[UPDATED below with comments from Kim Trueheart]
There was no press release – and there has been no comment so far from the office of City Solicitor George Nilson about the legality of the police-imposed City Hall “ban” that started it – but Baltimore city prosecutors have quietly dropped all of the charges against activist Kim Trueheart.
The charges Trueheart had faced upon her arrest at City Hall on January 23 – trespassing, disorderly conduct and failing to obey an officer – were dropped on Monday, according to District Court records available online.
Mark Cheshire, spokesman for the State’s Attorney’s Office, was not immediately available to comment on this development, reported earlier today in the Baltimore Sun.
Trueheart’s attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, said he hasn’t spoken with prosecutors either and “heard it from the media.”
“This is the outcome we expected but we expected it on the day of her court appearance. We didn’t expect it to happen subsequently and in such a clandestine manner,” he said. “It was silly of them to arrest and charge her in the first place. I guess they figured that out.”
In her District Court appearance last month, Trueheart rejected a deal that would have kept the charges alive but placed them on the “stet,” or inactive docket, saying she chose to hold out for complete exoneration. District Court Judge Gregory Sampson lifted the prohibition on her return to City Hall. A March hearing date in District Court had been set.
Last week, City Solicitor Nilson said he did not plan to review procedures for banning citizens from City Hall because Trueheart had been readmitted to the building.
Arrested and Handcuffed
A vocal critic of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and a ubiquitous presence at City Hall, Trueheart had been told by a police lieutenant on Jan. 16 that she could not return to City Hall because of alleged disruptive behavior during a mayoral press event.
Police brought up that ban a week later when she was arrested at the building, where she had come to attend a Board of Estimates meeting.
Taken to Central Booking in handcuffs, the 55-year-old retired U.S. Department of Defense program manager was released in the wee hours of Jan. 24, the following day.
Reaction to her arrest included comments by the staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland that the concept of a City Hall ban was “improper” and, most likely, unconstitutional.
Reached by phone yesterday, Trueheart said she was never formally informed that the charges were being dropped and that she heard the news late Tuesday, long after the media had reported it and discussed it with her lawyer.
“I am thrilled at their decision to validate what I knew all along – that I was completely innocent of all these charges,” Trueheart said.
“I’m disappointed they so publicly bring these charges against me . . . and then so privately take them away,” she added.
She also said she was disappointed that City Solicitor George Nilson has now said he will not formally address the legality of the practice of “banning” people from City Hall. Without some clarification, Trueheart said, “this kind of thing can happen to somebody again.”