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Report details efforts by police to get laptop

Sun Staff

The team of detectives told the burglary suspect that they just wanted "one piece of important info, that's all."

He nodded and said he knew what they wanted and, to their amazement, where it was, according to court documents. Then the detectives pleaded with him to sign a form waiving his rights to remain silent and to speak with an attorney.

But the suspect kept asking for a lawyer. First he talked on the phone with his sister, a lawyer, and then to a public defender, according to the court filings. Both gave him the same advice: Don't disclose anything.

James Monteiro never signed the waiver of his rights, but more than four hours later - and after a bit of play-acting - the detectives persuaded him to take them to the stolen item.

And so began the investigation of Labor Commissioner Sean R. Malone's city-owned laptop computer, which had been stolen in a burglary Oct. 7. The computer ended up at the center of a wrongful-termination lawsuit seeking millions of dollars filed by ousted police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark against the city and Mayor Martin O'Malley.

"They were on a mission to get this computer, and they did," public defender Angela D. Shelton said of the detectives. "Most police officers know they have to stop when someone asks for a lawyer, especially when it's that clear-cut. But I believe this was politically motivated."

Court documents filed last week describe the lengths to which Baltimore police detectives went to locate the labor commissioner's stolen city-owned laptop computer, which the former police commissioner said contained pornographic images.

None of the court documents mention what Malone's computer might have contained - or why police were so aggressive in trying to locate it. Clark's lead attorney, Stuart O. Simms, has said that Clark's actions as commissioner were lawful.

The police report is unsigned and undated, but it appears to have been written by Detective Michelle L. McClosky on Oct. 23, the day of Monteiro's arrest.

The report begins at 2 p.m. with Monteiro refusing to sign paperwork waiving his right to remain silent and his right to have an attorney present.

But Monteiro apparently realized he had something that the detectives wanted.

The police report states that, Detective Timothy J. Galt asked for "one piece of important info, that's all. James nodded and said he knew the property location (I almost fell off my chair). We (Det. Galt and myself) both pleaded to go over the rights form."

The detectives seemed to press him: "Where might we look for such an important item? Pawn shop?" Monteiro replied: "An attorney."

"I said what?! An attorney has it? James stated, 'No!' I'll tell you, with an attorney present!"

The only other time noted in the report is 6 p.m., with McClosky indicating that none of the five detectives involved in questioning Monteiro had been able to locate a public defender.

But the report goes on to say that McClosky eventually gained a rapport with Monteiro and that he promised to give the "puter" to her after speaking to an attorney.

The detectives were about to transport Monteiro to Central Booking and Intake Center when they tried a last tactic.

A sergeant "yelled at me in front of James (pretending I was in trouble then and there)," the report states. "James felt sorry for me and called unknown persons to pick up puter."

McClosky then drove Monteiro to Mosher Street and Fulton Avenue, where he went into the house and got Malone's computer.

Monteiro's public defender said the police tactics were "a violation of his constitutional rights."

Matt Jablow, a Police Department spokesman, declined to comment on the investigation.

Sheldon Greenberg, director of the Police Executive Leadership Program at the Johns Hopkins University, said that although police cannot continue to question a suspect once he or she has asked for a lawyer, that doesn't mean that all dialogue must cease.

With the computer in hand, Clark ordered that it be searched for sensitive police documents. Sources said that Clark thought the computer might have belonged to the Police Department, where Malone worked as a legal adviser for at least three years until he became labor commissioner in September 2003.

Malone and Clark had a tense relationship, sources said. Malone is allied closely with O'Malley, who fired Clark on Nov. 10.

When detectives discovered pornographic material, Clark's internal affairs officials met with federal investigators to get assistance in investigating Malone, according to Clark's wrongful-termination lawsuit.

Malone is not named in the lawsuit, but city officials have confirmed that his computer was the one in question.

City officials have said that Clark pursued a criminal probe against Malone in retaliation for being asked to step down. Days later, Clark was fired.

City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler said Malone has been reminded about the city's policy on the appropriate use of computers and that he is not under investigation.

Monteiro, 35, is scheduled to stand trial March 11.

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