Wes Brown ‘has done nothing wrong with this investigation in Baltimore,’ lawyer says


(Toni Sandys /The Washington Post)

When the Prince George’s County attorney general’s office dropped all charges levied on Maryland running back Wes Brown on Monday, the attention turned toward the ongoing investigation into Brown’s role in a non-fatal Baltimore shooting. According to a Baltimore police spokesman, Brown remains a “person of interest” in connection with that shooting, which took place in June.

Speaking Wednesday afternoon by telephone, Jason Shapiro, Brown’s lawyer, denied that his client was involved in the incident. When asked if he was still retained by Brown to assist the investigation, Shapiro said: “I would say yes I’m still retained. Am I helping him out with the current investigation in Baltimore? Not really. The reason is there’s nothing to help him out with. He’s done nothing wrong with this investigation in Baltimore.”

A Baltimore police spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking confirmation or further details on the shooting, but Shapiro elaborated on the incident, from his understanding:

“There was a fight in Baltimore City nearby a popular nightspot or club,” said Shapiro, a Terrapins football season ticket holder and 1983 Maryland graduate. “And the fight ended up with one guy pulling out a gun and shooting another. There’s never been any allegations that my client was the shooter, was holding a gun, did anything with a gun. …

“This popular nightspot has had trouble in the past.

“Around closing time, there’s usually a police nearby in the parking lot, having a police presence, so people know not to act like fools. I think when the fight erupted, and then shots were heard, the police were right there. People saw the police, people were scattering when they heard the shots, so it was a big cluster of uncertainty and bodies running around all over the place. The police were trying to figure out who’s hurt and who did this and who’s throwing punches and who’s shooting a gun and who ran here and who ran there. They were right on the scene.

“I don’t believe there are any allegations that they saw my client do anything. What I’m under the impression is that they went back and looked at some of the tape form nearby city cameras and I believe that they saw a car that they believed to be my client’s, or a car my client drives, and they believe it was his license number. Of course it wasn’t the only car that said, ‘Oh my God, there’s a melee here, I’m getting out of here.’ But they saw the license number and said this car was on the scene and he drove away, let’s go talk to this guy and see what he knows. A car at least has a license number, so they can at least track that person down.”

Shapiro declined to comment when asked if Brown was actually at the nightclub, citing the city’s ongoing investigation. A Baltimore detective met with Brown the night of July 4 on the southern edge of the Maryland’s campus, along Baltimore Avenue near Jason’s Deli. According to Shaprio, the police wanted to speak with Brown as a witness to the nightclub shooting.

“They wanted to see if he knew of evidence or had any evidence, whether it was unbeknownst to him or not, that was related to an alleged crime in Baltimore City,” Shapiro said. “He was completely cooperative, after he didn’t have a choice, after they forcibly detained him and threw handcuffs on him, he only wasn’t, if you want to call it uncooperative, because he was trying to exercise his rights by saying I want to speak with you on my terms, here at the University of Maryland and not at a police station with a parent present. That’s what caused the police to get frustrated with my client and put their hands upon him. I guess they forgot they were trying to put their hands on one of the most elusive running backs in the ACC, because he put a move on the police that got their hands off him and took off running.”

Brown was later ordered to the ground and apprehended a quarter-mile away. He was arrested, questioned and later charged with second-degree assault for shoving a police officer — Shapiro called it a football “swim move” — theft of less than $1,000 and felony wiretapping. All three charges were reviewed and eventually dismissed. Shapiro said he maintained an ongoing dialogue with the state attorney’s office over the past week as a state prosecutor decided whether to pursue the charges or dismiss them.

“He and I began a dialogue on July 24,” Shapiro said, “when we started speaking about what I felt to be the lack of constitutional justification for the officers to forcibly detain my client, and anything that came as a result of that unconstitutional detention is what I would deem — and it’s not my phrase, I wish I would have made this up — ‘fruit of the poisonous tree.’ All that other evidence would be inadmissible.”

Brown’s status at the University of Maryland remains in limbo. Shapiro said he expects to hear from the university either Wednesday or Thursday concerning the school’s judicial process, but admitted he couldn’t speak for the school itself. A university spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking clarification.

(UPDATE, 4:29 p.m.: A university spokesman, speaking by phone, clarified the judicial process. The university will approach Brown with a preliminary idea of his punishment, at which point Brown may choose between three options: accepting the punishment, attending a conference hearing with one administrator chosen from a rotating list or appearing before a peer panel of five students, plus one non-voting presiding officer, who vote by way of simple majority. Either way, Brown can appeal the decision but, contrary to what Shapiro says below, it is “not a negotiation.” The process is expected to begin within the week.)

According to Shaprio, who has represented other students in such disciplinary hearings — he cited marijuana use and distribution as examples of crimes committed — the school will offer Brown “an opportunity to take a certain type of disciplinary action for conduct they felt was unbecoming of a University of Maryland student.” This could range from suspension from football games to simple disciplinary probation and community service, he said.

“We can maybe counter that and work back and forth,” Shapiro said. “I don’t know how flexible they’re going to be. I don’t know if they’re going to tell us this is a take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing. I’ve had other students with issues like that. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never had to appeal it, because the university has been fair.

“If he chooses to accept that, we can perhaps work it out without a hearing. If he doesn’t choose to accept that, he can have a hearing.”

With Maryland football training camp opening Monday, Brown remains indefinitely suspended for violating the student code of conduct, unable to practice or workout with his teammates. Zach Dancel, Brown’s former teammate at Good Counsel whose father, Bernie, took Brown into their home, cast his support for the sophomore running back on Twitter after the charges were dropped.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt | July 31, 2013