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Snowden receives suspended sentence for marijuana possession conviction

A Baltimore City jury on Tuesday convicted Carl O. Snowden, the civil rights chief at the Office of the Maryland Attorney General, of misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Michael W. Reed sentenced Snowden to a 60-day suspended sentence and one year of supervised probation. Following his probation, Snowden is eligible to receive probation before judgment, which would keep the conviction off of his record.

Reed ordered Snowden, who is also chairman of the Annapolis Housing Authority, to participate in a drug and alcohol screening treatment program and to pay for the legal costs of trying the case, but did not impose a fine.

The jury deliberated for roughly four hours Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. On Tuesday it asked for the definitions of possession and reasonable doubt. The jury also requested a copy of a transcript that was read on Monday by Snowden’s attorney in which Anthony Hill, the other person in the car during the arrest, admitted to possessing the marijuana.

After the verdict, Snowden said he was surprised by the ruling given that police found no drugs on him and that Hill admitted to possessing the marijuana in question.

“But the jury has made a decision in the case and I respect the decision,” Snowden said.

He criticized State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, however, for his prosecution of the case.

“We have an overzealous prosecutor who was attempting to get headlines,” he said.

A spokesman for Bernstein was not immediately available for comment.

David Paulson, a spokesman for Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, said in a statement Tuesday that the attorney general respects the jury’s decision.

“In terms of what happens next, this is a personnel matter and we have not had the opportunity to discuss it with Mr. Snowden,” Paulson said.

Snowden was arrested on April 19 in Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park after police discovered a brown cigar paper that had marijuana in plain sight in a parked Honda Pilot that he owned.

Police also discovered a clear plastic bag in Hill’s pocket that contained marijuana.

Hill, a 29-year-old registered sex offender, admitted at a plea hearing in June that the marijuana was his and was sentenced to 20 hours of community service.

Snowden declined Tuesday to discuss what he and Hill were doing together in the car.

“I don’t want to go into that,” he said.

His attorney, Stuart O. Simms, of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, said he and Snowden will be “consulting” on whether to appeal the case.

An officer testified Monday that Snowden asked him “not to lock him up” when he was placing Snowden under arrest.

“I asked him how come and he said because of his job,” Detective Vaughn Diggs told the jury.

Snowden announced just days before the arrest that he would be taking a leave of absence from his job in the attorney general’s office in order to pursue a lawsuit against Anne Arundel County.

Snowden was one of a group of people found to be the subjects of dossiers allegedly put together by County Executive John R. Leopold’s executive protection detail. Leopold was indicted in the spring on charges of misconduct in office relating to how he used his security detail. Leopold has said that he will fight the charges.

Byron L. Warnken, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, said the sentence seemed reasonable even though Snowden has one prior conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol that is currently on appeal and one case of DUI that was resolved through probation after judgment and therefore is not officially on his record.

“It is fairly common, and the judge is making him earn it by holding the 60-day sentence over his head,” Warnken said.