Prosecutors Await DOJ Review of Ronnie White Case

Ivey waits for Department of Justice guidance on possible charges in inmate death case

WASHINGTON -- Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey will wait for the Department of Justice to review inmate Ronnie White's death before pursuing any charges.

New evidence has not turned up since a grand jury declined in December to file charges in White's death, Ivey said.

"What we did in this case is we tried to gather additional information so we could see if we could get over the hurdle that is needed to have the amount of evidence you need to get an indictment," Ivey said. "The second step to that, obviously, would be going to trial, and we'd have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very high standard, and if we don't meet that, under the double jeopardy close, you don't get a second shot, so we wanted to make sure if we went forward we knew we had a strong case and we could get a conviction and I didn't think we had that at this point."

White was found dead in his jail cell June 29, two days after he was arrested in the hit-and-run death of Sgt. Richard Findley. The state medical examiner has ruled the 19-year-old was strangled and declared the death a homicide. Two corrections officers were identified as "people of interest" last year and placed on paid leave, but authorities have never named a suspect.

The Justice Department is reviewing the case and could use "an array of laws" such as the Civil Rights Act should it pursue charges. The state has not ruled out bringing other charges if new evidence is found, but no move will be made until federal authorities reach their conclusions, he added.

"They have other options available under the civil rights act," Ivey said. "In the Rodney King case, for example, they had a state prosecution that resulted in acquittals but the feds came in and were successful in getting felony prosecution."

Ivey cited double jeopardy again in explaining why prosecutors haven't filed obstruction of justice charges against corrections officers who apparently tampered with the scene.

"In this case, I think the death is the key point," he said. "We want to make sure we're able to make a final conclusion on that. The Department of Justice can take a look now, and I'll follow their lead. If they think we should go forward with obstruction, we'll take a look at that, but my hunch is that they'll try to do them all together."

Alejandro Miyar, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said the department's civil rights division, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland and the FBI "will review this matter to determine whether federal civil rights charges are warranted."

An FBI spokesman said he could not comment.

Bobby Henry, a Largo, Md.-based attorney for White's family, said state prosecutors were never inclined to charge anyone in this case, including guards who had access to White at the county jail.

"We believe it's a travesty of justice when the life of a young man can be snatched away at the hand of wayward correctional facility officers," Henry said. Family members "believe that the Department of Justice will step in and will correctly investigate this case."

Vernon Herron, the county's director of public safety, said one of the corrections officers who were put on leave has since resigned. Herron said the county began an investigation a week ago to determine whether the second officer, who remains on paid leave, violated protocol when he found White in the cell.

The officer may have "disturbed the scene," said Herron, who expects the investigation to be complete in the next several weeks.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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