A Baltimore circuit judge castigated city prosecutors’ handling of a major conspiracy case this week in an unusual public rebuke that alludes to ongoing staffing issues in the state’s attorney’s office.
In a memorandum opinion filed this week, Judge Jeffrey Geller wrote that he was “deeply troubled” by prosecutors’ actions in the case, which involves allegations of a complex criminal enterprise among 26 Maryland correctional officers.
Geller detailed the case’s procedural history in the memorandum, in which he also denied a motion to dismiss the cases against four defendants.
The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office initially assigned two veteran assistant state’s attorneys to handle the case, Geller wrote, “recognizing the complexity and high-profile nature of this prosecution.”
One of those prosecutors, Patrick Seidel, left the office more than a year ago and was not replaced on the case, Geller wrote. On June 7, just two weeks before a scheduled trial date in the case, the other prosecutor, Michael Hudak, resigned effective June 21, the judge wrote.
Geller’s description of what happened next portrays an office in disarray:
“In spite of this critical situation, the SAO then failed to act,” Geller wrote. “It was not until the pretrial conference held by the undersigned on June 13, 2022, that Mr. Hudak informed the Court he had resigned. He also stated that no prosecutor had been designated to replace him.”
When Geller asked Hudak to identify his supervisor, “Mr. Hudak indicated that the SAO had not told him who would be serving as his new supervisor and thus could not provide a supervisor’s name to the Court,” the judge wrote.
The State’s Attorney’s Office asked to postpone the case on the day of trial, June 22, according to the opinion. A different judge, Melissa Phinn, granted the request, according to the memorandum.
“Had the postponement been denied, the SAO would likely have been forced to dismiss the charges, as there was no prosecutor prepared to handle a twelve-day jury trial that all counsel agree required months of pretrial preparation,” Geller wrote.
The defendants filed to dismiss the charges against them, alleging that their rights to a speedy trial had been violated. Geller denied the request, despite what he called the “egregious failures of the SAO.”
Among the defendants who requested the dismissal is Kevin Hickson, 52, who was accused of being the leader of a criminal enterprise among correctional officers that is alleged to have used excessive force and retaliatory violence against detainees.
Geller’s rebuke is the latest sign of severe staffing problems and disarray at the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, which is headed by Marilyn Mosby.
A spokesperson for the State’s Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.