Posted by: Ann Corcoran | January 31, 2013

Terry Porter preliminary hearing shows holes in MD State Police “investigation” that led to Sharpsburg SWAT

….and, Members of the Washington County delegation have introduced bills in the General Assembly as a result of that flawed investigation which ultimately led to an excessive show of force in serving what should have been a simple search warrant.

For new readers who do not know what happened in sleepy Sharpsburg, MD on November 29th, please see at least this one previous post.  We have an entire category on the case and its ramifications, here.

I was not in the courtroom yesterday, but below are portions of the Hagerstown Herald Mail‘s report.  Be sure to open the link and see a photo of the “dangerous man” who MD State Police felt was deserving of a “no knock search warrant.”  (emphasis below is mine).

A witness testified that police did not find machine gun-style weapons or 10,000 rounds of ammunition when they searched the home of a Sharpsburg man last fall, but Terry Porter’s case will be heard in Circuit Court after a Washington County District Court judge bound him over on 14 firearms charges.

District Judge Mark D. Thomas found there was probable cause for the case of Terry Allen Porter to proceed to Circuit Court. Porter, 46, of 4433 Mills Road, is charged with seven counts each of possession of rifles or shotguns by a convicted felon and possession firearms after being convicted of a disqualifying offense, court records said.

An anonymous caller contacted Maryland State Police on Nov. 8, telling them that Porter had 10 to 15 machine gun-style weapons and 8,000 to 10,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as an underground bunker, according to the charging document.

Then this revelation is stunning to me.  This whole over-zealous investigation began because an anonymous person called the MD State Police and they did not get his name until this whole mess blew up in their faces!   The MD State Police did no investigation of the caller—they didn’t even know who he was!  What motivation he might have! Whether he was a credible person!  That is very scary!

Reporter Don Aines continued:

“He did not give us his name,” Maryland State Police Cpl. Robert Riley testified during the preliminary hearing. Under questioning by Porter’s attorney, Rob Kamrad, Riley said the anonymous caller has since been identified, but his name was not divulged in court.

“No one found that many rounds of ammunition,” Riley testified when asked by Kamrad whether 10,000 rounds were found. He also testified that a Saiga, a semiautomatic rifle based on the AK-47, was not found in the Nov. 29 warrant search of Porter’s house or when Porter consented to a second search on Nov. 30.

[….]

Four shotguns, a .30-30-caliber rifle and two .22-caliber rifles were found, Riley testified. Two of the weapons were turned over to police in the consent search, he testified.

More evidence of a MD State Police shoddy investigation (not cocaine 20 years ago, but aiding and abetting distribution of  marijuana!):

Riley testified that the application for the search warrant stated Porter had been convicted in a U.S. Magistrate Court in West Virginia of distribution of cocaine in 1992….

[…..]

A copy of Porter’s court docket received by The Herald-Mail from the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia indicated that Porter pleaded guilty in 1992 to aiding and abetting in the distribution of marijuana.

That anonymous caller lies again:

Kamrad asked Riley about the anonymous caller’s claim that Porter buried refrigerators containing arms and ammunition on his property.

“He showed us two refrigerators that were buried in the woods,” Riley testified. Both were filled with dried foods, he testified.

Then this next bit of information makes no sense and was one of the main points of contention when Hagerstown Barracks Chief Thomas Woodward met with Sharpsburg residents on December 15th, here.

If State Police saw (or interacted with Porter) minutes before the SWAT began why didn’t they just serve him with the search warrant instead of allowing him to go into his house and “disappear” which set in motion actions which included breaking in his front door and calling in massive military-style reinforcements that staked out the house for many many hours (closed roads, kept kids at local schools, and generally scared rural residents to death).

When police executed the search warrant on Nov. 29, they did not find Porter in the house, although Riley testified he had met with Porter there minutes before the search began.

It seems to me there are only a few reasons this episode happened in the first place—either from sheer incompetence on the part of State Police firearms investigators, or possibly it was a planned training exercise, or, and I hate to say this, O’Malley and the boys were looking for a ‘gun-nut-prepper’ type to take down for media consumption.  It didn’t turn out like they planned because Porter wasn’t a hot head and didn’t fire a shot.

Washington County’s elected Sheriff was not notified that any of this was going down within his jurisdiction.

Bills introduced by Senator Chris Shank and Delegate Neil Parrott in Annapolis might help keep the MD State Police under a little control in the future.  Things might not have gotten so over-the-top had the local Sheriff been brought in earlier, say Shank and Parrott, here earlier this week:

Two Washington County legislators have filed bills in the current session of the Maryland General Assembly that would require the chief of the primary law enforcement agency in a county to be notified before an officer from another agency serves a warrant in areas within the county’s jurisdiction.

The bills, which have been filed in the House and the Senate by Del. Neil Parrott, R-Washington, and Sen. Christopher Shank, R-Washington, respectively, are in response to an incident in Sharpsburg in November where the Maryland State Police executed a no-knock search warrant at an address, but the Washington County Sheriff did not know about the operation until after it had begun.

[….]

Parrott said had the state police involved the sheriff’s office in the operation, they likely would have much more information.

“They could have come up with a tactical decision that was much better,” he said.

They might have learned from the local Sheriff and his local connections that the long-time resident of Washington County (Porter) was not who the State Police were making him out to be!

Donations needed!

Porter is a man of modest means (a welder by trade) and his friends know he needs financial help with his legal bills—please consider contributing by sending a gift.  Here’s how (from ‘Friends for Terry’ facebook page):

Please send a donation to the “Friends for Terry” Account at the Jefferson Security Bank P.O. Box 668 Sharpsburg, MD 21782, (301) 432-3900.   Just make the check out to – Friends For Terry

Related—Western Maryland Day of Resistance Feb. 23rd, here.


Responses

  1. Thanks, Ann, for shedding some light on the preliminary hearing yesterday. I knew they would proceed with the charges, but some of the findings might help Porter in his court battle. The blundering on the part of the state and federal government is mind-boggling! As for the motive of the incident, I think if all the facts were known, it was a planned training exercise for media consumption that went horribly wrong – and cost a hell of a lot of taxpayer money!

  2. […] Update January 31st:  Porter preliminary hearing demonstrates MD State Police screwed up, here. […]


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