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Former court clerk, mom to stand trial in Carroll County, Md.

September 18, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

WASHINGTON COUNTY - A former Washington County Circuit Court clerk and his mother, who face charges that they stole money from the county Board of License Commissioners, will have their case heard in Carroll County Circuit Court after successfully petitioning for a change of venue.

Ricki Lynn Hemphill, 54, and Constance Joan Rooke, 74, are scheduled to appear Oct. 23 in the Carroll County court for a motions hearing.

Hemphill, former chairman of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee, and Rooke each were indicted on one count of conspiracy and two counts of theft of more than $500, according to an indictment filed in March.

Hemphill and Rooke are accused of stealing and conspiring to steal money from the liquor board through unearned payroll checks made payable to Rooke and checks issued to Chalwyn LLC.

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A change of venue hearing was held in June in Washington County Circuit Court. Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright signed an order June 20 moving the trial to Carroll County in response to a motion filed by the defendants.

The alleged theft occurred between June 1, 2001, and July 20, 2005, according to the indictment.

Hemphill officially became the deputy clerk of Washington County Circuit Court in 1999, and Rooke was an office administrator for the liquor board.

Rooke also was indicted in October 2006 on charges of felony theft and embezzlement, and accused of stealing $6,000.

Hemphill's lawyer argued that the possibility of getting a fair and impartial jury in Washington County would be compromised because many of the witnesses called by the state during a trial would be public officials and other well-known people whose testimony would receive "undo weight simply by virtue of their public roles," according to a motion filed in May in Washington County Circuit Court.

Hemphill and Rooke's cases were consolidated for trial, a Carroll County Circuit Court clerk said Monday by telephone. The trial is set for the week of Feb. 11, 2008, according to court records.

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