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Sheriff is found not guilty

May 13, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades was found not guilty Wednesday of charges related to a claim he inappropriately touched a Smithsburg woman.

Mades was acquitted of fourth-degree sex offense and second degree assault in connection with an alleged incident on May 1, 2003, in the Chewsville Community Center kitchen.

R. Russell Sadler, a retired Howard County District judge sitting in Washington County District Court, said the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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The accuser, a former Washington County Detention Center cook, said the alleged offense happened while she was catering a meal at the community center for a Tall Cedars of Lebanon event.

Sigrid K. Knode, 57, testified that she had been leaning over an ice machine in the White Hall Road center's kitchen when Mades "come up behind me and grabbed me on the hips and thrusted his groin into my buttocks three or four times."

She said that at the time she worked for the Washington County Sheriff's Department as a cook in the detention center.

Knode, who testified that she filed charges against the sheriff in February, was asked by Mades' defense attorney, John Salvatore, why she waited eight months to file her complaint. She said she was afraid of losing her job.

She testified she worked at the sheriff's department until June 31 when her security clearance was pulled.

Morris Lay, who said he was the chairman of the kitchen committee for Tall Cedars of Lebanon at the time, testified that he witnessed Mades, whom he's known for 35 years, approach Knode. He said Mades "hunched her like he would a dog."

Other Tall Cedar of Lebanon members testified they saw no such thing.

Member Richard Sanders, who said he was in the kitchen when Mades entered it to thank the cooks for the meal, testified, "I never saw him do it, no."

On cross-examination by Montgomery County Assistant State's Attorney Constantine Lizas, Sanders was asked whether he was protecting his fellow club member, which Lizas said club members make an oath to do.

"What are you implying?" asked Sanders.

After some discussion by the lawyers and the judge, Sanders acknowledged that club members take an oath to help each other, but they do not protect fellow members from criminal allegations.

Club member Roy Stone, who said he was on the kitchen committee that day, testified he did not see Mades touch Knode. On cross-examination, he said he "could have been in the dining hall" when the alleged incident occurred.

Club member Ron Cross testified Mades was never out of his sight. He said he followed Mades into the kitchen at a short distance and only saw the sheriff "laughing and joking with the kitchen crew."

Cross said Knode "was having a good time."

Mades, 63, of 17223 Cloverleaf Road in Hagerstown, testified that he placed his hands on Knode's shoulders at an arm's-length distance.

Salvatore said in his closing argument, "This simply boils down to a he-said, she-said situation."

Sandel, before announcing his ruling, said he could not say which witnesses were most credible.

"This incident may have occurred," he said, but the state did not meet its burden of proof.

More than 30 people who were gathered in the courtroom for Mades' trial stood and applauded the verdict. Mades was greeted by swarms of spectators who lined up on each side of the courtroom aisle waiting to shake his hand.

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