Probe into death of inmate may pit Ivey versus Johnson.
Examiner, 26 Sep 2008 (Klopott).
The investigation into the suspicious death of a Prince George’s County inmate charged with the slaying of a police officer has also exposed long-developing political rifts in the county.
State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey, who was tasked with overseeing the investigation into Ronnie White’s June 29 death, is considered one of the county’s rising political stars. County Executive Jack Johnson has seen his hold on political power in the county threatened by continuing failures in the police and corrections departments. Never overt political rivals in the past, the case has put the two men on a collision course, longtime county politicos say.
In the last week, Ivey has become trapped between a medical examiner’s report that said White was murdered by strangulation in his cell and corrections officers who say White committed suicide.
On Monday, the county executive’s office announced that two of the corrections officers, who have borne the greatest scrutiny by state police investigators, have been placed on paid leave. A Johnson spokesman said the two were taken out of the jail because they had become “persons of interest” in the investigation.
But a source close to the investigation said the phrase “persons of interest” had not been used by prosecutors and the case hasn’t been narrowed down at all.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes at the county executive’s office, people are quick to point out that Ivey is in a no-win situation.
If he prosecutes the case as a homicide, per the medical examiner’s report, Ivey may be at odds with a state police investigation that some expect to conclude that White killed himself. In that case, Ivey would find it hard to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. On the other hand, not prosecuting anyone would give credence to claims already being made by vocal political groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, that there’s been a cover-up.
Then there’s White’s family pushing for swift action from a criminal justice system their attorney, Bobby Henry Jr., and Johnson have already called a failure.
For Ivey, all of this means a tough political situation that the county executive isn’t likely to make any easier. Johnson is expected to reveal some details of an administrative investigation soon, adding another angle to what one insider described as a “political power game.”
Ivey’s aides say his plan is to move forward methodically. He won’t be closing doors to possibilities any time soon, and certainly not until the most recent dust settles and he can bring the game back onto his turf; inside the county court house where he once intended to try White in the slaying of police Cpl. Richard Findley.