Judge Hears Arguments In Md. Jail Death Case

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GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — Defense lawyers are asking a judge to dismiss some charges against a Maryland jail worker accused of failing to seek medical attention for an inmate found hanging by a sheet while in custody for a police officer’s death.

Lawyers for Anthony McIntosh, who is scheduled for trial next month in federal court in Greenbelt, sought the partial dismissal Friday because they say an FBI agent falsely testified before the grand jury and prosecutors did nothing to correct her despite knowing she was wrong. Justice Department prosecutors denied the misconduct allegations.

McIntosh was working at the Prince George’s County jail on the morning of June 29, 2008, when he found Ronnie White, 19, unresponsive in his cell and hanging by his neck from a sheet. White had been charged two days earlier in the hit-and-run death of a county police officer. Though McIntosh released White from the sheet, prosecutors say he immediately left the cell, didn’t tell anyone and later falsified reports about the death. Another guard found White about 15 minutes later with his head slumped over. Defense lawyers say McIntosh, who claimed a colleague found White, had panicked at the discovery.

The state medical examiner’s office ruled White’s death a homicide by strangulation and asphyxiation and the case stirred immediate concerns that vigilante justice had taken place, especially since White had been charged in a police officer’s death. Officials said at the time that seven guards had access to White at the time of his death, as did an unspecified number of supervisors. Still, state prosecutors closed their investigation without bringing charges, and though a federal indictment returned against McIntosh last year accuses him of covering up his knowledge of White’s death, it does not allege that he or anyone else had any direct role in it.

McIntosh is charged with a federal civil rights offense and two counts of obstruction of justice.

At issue Friday was testimony from an FBI agent who helped investigate the case.

Defense lawyers say the agent, Mia Winkley, falsely summarized a nurse’s statements in a way that encouraged the grand jury to indict McIntosh in White’s death. Winkley told the grand jury that the nurse saw White shortly after 10:15 that morning and that White had a “faint pulse, which indicated that his heart was working, but not well.”

But defense lawyers say the nurse had consistently stated that she saw White at 10:30 and that White was not breathing, had no pulse and was already unresponsive. The difference could be critical because the trial jury will be asked to consider what role McIntosh’s alleged inactivity played in White’s death.

“It was false, and she knew it was false, and it was actually quite misleadingly false,” said Deborah Boardman, an assistant federal public defender.

Forrest Christian, a Justice Department prosecutor, said there was no evidence that the testimony was inaccurate and that, besides, there was other evidence supporting the criminal charges.

“There is ample additional evidence from which the grand jury could conclude that Ronnie White was alive, could be resuscitated and the defendant left him to die,” Christian said.

U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. didn’t immediately rule on the motion.

The judge also heard arguments on other motions, including one from prosecutors seeking to introduce evidence about McIntosh’s prior work experience. The government wants to tell jurors about an earlier occasion, in 2007, in which McIntosh and another officer discovered an unresponsive inmate and submitted an accurate report — evidence they say shows that McIntosh knew the proper way to handle an in-custody death. They also highlight a 2008 incident in which McIntosh, while guarding an inmate, accidentally left his service weapon in a hospital bathroom but then lied about the details in a report to his supervisors.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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