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State Charges Are Unlikely in Death of Prince George's Inmate, Prosecutor Says

Ronnie White, accused of killing Prince George's County Cpl. Richard Findley, was strangled in his cell.
Ronnie White, accused of killing Prince George's County Cpl. Richard Findley, was strangled in his cell. (Courtesy Of Prince George├Ás County Government - Courtesy Of Prince George├Ás County Government)
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By Ruben Castaneda, Aaron C. Davis and Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The chief prosecutor in Prince George's County said yesterday that he does not now intend to charge anyone in the death last year of a 19-year-old inmate who had been accused of killing a police officer, meaning a slaying once denounced by the county executive as "vigilante justice" is all but certain to go unpunished in state court.

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State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey said that after nearly a year of investigation, he does not have enough evidence to secure an indictment in the death of Ronnie L. White. In an interview, Ivey said he welcomes calls by civil rights leaders for the Justice Department to take over the case, and a Justice spokesman said federal authorities would review the investigation.

Ivey's willingness to essentially hand the case over to federal authorities without bringing charges met with swift criticism from civil rights groups and White's family. It seemed to ensure that White's death would continue to broadly cast suspicion on law enforcement officers in a county struggling to escape a history of brutality and abuse.

Months after two guards described as being "the focus" of the investigation were placed on leave, county officials said the Maryland State Police probe into White's death -- a homicide by strangulation, according to state medical examiners -- is now pointing toward a possible suicide, as an attorney for the guard's union has said almost from the start.

Bobby Henry, an attorney for White's family, said White's mother thinks that the developments amount to "a coverup" by authorities who "don't want to prosecute any law enforcement officials."

"We believe it is disingenuous and very self-serving for county officials to suggest this was a suicide," he said. "There is no credible forensic evidence suggesting this was a suicide."

Ramon Korionoff, an Ivey spokesman, said Ivey declined to comment on the allegations of a coverup.

White was found dead in his cell less than 48 hours after he was charged with killing county police Cpl. Richard S. Findley.

In the fall, a county grand jury that heard evidence in the case did not return indictments. "I don't think I have any new information at this point that would change the result from the first grand jury," Ivey said.

Ivey said he has not ruled out the possibility of bringing lesser charges, such as obstruction of justice or making a false statement. One of the two guards at the center of the investigation remains on leave; the other resigned in recent months for unrelated reasons, according to his attorney.

Ivey (D), who is considering a run for county executive next year, said lesser charges would leave many Prince George's residents unsatisfied. "I think there will definitely be members of the community who will have concerns about anything other than a conviction for murder," Ivey said.

The county branch of the NAACP held a news conference yesterday to demand the Justice review. "This is only necessary because [Ivey] failed to do his job," said June White Dillard, the branch president. "This matter should never have taken this long to handle."

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