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Probation officer testifies Md. man told her about alleged assault

January 22, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com

Darrin Jones was questioned by a probation officer about an alleged assault last summer, but it was not a “custodial interrogation” and thus will not be suppressed if his case goes to trial, a Washington County Circuit Court Judge ruled Tuesday.

Jones, 44, of Gwynn Oak, Md., is charged with first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment in an incident that allegedly took place while he was living at Wells House, a drug treatment facility on East Baltimore Street, according to court documents.

Jones is accused of threatening another resident with a butcher knife on Aug. 26, charging documents said.

Jones’ probation officer, Danielle Staley, testified Tuesday that the alleged victim, Herbert Weare, had told another officer about the incident on Aug. 26. The next day, Jones met with Staley for a scheduled appointment and she asked him about Weare’s claim.

After first denying the incident, Staley testified that Jones told her about it “in explicit detail.” Staley testified she later informed her supervisor and submitted a written statement to the supervisor, but was never questioned by police.

Jones was not restrained, told he could not leave, or taken into custody after the meeting, she testified.

“Mr. Jones walked in and Mr. Jones walked out,” Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson told Judge Daniel P. Dwyer. “He didn’t have to answer any questions.”

Assistant Public Defender Michael Wilson argued a probation officer is an agent of the state and Jones should have been given a Miranda warning before he was questioned.

“This was an interrogation,” Michael Wilson said, asking Dwyer to suppress Jones’ statements to Staley.

It is part of probation officer’s duties to ask clients about possible breaches of the law, Brett Wilson told Dwyer.

“It clearly was an interrogation and no Miranda warning was given,” Dwyer said in his ruling from the bench. “If it’s a custodial interrogation, the Miranda warning must be given.”

However, Dwyer ruled that Jones was never told he could not leave and, in fact, did leave at the end of his meeting, thus it was not a custodial interrogation.

Last year, a county circuit court judge granted Wells House a preliminary injunction against the City of Hagerstown and the police department regarding an Aug. 30 search of the facility related to Jones’ case. All items seized by police in the search were ordered returned to Wells House pending a further hearing.

Attorneys for Wells House argued that federal and state laws protect the confidentiality of patient information in such facilities.

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