By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 16, 2007
A Prince George's County prosecutor who questioned the truthfulness of a police officer in an attempted murder case has resigned after an internal investigation upheld the officer's veracity.
The prosecutor, Nycole Grissett, told a judge in April that she did not believe key allegations about the weapons in a charging document sworn out by Pfc. Michael Soden, and the judge later dismissed the charges against the defendant.
At issue in the case was Soden's description of the weapons as an eight-inch knife and a five-pound hammer. The alleged victim later told prosecutors that the weapons were a stick and a pocketknife, and Grissett said in court that she did not believe Soden's charging document.
But after The Washington Post published a story about the case, the county police union provided The Post with a photograph of the hammer and knife that backed up Soden's description. State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey then conducted an investigation into the way the case was handled.
This week Ivey said, "Any statement about Soden not being honest is not borne out by the evidence in that case."
Grissett's resignation is effective July 5, said Ramon Korionoff, Ivey's spokesman. She did not respond to requests for comment relayed by friends and co-workers.
When Grissett questioned Soden's integrity, she was not aware that the officer had confiscated the alleged weapons, which were being kept by the state as evidence, Ivey said.
"My understanding is she had not seen the evidence," Ivey said.
Percy Alston, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89, the union that represents Soden and most county officers, and Carey J. Hansel, Soden's attorney, said Grissett's resignation vindicates Soden.
Alston and Hansel said they think Grissett questioned Soden's veracity because she is friends with the prosecutor who obtained a peace order against Soden in an unrelated case.
In the attempted murder case, Soden swore out a statement of charges against Darnell E. Williams, 25, who was charged with attempted murder and first- and second-degree assault in an alleged attack in Hyattsville on Oct. 3.
In an April 10 pretrial hearing, Thomas C. Mooney, Williams's attorney, alleged to a Circuit Court judge during a bench conference that Soden lied in the statement of charges when he wrote that Williams had brandished a knife and a hammer. The state's key witness, the alleged victim, said he was hit by a stick, Mooney said.
Grissett said nothing to dispute Mooney's assertions, according to a court transcript.
When Circuit Court Judge Michael P. Whalen asked Grissett whether she believed that Williams had a hammer and a knife, she replied, "No," according to the transcript. She also pointed out that a fellow prosecutor who had once dated Soden had obtained a court order requiring Soden to stay away from her.
On May 3, a judge dismissed all charges against Williams at Grissett's request.
Alston alleged that Grissett questioned Soden's integrity because she is a friend of Assistant State's Attorney Renee Mortel. Mortel obtained the peace order against Soden on March 30. She alleged that Soden sent her harassing text messages after she broke up with him in February.
In a court appearance that day, Soden denied harassing Mortel but agreed to stay away from her.
Alston said there was no reason for Grissett to mention the peace order during a hearing in the attempted-murder case. Ivey agreed that the two issues are unrelated.
Soden, who had been assigned to District 1 in Hyattsville as a patrol officer, is on administrative duty pending an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the peace order.
According to Alston, police also began an investigation into whether Soden made a false statement after The Post story on the attempted-murder case.