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Judge's mistake lands man in jail

September 07, 2000

Judge's mistake lands man in jail



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


Arthur RumageA Washington County man was free Thursday after spending five days in jail because of a judge's mistake.

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Arthur Rumage, 41, was released from the Washington County Detention Center on Thursday after Circuit Judge Kennedy Boone discovered his error.

Boone said he meant for a bench warrant he issued for Rumage to be dated Oct. 17, the day by which Rumage is supposed to pay about $2,000 in restitution and court costs on charges of assault and writing bad checks.

But Boone gave no instructions to that effect in his order and the clerk's office issued the warrant later the same day, Aug. 29.

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Rumage was picked up by police on Saturday morning while he was waiting for a bus in Hagerstown.

"It was a miscommunication. I have to take responsibility. The buck stops here," Boone said in an interview in his office just after he ordered Rumage released Thursday morning.

Rumage, who wore a tan jailhouse jumpsuit to the hastily called hearing, nearly lost a production job at the Coca-Cola plant on Jonathan Street and a dishwashing job at Red Lobster on Wesel Boulevard because of the time spent in jail.

Boone called both businesses after the hearing to tell them what happened. He convinced the supervisors not to fire Rumage.

"That was very nice of him," Rumage said.

After the hearing, Rumage was taken back to the detention center on Western Maryland Parkway so his paperwork could be processed and he could change into his civilian clothes, a striped button down shirt, black jeans and white sneakers. He said he planned to walk back to his apartment on Greenberry Road in Hagerstown.

Lighting up a cigarette outside the jail, Rumage said he spent the five days behind bars quietly waiting.

"There was nothing I could do. I just didn't let it depress me. I know I wasn't guilty of anything," he said.

But a friend of his, Christina Hoffman, 29, of Hagerstown, wouldn't let the matter rest. She contacted Rumage's probation officer and The Herald-Mail.

"I really felt bad for him. I really did. That wasn't fair," said Hoffman, who befriended Rumage because their children play together.

Rumage seemed more concerned about getting custody of his 3-year-old daughter Kayla Rumage than the jail time. But he said he was glad for Hoffman's help.

"She went out of her way. She's been real good to me and my daughter," he said.

Boone said he was surprised and disappointed that he wasn't notified earlier about the mistake.

Rumage's probation officer, Christine M. Talbert, took no action and told her Rumage would have to wait for a court hearing, which could be several weeks, Hoffman said.

Talbert and her supervisor referred questions to Henry Alexander, regional administrator for Parole and Probation.

"In normal circumstances, we don't go back and question the judge's decision," Alexander said.

It was a request from the probation office that first brought Rumage's case to Boone's attention last week.

Talbert had requested the judge give Rumage an extra three months to pay the $2,000 because he needed money to pursue custody of his daughter.

Boone saw that Rumage had not paid anything toward the debt in the four months since he was ordered to pay.

"I'm a little upset we haven't received any money at all between April and now," Boone said.

In April, Rumage got 18 months probation for second-degree assault and writing bad checks, court records show.

Boone said he hopes Rumage pays the money he owes before the deadline.

"I don't want to see us back here again for you not being in compliance," Boone told Rumage in court.

"I don't want to be back here, your honor," Rumage said.

Rumage is no stranger to the court system, Boone said.

In November 1998, he was sentenced to four months in jail for driving while his license was suspended, court records show.

Rumage said he was eligible to apply for a new driver's license on Monday, but couldn't because he was in jail.

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