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Retired Baltimore District Judge Charles A. Chiapparelli, who lived in Canton, had earlier headed the child abuse division of the Baltimore state's attorney's office.
Retired Baltimore District Judge Charles A. Chiapparelli, who lived in Canton, had earlier headed the child abuse division of the Baltimore state's attorney's office. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Retired Baltimore District Judge Charles A. Chiapparelli, who had earlier headed the child abuse division of the Baltimore state's attorney's office, died of a heart attack Tuesday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

The Canton resident was 71.

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"Charlie was a very good friend to so many people. He was a very proud man and not the least bit vain," said Joseph F. Murphy Jr., who retired as chief judge of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in 2007.

"He was a unique prosecutor who worked in the courthouse during the day and in the family business at night for many years before going on the bench," said former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who was Judge Chiapparelli's boss when Mr. Schmoke served as state's attorney.

"As a prosecutor, I would describe Charlie as a 'happy warrior,'" said Mr. Schmoke, who is now president of the University of Baltimore. "There was a wonderful lightness about him when dealing with people in the courtroom and witnesses. He worked very hard. He was a jovial person, even though it was a tough business."

"Charlie was a people's judge who always tried to do a good job. He was always very fair and ran his courtroom very nicely," said George A. Breschi, a Towson lawyer and former law partner. "He tried to give defendants a break, but could impose a tough sentence when necessary."

The son of Pasquale "Patsy" Chiapparelli and Anna Mary "Nellie" Pizza Chiapparelli, Charles Anthony Chiapparelli was born into the family that has owned and operated the High Street restaurant of the same name in Little Italy since 1940.

Raised on South Exeter Street, he was a graduate of Loyola High School. He played on the undefeated 1960 varsity football team.

"He was one of my closest friends, and we met at Loyola High School 58 years ago. We were both tackles on the football team," Mr. Breschi said. "Charlie went to the University of Baltimore and I went to Loyola [College], and then we met up again at law school."

Judge Chiapparelli earned a bachelor's degree in 1967 from the University of Baltimore and a law degree three years later from the University of Baltimore School of Law. He was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1974.

That year, he and Mr. Breschi established Chiapparelli & Breschi in the Mercantile Building in Towson.

"Charlie did mostly criminal work and some civil," recalled his former law partner.

Judge Chiapparelli served as chief of the child abuse division of the state's attorney's office from 1981 until he was named to the Baltimore District Court in 1995 by Gov. Parris N. Glendening. He replaced retiring Judge Richard O. Motsay. He was sworn in as a judge in January 1996.

From 1989 to 1991, he had also served as a member of the Foster Care Review Board, Southwest Region No. 2, and a member of the Adult Public Guardianship Review Board, Baltimore City, from 1991 to 1996.

He was a founding director the Baltimore Child Abuse Center Inc., established in 1987 as a refuge for sexually abused children.

"He loved children and he loved protecting them, and he always did the best he could," Mr. Breschi said.

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"Charlie truly reflected the teachings of Loyola High School and the Jesuits by being a man for others," Judge Murphy said.

He remained on the bench until retiring in 2014.

Lawyers were not fearful of trying cases in Judge Chiapparelli's courtroom because of his disposition.

"It was always my pleasure to appear before Judge Chiapparelli in District Court," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "He was kind, sincere and fair."

"Charlie was kind, but he well understood that you can't always be kind — and a judge can't do that in every case," Judge Murphy said. "He knew how to be forceful when the situation called for it when dispensing justice."

"If you were caught drinking and driving and it was the first offense, Charlie would most likely give you a break, but if it happened a second time, you were going to jail," Mr. Breschi said.

"He was always firm but fair," Mr. Schmoke said.

In December 2010, what was described at the time as a series of paperwork errors resulted in Judge Chiapparelli's dismissing or issuing a verdict of not guilty in about 75 parking ticket cases. "He sped through the entire docket in 13 minutes, pausing only so his clerk could keep up with writing dismissal notices," The Baltimore Sun reported. He found only one person who had parked illegally guilty that day, and reduced the $52 fine.

"'How about five dollars?' Judge Chiapparelli offered the delighted miscreant, who happily accepted the offer," reported The Sun.

Even after retiring, he continued to be called back to hear cases.

"He just loved it," Mr. Breschi said.

"He was a loving and sweet man and a very generous person," said Dana Scardigli, his daughter-in-law, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. "He loved to eat because he grew up in the family's restaurant, and he loved going around the country visiting restaurants."

He was a Baltimore Colts and Ravens fan.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Leo Roman Catholic Church, 227 S. Exeter St., Little Italy.

In addition to Ms. Scardigli, Judge Chiapparelli is survived by his son, Christopher Charles Chiapparelli of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and a granddaughter. His marriage to the former Barbara Lanza ended in divorce.

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