The Weekly Writ: Maryland Legal News You Can Use for March 8, 2021

Today on March 8, 2021, read about:

Of course, if these or any other legal questions are impacting you and your family, then don't hesitate to reach out to JC Law for your free initial consultation with one of our expert domestic, criminal, or civil litigation attorneys.


SWAT Officer Slapped With CP Charges After Indecent Exposure Allegations

Original Story

What's Going On?

A Baltimore SWAT officer from Bel Air faces federal child pornography charges.

An investigation into the officer began in earnest back in October 2020. It started after the cop allegedly exposed himself to two underage girls, following a complaint from one. Law enforcement searched the defendant's residence and seized several electronic devices.

Prosecutors allege they found an encrypted file holding child sexual abuse videos and over 100 still photographs from a covert video recording the defendant supposedly made. The man is also alleged to have destroyed evidence by performing a factory reset on his iPad. The Baltimore Police Department suspended the officer without pay.

He faces a total of 60 years in federal prison for production of child pornography, possession of child pornography, and obstruction of justice charges.

Why This Matters To You:

Another alleged incident of law enforcement officer misconduct in Baltimore. It's nothing new, but this case has nothing to do with police power abuse. Instead, the defendant supposedly abused children.

Officers of the law are sworn to protect and serve the public from harm and danger. Here, the opposite of their duty is alleged to have occurred: They  supposedly put children in direct harm and danger.

Children are some of Maryland's most vulnerable citizens. To take advantage of that vulnerability is what makes these cases appalling to the average Marylander. We don't look at children in sexualized ways; they are our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, cousins, or friends.

The rise of digital technologies makes these crimes more prevalent as the "Dark Web" and other Internet backchannels allow people to exchange illegal drugs, materials, and even porn.

Sometimes, people who use those channels are smart enough to dump files on a hacked computer instead of their own—leaving innocent people in a tough spot. Hackers turn innocent people into suspects this way.

File encryption and allegedly destroying evidence looks terrible, but what if the encrypted file was dropped onto the computer by a hacker and the iPad's resetting was to make sure the hacker couldn't regain access? Hackers can and do drop files on unsuspecting computers. And, resetting a device to factory settings can help users start fresh and eliminate any past intrusions from a hack.

Child pornography cases also don't just stop at the criminal prosecution. Victims can press civil lawsuits for pain, suffering, and damages done. Only two victims are known to police from the initial complaint against the defendant, so more may come forward and bring more charges.

As with all legal matters, allegations are not convictions. The defendant deserves his day in court to tell his side of the story. After all, common wisdom says that are three sides to any story: The defendant's, the victim's, and the truth. 

More on Child Pornography Charges in Maryland


Children Caught in Charm City Crossfire

Original Story

What's Going On?

A 10-year-old Baltimore girl suffered a gunshot wound to her chest last Saturday afternoon.

The girl had gone to a local convenience store to buy a snack when a stray bullet from a gunfight in West Baltimore struck her.

She is one of the latest child victims of gun violence in the city. Just days after the girl was shot, several suspects shot a 17-year-old boy multiple times; someone else shot a 12-year-old boy.

In the girl's case, a group of men started a gunfight just up the street from where she purchased a snack. One bullet found its way in her direction, causing a punctured lung, fractured ribs, and lodging in her back.

Police continue to search for suspects in all three cases.

Why This Matters To You:

When violence impacts innocent lives, we must pause and assess how to prevent these tragedies in the future. Unfortunately, Baltimore City continues to struggle with preventing gun violence.

An uptick in what are known as "ghost guns" creates a worrisome trend of untraceable weapons. These weapons can make solving crimes involving guns very difficult. Although these specific cases do not mention those types of firearms, it is plausible to be involved.

Part of preventing gun violence is keeping illegal guns and firearms off the streets, which has historically proven difficult in Baltimore in particular.

As the city fights corruption, officers must simultaneously tackle ghost guns—a compounded problem.

As law enforcement tries to contain the illegal weapons on the street, innocent young lives are affected. They either deal with injuries from a shooting, lose a parent or sibling to gun violence, or be directly involved in the violence itself.

Despite the city's best efforts, this 10-year-old girl still must endure the injuries and emotional trauma caused by the shooting. How can Baltimore's youth feel safe from the violence if they don't protect themselves? Sometimes a weapon is bought out of protection, not the evil intent to shoot and possibly kill someone.

Four men allegedly took part in the gunfight that wounded the young girl. Is this gang violence? Or a case of someone pulling a gun out and another doing the same to protect themselves?

When life is in imminent danger, people will often do anything to remove the threat, including resorting to violence. Unfortunately, in this case, an innocent bystander became an unintended victim.

Getting to the truth of the matter will help police figure out why the gunfight started, as well as whose bullet struck the girl. These facts will play into the defense of the suspects involved in the shooting.

Someone firing a gun in self-defense rather than intentionally dramatically alters the charges a defendant may face. It's the difference between murder charges or negligent homicide.

More About Maryland Gun Charges


Firey Disputes Fuel 12 Arson and Attempted Murder Charges

Original Story

What's Going On?

Police from multiple agencies arrested an Ellicott City man for arson and attempted murder charges. According to authorities, they connected the man to 12 incidents of arson. Each incident allegedly occurred against people with whom the man disagreed.

Six of the arsons happened with people inside homes, so law enforcement decided to go ahead and add attempted murder to his charge sheet.

All the arson incidents were examined separately by law enforcement for the jurisdictions in which the fires occurred: Howard, Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George's counties.

No one was hurt in the fires, and the investigation continues.

Why This Matters To You:

Disagreements tend to leave one or both sides bitter. It appears the defendant was upset over issues with colleagues, family members, and government officials.

Many of the issues may have been resolvable through mediation. Agreements designed in mediation usually hold up because the parties involved in the disagreement or case created it.

Growing up, we've all heard the saying, "Violence doesn't solve anything." As a rule, violence tends to cause more problems than it solves.

In this case, the alleged crimes could lead to the rest of the defendant's life in prison, and most of us consider prison time a BIG problem.

We're never going to get along with everybody. That's why compromise is integral to life. A settlement between the defendant and the people he had disagreements with could have been the key to resolving the hostility.

More About Arson Charges


Maryland Courts Reopen (Again)

Original Source (1, 2)

What's Going On?

Mary Ellen Barbera, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals and administrative head of the Judicial Branch in Maryland, issued revised administrative orders for courts regarding the pandemic.

On March 15th, 2021, Phase IV of the reopening process begins. The order effectively opens courts to the public, with some exceptions.

Only non-jury trials and contested hearings resume in Family, Civil, Criminal, and Juvenile cases. Full court operations, Phase V, are scheduled to start on April 26th.

Why This Matters To You:

This announcement means that the time to show up in person for the court is back. The order overrides the previous one that rolled back reopening when a large spike in COVID-19 cases occurred in November 2020.

So, any hearing scheduled to be virtual is now in person. Make sure to go to the courthouse for these, as bench warrants for arrests occur when someone does not.

The courts still have CDC health and safety guidelines in place, such as wearing masks, social distancing, and limiting occupancy.

Our judicial process starts to get back to normal activities, with court staff, lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants, and judges all heading back to the courthouse. Of course, any other significant COVID-19 case spikes could send us into another rollback, but for now, we March forward.

More About Maryland Court System Matters