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Attorney accuses prosecutor of concealing evidence

October 16, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

A defense attorney who is representing a man charged with raping a teenage girl alleged Monday that a prosecutor hid for two months information that his client's accuser changed her story.

Wiley Rutledge, who is representing Daniel Harris Coe Jr. on sex offense, rape and assault charges, said he discovered last week that evidence was withheld that would call into question the credibility of the girl, now 14, who alleges Coe had sex with her in January and February 2006.

Coe, 28, whose address at the time of the charges was 122 1/2 North St. in Hagerstown, was to go on trial Monday on two consolidated cases related to the allegations.

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Rutledge alleged that Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Michele Ferris Hansen directed Washington County Sheriff's Department Investigator Kenneth Barnhart in late July to interview the girl, who told the investigator an unrelated September 2005 rape never occurred.

"That was not disclosed to me until Oct. 10," Rutledge told Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III.

According to charging documents, the girl went to Washington County Hospital on March 1 and told a social worker that she had consensual sex and contact with Coe in January and February 2006, and in an unrelated incident was raped by a few men in September 2005.

In response to Rutledge's statements to Wright, Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said, "Our failure has put the defense at a disadvantage." Michael said his office would take responsibility for the continuance Monday.

He said Monday was a "relatively dark day in this court."

Michael said the office will reassign a prosecutor to the case and will decide by the end of the week how to proceed.

Rutledge alleged the conduct violated a Maryland rule based on Brady v. State that says prosecutors must share evidence that would negate or mitigate the guilt of a defendant before trial.

If the allegation is brought before the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland, the commission would investigate whether the alleged conduct violates the professional rules of conduct, a representative with the commission said Monday. She said the commission could seek disbarment, suspension or reprimand for an individual attorney if the attorney is found in violation.

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