One night last month, Emrico Gerard Catucci of Chillum, who was out on bond after being charged in a shooting, has been accused of shooting one man, stabbing another, and robbing a third person.
Yesterday, he went home to his wife and three children after paying $1,000 and signing a $17,000 property bond.
County State's Attorney Arthur A. Marshall says "the system broke down." Defense attorney Steven Kupfenberg says justice triumphed, despite the state's attorney's office. And District Court judge Louis De Trani, who approved the bond at a hearing yesterday, said only, "It's an interesting case."
Court records show that in the last month, Catucci, 30, of 1417 Legation Rd., has been called before four different judges for four hearings on his eligibility for bond. He has repeatedly been given the chance to get out of jail, and despite rulings by several judges, he keeps finding himself back in court.
The story begins July 19 when Catucci was arrested for assault with intent to murder. According to police, Catucci and two other men were in a car from which three shots were fired at a second car at the intersection of Queens Chapel Road and East-West Highway. There were no injuries and Catucci, whose only previous arrest was for a 1967 domestic assault, was released on a personal recognizance bond by a bail commissioner.
Then in early August, Catucci became involved in a series of events that have not been fully explained. In incidents, his house and his car were firebombed, according to Kupfenberg, who says he cannot discuss the facts of the case before the trial.
On the night of Aug. 8-9, according to Marshall, one man was shot in the back, another was stabbed in the stomach and a third man was robbed of $100. Catucci has been charged with all three incidents.
The offences occurred at three different locations and in at least one case, apparently involved innocent bystanders. Catucci is white and all of the victims. Marshall said were black.
Catucci was arrested Aug. 14 and charged with two counts of assault with intent to murder. At the time, Marshall said, police had not identified Catucci as a suspect in the armed robbery.
The following day, Judge Sylvania Woods ordered Catucci to be held without bond and that he be segregated from black prisoners. One day later, however, Kupefenberg persuaded Judge Irving H. Fisher to reduce the bond to $27,000. Catucci signed a property note for $17,000, paid 10 percent of the rest to a bail bondsman and was freed.
On Aug. 23, however, a bench warrant was issued for Catucci's arrest after he was indicted and he was again jailed. Kupfenberg, a former Prince George's assistant state's attorney, says he cannot remember a bench warrant being issued after an indictment for a man on bond, "even in the most heinous crimes."
One day later Catucci again freed on the same bond, this time by Circuit Court Judge William H. McCullough. On Tuesday he was arrested for the fourth time and charged with the armed robbery and yesterday morning he was brought before Judge DeTrani.
"He was already on bond, and I thought it was enough," said DeTrani after agreeing to keep the bond at $27,000." I don't think he's going to be a threat to the community. The state didn't even make a big deal about that. He's got a job and a bunch of kids."
Marshall disagrees. "We're getting sick of this," he said. "If he had been held the first time . . . I have no idea why this is happening. These are serious felonies."
"I think Mr. Marshall is trying to whip up attitudes that are inappropriate," said Kupfenberg. "He's already told me that he's going to try to get another bench warrant - with no bond - if Catucci is indicted for the robbery.
"The state has unlimited resources and they can make it as tough on a defendent as they like," Kupfenberg said. "All we want is to be assumed innocent until proven guilty and to have a chance to prepare for our day in court. That's our right, no matter what the state says."