MSP officer acquitted in off-duty assault cases
— A Maryland State Police corporal has been cleared of assault charges stemming from two off-duty incidents that occurred at his residence near Rising Sun last year and involved his live-in girlfriend, with whom he has a son.
Retired Judge J. Frederick Price acquitted the defendant, Ethan Brown, 34, of two counts of second-degree assault, the sole charges, Monday at the conclusion of a three-hour-long trial in Cecil County Circuit Court.
In delivering his “not guilty” verdicts, Price explained that the state “quite simply” had not met its “burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
A 12-year MSP veteran who was assigned to the Waterloo Barrack in Jessup at the time of
email@example.com the incidents, Brown has been suspended with pay since April 19, when he was charged by the Cecil County State’s Attorney’s Office by way of criminal information after a seven-month-long MSP investigation. Brown was not arrested but, instead, was issued a criminal summons.
MSP officials, who had reported in May that Brown was under an Internal Affairs Unit investigation relating to the incidents, could not be reached Tuesday morning for comment on how the acquittals would affect his status with the agency.
Brown stood accused of assaulting Kristen Brown, now 32, in the late afternoon of May 5, 2015, in the backyard of his home in the 500 block of Joseph Biggs Highway and in the kitchen of that residence on June 27, some seven weeks later.
They have the same last name but are not re- lated. They had lived together at Ethan’s residence for approximately four years, with their common child and two children Kristen Brown had during a previous relationship.
In his opening and closing arguments, Brown’s defense lawyer, C. Thomas Brown, an Elktonbased attorney who isn’t related to either party, categorized this as a “he-said-she-said” case and maintained that “these allegations are all about custody.”
Specifically, he noted that Kristen Brown did not file a protective order against Ethan Brown until July 2015 — the same month that she filed for custody of their son. Ethan Brown now has legal custody of their son, which Kristen Brown conceded to him, and she has visitation rights,
according to Thomas Brown and court testimony.
Deputy State’s Attorney Steven L. Trostle, however, countered that Kristen Brown did not file the documents until after she had moved out of Ethan Brown’s residence and into a domestic violence shelter, contending that she took the action only after she felt safe to do so.
Trostle also challenged Thomas Brown’s “he-saidshe-said” description of the criminal case because a nearby neighbor, Alice Leighton, witnessed the backyard incident on May 5, 2015, from her property and took photographs of bruises on Kristen Brown’s shoulders, arms and other parts of her body the next day.
Although no one witnessed the incident inside the couple’s kitchen on June 27, 2015, Leighton also took photographs of Kristen Brown’s bruises the day after that incident, according to Trostle and testimony from Leighton and Kristen Brown.
But Thomas Brown argued that those photographs, which Trostle had described as “compelling” before submitting them as trial exhibits, had not been authenticated by law enforcement investigators or by physicians.
“There was no medical examination,” Thomas Brown told the judge.
Thomas Brown also maintained that Leighton and his client did not get along because they had had a property line dispute relating to the placement of a fence in the past.
Kristen Brown testified that Ethan Brown was angry after learning that Leighton had gotten Kristen Brown’s son from a previous relationship off the school bus on the afternoon of May 5, 2015, because she was running late returning from a doctor’s appointment. Ethan Brown was not at home.
According to Kristen Brown’s testimony, Ethan Brown was drunk and argumentative when she got home. Kristen testified that he had been mowing grass that day, which he did as a side job.
She testified that they had been arguing for about 30 minutes when Ethan Brown grabbed her arms, pinned her against a trailer and bent her back over it, holding her there for several minutes before she was able to break free.
The incident occurred while Ethan Brown’s parents, who live nearby, were inside Ethan Brown’s house, she testified.
Leighton tearfully testified that she was washing dishes when she looked out her kitchen window and noticed the couple arguing heatedly in the backyard.
“He grabs her and shoves her over the back of the utility trailer,” Leighton said, adding that the scene made her walk to her back stoop to get a closer look, explaining that she wanted to “make sure” before calling police.
She then saw Ethan Brown walking away toward an outbuilding and Kristen Brown “bawling her eyes out” in the backyard.
Leighton did not call the police, however, even after taking photographs of Kristen Brown’s purported injuries the next day, she testified.
“She was bruised from head to toe,” Leighton testified, seconds after crying, “All because I got a baby (child) off the bus.”
Ethan Brown testified, however, that he never touched Kristen Brown during their argument. He contended that she cursed and screamed while he remained calm. Ethan Brown also testified that, shortly before the dispute, he had returned home in his MSP uniform after working dayshift and that he had not been drinking. Ethan Brown had changed into civilian clothes before the dispute started, he testified.
His testimony mirrored an account give by his father, Reginald Brown, who testified that Kristen Brown cursed loudly and flailed her arms while his son stood still with his hands in his pockets and then with his arms crossed.
Investigators did not interview Reginald Brown, who also had testified that his wife was not at the residence during the incident.
Ethan Brown said he was upset when he learned that his father had to be summoned to watch Kristen Brown’s son, because she wasn’t at home, and that Leighton had gotten the boy off the bus. Aware that Kristen Brown had no means of transportation and that their in-common son was with her, he wondered where they had gone and who had driven them, he added.
Clad in tactical gear, three officers walk away from the New Eastern Inn at one point during the operation.