Rollins withdraws from judgeship consideration
Hogan: Probably wouldn’t appoint him at this time
— Cecil County State’s Attorney Edward D. E. “Ellis” Rollins III has withdrawn his name from the list of candidates seeking a vacant Cecil County Circuit Court judgeship in the wake of his arrest last week in Ocean City.
Rollins told the Cecil Whig late Thursday afternoon that he had contacted Robert
Scholz, counsel for the Maryland Office of the Governor, earlier that day and informed him that he would no longer be seeking the open judgeship.
It was a stunning turn of events for the beleaguered state’s attorney who was seen as the frontrunner for the position, earning praise from colleagues, just weeks ago. Rollins was one of three applicants who made the “short list,” after going through a nomination process, and Gov. Larry Hogan was scheduled to interview all finalists individually next week in Elkton — breaking from the longtime practice of governors conducting those judicial candidate interviews in Annapolis.
“I do not want my present circumstances to be a distraction to this critical judicial appointment,” Rollins said, reading from a copy of the notification he had sent to the governor’s office.
Rollins then emphasized, “This is not a concession that I am guilty, but this frees me up to fight this thing.”
Worcester County Circuit Court records indicate that a July 20 arraignment has been set for Rollins, who told the Cecil Whig earlier this week that he had hired an Ocean City-based lawyer. As of early Thursday afternoon, a defense lawyer’s appearance was not reflected in those court records.
A motions hearing in Rollins’ criminal case is scheduled for Sept. 12 in Worcester County Circuit Court, where his jury trial is set to start Oct. 11, according to court records.
Rollins’ decision to withdraw his name from consideration for the judgeship comes two days after Hogan said he would “probably not” appoint Rollins to the vacant circuit court judgeship — a statement the governor made during a televised interview with Salisbury-based WBOC-TV earlier this week.
Rollins was arrested at 4 p.m. June 22, after Ocean City Police Department officers responded to the beachfront Clarion Resort Fountainebleu Hotel in Ocean City because they had received a report of a “nude male on a balcony,” police said.
Officers took Rollins, 60, into custody on suspicion of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct after they “located the room in question,” police added.
Rollins and his wife, Holly, had been staying at the hotel during the Maryland State’s Attorneys Association’s convention, which had started at the hotel’s conference facility on June 20 and ended there about noon on June 22, some four hours before Rollins’ arrest. Hogan had served as the keynote speaker on the last day of that conference, approximately seven hours before Rollins’ arrest.
On Monday, some five days after Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby had advised OCPD officers to release Rollins without charges, pending further investigation, the WCSAO formally charged Rollins with two counts each of indecent exposure and disorderly conduct stemming from two separate incidents — one on June 21, the other on June 22.
Hogan addressed the development involving Rollins during his WBOC interview.
“We’ve got scheduled interviews with all of the judges (candidates) which were sent to us by the judicial nominee commission, and he’s on that list as a state’s attorney,” the governor said. “But obviously this latest incident, we’re going to try and find more information about it. It concerns me a whole lot. If we found out he’s guilty of these crimes, I think it would preclude us from making that appointment.”
Asked if he had to make that Cecil County Circuit Court judicial appointment now, Hogan replied that he would “probably not” appoint Rollins.
The governor qualified during that TV interview, “I don’t know anything other than what I’ve read in the paper, but it sounds pretty terrible.”
Rollins called the Cecil Whig on Monday and maintained his innocence, emphasizing that Oglesby’s decision to file criminal charges against him was based solely on information provided to the WCSAO by Ocean City Police Department officers who handled the investigation.
“(Oglesby) decided based on one side of the story. He has not heard my side of the story. I am confident when that happens, my name will be cleared,” Rollins said during that phone interview on Monday.
A day earlier, Rollins’ wife had issued a statement to the Cecil Whig on behalf of her husband, who had declined to comment because, at that time, he was the subject of the investigation, which led to the criminal charges against him.
Holly Rollins did so to address “inaccuracies” in media accounts, she said. The statement indicated that someone at an adjacent hotel spied upon them through the window of their guest room at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel at 10100 Coastal Highway during a 24-hour period, from June 21 through June 22.
“While my husband and I were vacationing in Ocean City last week, a stranger watched and photographed us through the window of our 10th floor hotel room. The person who took these actions was in a separate hotel some distance from ours. During the next 24 hours, while completely within the confines of our room, our intimate movements and activities were documented and shared publicly,” Holly Rollins’ statement read.
The statement concluded, “At this time we are fully cooperating with law enforcement officials.”
The criminal charges against Rollins are misdemeanors, with indecent exposure carrying a possible punishment of up to three years in prison and/or a $1,000 fine and disorderly conduct carrying a possible punishment of up to 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Ogelsby, who had attended the state’s attorneys’ conference in Oean City with Rollins and scores of other Maryland prosecutors, charged Rollins by way of a “criminal information,” which, like an indictment, lacks details of the alleged incident or incidents and contains only basic information, such as the charge or charges and where and when the alleged offense or offenses occurred.
On Monday, in a written statement to announce the charges filed against Rollins, Oglesby outlined the steps leading to the criminal case.
“After consultation with the Ocean City Police Department, two counts of indecent exposure and two counts of disorderly conduct have been filed,” Oglesby said in a prepared statement, declining further comment due to it being an active case. “After carefully considering which course of action would be the most appropriate given the need to handle this matter with transparency balanced against the desire to shield the identity of the victims, filing a criminal information achieved both goals.”
For 30 years, Rollins ran a private Elkton-based practice that covered nearly every manner of the law from criminal to family, estate to business. Then in 2010, he was elected to his first four-year term as Cecil County State’s Attorney. Rollins was re-elected in 2014.
Before this criminal case, Rollins was considered a front-runner to fill the vacant Cecil County Circuit Court judgeship — a position previously held by both his late grandfather, Edward Dorsey Ellis Rollins Sr., who presided from 1957 to 1969, and his late father, E.D.E. Rollins Jr., who served on the bench from 1984 to 2002.
Rollins made the “short list” two other times, after going through the judicial nominating process, but lost his bids for those open judgeships to Whelan in 2010 and Jane Cairns Murray in 2011. Rollins, who is a Republican, was interviewed by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, after making those short lists.
Cecil Whig reporter Carl Hamilton contributed to this story.
E.D.E. “Ellis” Rollins III withdrew from consideration for a vacant Cecil County Circuit Court judgeship in light of facing charges of indecent exposure last week.
Gov. Larry Hogan told WBOC-TV reporter Tashawna Gaines that he would “probably not” appoint Cecil County State’s Attorney Ellis Rollins III to an open circuit court judgeship.