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Attorney successfully fishes for evidence

August 17, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- It's a story that could have made quite a television drama, with conflicting accounts of a discarded gun and the strange circumstances surrounding the weapon's recovery in Antietam Creek.

And when it ended, an attorney's ingenuity resulted in a more lenient sentence for his client.

The tale began last year with a store robbery in Washington County, according to Assistant Public Defender Charles B. Bailey, who represented one of several people charged in the case.

Bailey's client and another man wanted to plead guilty in hopes of getting a reduction in jail time, Bailey said Monday. He declined to identify his client, citing attorney/client privacy privilege.

The men gave conflicting reports about the location of the gun used in the robbery, Bailey said.

Assistant State's Attorney Viki Pauler wanted the weapon and said she would recommend a shorter jail term -- 1 1/2 years instead of four years -- for the man who could deliver the gun, Bailey said.

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Pauler had the men submit to polygraph tests, and Bailey's client failed, prompting Pauler to declare the deal dead, Bailey said.

Bailey argued that polygraph tests can be unreliable and convinced Pauler to continue looking into the case. He asked for each man to be let out of jail with a police escort to show the location of the gun, and Pauler agreed.

Bailey's client said he threw the gun in Antietam Creek at Devil's Backbone Park, and the other man said the weapon was in an old truck parked on a farm off Sharpsburg Pike, Bailey said.

Bailey, Pauler, and Sgt. Paul Kifer and Detective Tammy Jurado of the Hagerstown Police Department went to the farm off Sharpsburg Pike, but the gun was not in the truck, Bailey said.

The same group went with Bailey's client to Devil's Backbone Park, where the man threw a rock in Antietam Creek where he claimed he threw the gun, Bailey said.

Pauler said she would not pay for a diver to search that section of the creek, Bailey said.

After the case weighed on his mind for days, Bailey asked Pauler if she would recommend the lower jail sentence for his client if Bailey could find the gun. Pauler said she would, Bailey said.

On July 3, Deputy State's Attorney Joe Michael took his kayak to Devil's Backbone Park, and Jurado and Kifer joined him in case any evidence was found, Bailey said. Pauler was there, too.

Using a magnet tied to a string provided by his client's father, Bailey searched in about 6 feet of water for about a half-hour before the magnet attached to the gun.

Pauler recommended a lenient jail term for Bailey's client and the man was sentenced to 1 1/2 years in jail, Bailey said.

Bailey sent The Herald-Mail an e-mail describing the case as a "fish story" that put the public defender's office and the state's attorney's office in a good light.

"It turned into a big, fun thing," Bailey said.

On Monday, Pauler said she was glad the weapon was found.

"Every handgun we get off the street is a good thing," she said.

Bailey said Monday he did not know what happened to anyone else charged in the case.

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