The Trail That Led Nowhere
Extensive Probe Brought No Charges In Md. Jail Death
Monday, June 8, 2009
Investigators concluded early on that only one guard had access to the Prince George's County jail cell where a suspect in a police officer's slaying was fatally injured last year. And they found that the guard, Cpl. Anthony McIntosh, gave conflicting statements and failed an initial polygraph test when asked, "Did you put something around Ronnie White's neck?"
Yet an exhaustive probe that relied on hundreds of interviews, including questioning of every guard and inmate close enough to see or hear White's cell, found no proof that McIntosh harmed the inmate. In fact, after a series of unusual attempts to re-create White's final moments, investigators wrote that it was "possible" that the inmate killed himself.
The inconclusive investigation, described in detail to The Washington Post by law enforcement sources, prompted the county's chief prosecutor to announce last week that, absent new evidence, he would not seek an indictment in the death, which has been ruled a homicide. The decision drew searing criticism from local civil rights leaders and White's relatives, some of whom said they suspected a coverup.
State's Attorney Glenn F. Ivey called such criticism offensive, and he said authorities "used every avenue that we could, legally, to further the investigation."
"We have a lot of cases, unfortunately, where the medical examiner rules it a homicide but we don't have enough evidence to prosecute somebody," he said in an interview. "This is obviously extremely high-profile, so the public is seeing with this one in a way they don't see with other cases that aren't prosecuted."
Briefed by a reporter about the investigation's findings, Bobby Henry, an attorney for White's mother, said: "They want to suggest that everything was done. 'We talked to hundreds of people, and all we could come up with is that he may have committed suicide.' Well, that's not good enough."
Ivey said an ongoing probe by the Justice Department, which is reviewing the case at his request, prevented him from explaining his decision more fully.
Timothy Fitts, McIntosh's attorney, said, "Ivey and the police, they were very thorough, so I think it's obvious there was no type of wrongdoing."
A review of the confidential police investigation makes clear that McIntosh was its primary focus for months. The law enforcement sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing, gave this account:
Three days after White's death on June 29, 2008, McIntosh came forward to say that he found the inmate hanging by a rolled-up sheet, panicked and pulled the body down, causing a suicide to be mistaken for a homicide. Later, McIntosh misled investigators about his telephone contacts with another guard in the hours after White died. In addition, McIntosh's answers to questions on his first polygraph test registered as deceptive.
Authorities initially believed that White committed suicide as he contemplated life in prison or even the death penalty for killing Cpl. Richard S. Findley, who was run over by a truck. But that changed a day after White's death, when medical examiners found a broken bone in his neck, suggesting strangulation, and ruled the death a homicide. That day, Maryland State Police took over the probe from Prince George's police at the request of County Executive Jack B. Johnson.
McIntosh revived the suicide theory -- and put himself squarely in the cross hairs -- on July 2 when he volunteered to his union leader and then to jail management that he had discovered the inmate hanging by a bedsheet at 10:15 a.m., 15 minutes before a guard delivering lunch found White unresponsive and slumped on the floor.