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Judge works to ban home detention firm

December 28, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

A Washington County Circuit Court judge said he will push to effectively bar a private home detention company from practicing in Washington County after finding out he was never told about problems with one of its clients.

Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone said Rockville-based Home Confinement Services Inc. failed to do its job in monitoring Matthew David Meyer, 24, of Hagerstown.

Boone sentenced Meyer on Dec. 17 in connection with a high-speed accident that claimed the lives of two Smithsburg residents on Oct. 23, 2002. Six months before the accident, Boone placed Meyer on probation in connection with a marijuana distribution charge.

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"Based on the number of minor infractions that (they) were apparently made aware of (in Meyer's case), I think they had an obligation to report to the proper authorities, and it's obvious they didn't," Boone said.

If a defendant violates probation, a judge can reimpose a suspended sentence. Last week, Boone reimposed four years of prison time he had originally suspended when he sentenced Meyer on the drug charge. He also sentenced him to seven years in prison for vehicular manslaughter in connection with the accident.

HCS owner Paul Kent said Tuesday he agreed the case was tragic, but he properly followed state reporting procedures.

"I understand where he's (Boone) coming from. ... It's a tragedy," Kent said. But, he said, "I think maybe the reporting requirements need to get tightened up at the state level."

A private home detention company must only file reports when it first begins monitoring a defendant and at the end of the monitoring period, said Jacqueline Lampell, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokeswoman.

But that should not keep a company from letting judges know about problems that come up during the monitoring period, she said.

"Their relationship is with the court," Lampell said.

Lampell also said HCS was recently issued a provisional license to operate in the state, which was due to some concerns with HCS. Lampell said she did not know the details of the problems.

Kent said he filed the required beginning and ending reports, as well as a report midway through Meyer's detention to a Parole and Probation agent saying there were problems with Meyer's detention.

Boone, however, said he was not aware of any problems until the sentencing on Dec. 17 and he will ask his fellow circuit judges to cease using HCS as a home detention service.

At Meyer's sentencing in connection to the fatal accident, Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Joseph Michael said Meyer repeatedly disobeyed rules imposed by Home Confinement Services Inc., of Rockville.

Meyer also tested positive once for marijuana use and received a speeding ticket in Pennsylvania, and allegedly produced a false driver's license, in violation of his probation orders, Michael said.

Michael said that while HCS was aware of the violations, the company never notified his or Boone's office.

Michael then referred to a a $400 check written to Kent and dated May 20, 2002. The check was in the name of Accelerated Accessories, a Hagerstown auto business, and signed by Meyer.

"Mr. Kent didn't want to bite the hands that feed him. ... Mr. Meyer was attempting to buy himself out of the trouble," Michael said at the hearing.

In response to Michael's comments, Kent said only that his company charged defendants a daily fee of $12 to $15.

It is not clear how many Washington County cases are currently being monitored by private home detention companies, but Boone estimated it was only a handful. Most home-detention cases are monitored by the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

Kent said he was currently monitoring one Washington County case.

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