regular basis … I would recommend they start building in these checks and balances,” he said.

But he was also wary of the Judiciary’s move to restrict access to sealed indictments, saying it could create issues with communication.

“There are obviously indictments … that you don’t want passed around, especially if there was any evidence they may have been colluding with law enforcement or anything like that,” he said.

Investigations into gang activity stretch across law enforcement agencies, requiring interoffice communication and having sealed indictments not viewable to other police departments could create some confusion.

“They’re supposed to share to be able to keep from getting in each other’s way,” he said.

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