Rul­ings prompt re­lease of 38 jail in­mates

Court hear­ings fo­cused on new good-time credit al­lowances at county de­ten­tion cen­ter

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JOHN WHARTON jwhar­ton@somd­news.com

Thirty-eight in­mates in the St. Mary’s jail are be­ing re­leased, the county sher­iff’s sec­ond in com­mand con­firmed Fri­day, fol­low­ing a series of rul­ings in the county’s cir­cuit court and hear­ings on good-time credit al­lowances dur­ing their cus­tody.

The re­cent court­room de­bates be­fore Cir­cuit Judge Michael J. Stamm fo­cused in part on whether the pro­vi­sions of the state’s Jus­tice Rein­vest­ment Act, which went into ef­fect last fall, ap­ply not only to in­mates now be­ing sen­tenced for their re­cent of­fenses, but also to in­mates put back in jail for vi­o­lat­ing the terms of their pro­ba­tion.

“The judge puts them in jail,” sher­iff’s Maj. Michael Mer­i­can said Fri­day, “and the judge can let them out.”

Pub­lic de­fend­ers work­ing in St. Mary’s pur­sued the re­lease of two in­mates through civil fil­ings, re­sult­ing in a pair of court hear­ings where op­po­si­tion first came from the county’s lead prose­cu­tor, and from the county at­tor­ney’s of­fice dur­ing the sec­ond pro­ceed­ing.

The pe­ti­tion filed by pub­lic de­fender Gina M. Fio­ra­vanti on be­half of La­mar Allen, jailed last Oc­to­ber for vi­o­lat­ing his pro­ba­tion from a 2016 guilty plea to in­de­cent ex­po­sure, was fur­ther pur­sued at a court hear­ing in June by pub­lic de­fender Edie F. Cimino, who ar­gued that Allen’s rein­car­na­tion was sub­ject to the new sys­tem of 10 days of credit

for each month served with no in­frac­tions.

“It’s def­i­nitely a new sen­tence,” Cimino said of the penalty for the pro­ba­tion vi­o­la­tion.

Allen orig­i­nally had been told that he would be re­leased in early May, court pa­pers state, but he later was told that his re­lease date had been re­cal­cu­lated to the mid­dle of June.

State’s At­tor­ney Richard Fritz (R) coun­tered that the penalty for vi­o­lat­ing pro­ba­tion “may be a sen­tenc­ing event, but it’s not the im­po­si­tion of a new sen­tence. Un­der our the­ory, he’s only en­ti­tled to five [days of credit] a month.”

Stamm later is­sued an opinion stat­ing that Allen’s penalty for vi­o­lat­ing pro­ba­tion “merely ex­e­cuted a por­tion of the de­fen­dant’s al­ready im­posed sen­tence,” but that case law cited by the prose­cu­tor re­ferred to what was once a vi­o­lent crime, un­like Allen’s in­de­cent ex­po­sure of­fense.

The judge ruled that a 1992 leg­isla­tive de­ci­sion al­lowed the 10 days of credit.

A sub­se­quent hear­ing in the case of an­other in­mate, Cedric M. Long Jr., took place after his re­lease from jail, but As­sis­tant County At­tor­ney James Tanav­age noted that deem­ing a pro­ba­tion vi­o­la­tion’s sen­tenc­ing as a new case is “go­ing to have statewide im­pli­ca­tions. Ev­ery in­mate [would] have their sen­tence re­cal­cu­lated.”

The judge is­sued sim­i­lar find­ings in Long’s case, not­ing that his sec­ond-de­gree as­sault con­vic­tion also is clas­si­fied as a non-vi­o­lent crime, and the judge de­nied on Aug. 31 a re­quest that he re­vise his de­ci­sions.

Mer­i­can said Fri­day that St. Mary’s jail has been cal­cu­lat­ing re­lease dates in the same man­ner as ev­ery other ju­ris­dic­tion in Mary­land. In light of the rul­ings for Allen and Gray, the ma­jor said, “we’re re­quired to af­ford that to the rest of the [el­i­gi­ble] pop­u­la­tion.”

On Fri­day, he said, there were 202 in­mates in the jail, ei­ther serv­ing a sen­tence or in pre­trial cus­tody.

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