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Man pays heavy price for crime of passion

March 13, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

Two years ago, Meredith Robert Wall had a good job, a vested pension plan, a wife and a family.

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Since then, he has watched his life disintegrate, losing it all because of a crime of passion he committed in December 1998.

On Monday, he lost one more thing: his freedom.

Wall, 42, pleaded guilty in Washington County Circuit Court to a charge of false imprisonment for forcing his ex-lover into his car on a cold morning just after midnight.

Judge W. Kennedy Boone III gave him a year in jail for the offense.

"Mr. Wall's entire being has crumbled, your honor," said defense attorney Craig M. Kadish. "He has paid a price in every venue He has got nothing left, you honor."

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Wall, who was a correctional officer at the Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown, had agreed to return the belongings of a woman with whom he had about a year-long affair, according charging documents. They met at the Snax sub shop on Sharpsburg Pike at about 12:15 a.m. on Dec. 14, 1998.

After Wall returned the items, he told the woman, who also worked at the prison, that he needed to discuss work-related items.

The woman agreed to sit in Wall's vehicle to stay warm, and when she got in, Wall locked the doors and drove off. He took her to his home in Kearneysville, W.Va.

The woman later told police she feared for her life because he had brandished a handgun at her the month before, according to the charging documents.

"The victim was quite frightened," said Assistant State's Attorney Bill Hayden, who recounted the incident Monday.

Once inside the house, Wall kissed her and removed her shirt and bra, according to the charging documents. Several minutes later, however, he agreed to drive her back to her car.

Wall was convicted in West Virginia of fourth-degree sex offense for the incident. He received a six-year suspended sentence and five years supervised probation.

Wall spoke briefly after pleading guilty to the false imprisonment charge. Facing the victim, he said, "I would like to apologize for all the trouble, all the burden, I caused."

In imposing sentence, Boone said he was reluctant to send the former guard to a state prison "for obvious reasons."

Instead, he imposed a four-year sentence and suspended all but one year, which Wall will serve in the Washington County Detention Center.

After his release, Wall will serve three years probation, Boone ruled. Boone ordered him to have no contact with the victim, also a condition of his West Virginia sentence.

Kadish said Wall was a state prison guard for 11 years before losing his job as a result of the charge. He also lost his pension, Kadish said.

"He was a sergeant. He had a great deal of responsibility," he said.

Wall now earns $8.20 an hour working at a store. Boone allowed Wall to keep that job in a work-release program.

In addition to his professional troubles, Wall also has lost his family. His wife has filed for divorce and is contesting custody of his children, Kadish said.

"When people fall in love, sometimes they do absolutely moronic things," he said. "If he could go back and undo the events over two or three months he would. But he can't."

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