Although 14-year-old Victoria Gertson is no longer charged with murdering her mother, the Langley Park girl's May 31 arrest will not be cleared from her record for three years because of the manner in which Prince George's County attorneys dropped the charge, Joseph DePaul, Victoria's lawyer, said yesterday.
On Aug. 5, two months after Gertson was arrested and two weeks after the Maryland medical examiner said her mother died of natural causes, the state's attorney's office "nol prossed" the case, meaning the state's attorney told a judge he wanted to drop the case, and the judge agreed. It is the procedure prosecutors normally use to close a case, according to legal authorities.
DePaul said the state's attorney's office should have requested that a judge dismiss the case, which would expunge the arrest from Gertson's record immediately.
"I'm really disturbed even more than that about the manner in which the case was handled," DePaul said. " Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Orenstein knows where my office is. It would have been just common courtesy to notify me the case had been dropped . And he compounded that by not answering my phone calls."
Edmond O'Connell of the screening division of the state's attorney's office said he did not know why his office chose to nol pros the case.
"The only ones that would know that are State's Attorney Arthur Marshall and Stephen Orenstein," he said.
Neither Marshall nor Orenstein could be reached for comment.
Gertson was arrested after police said there was evidence that her mother was murdered. Police also said Gertson confessed to slamming her mother's head against a nightstand May 21, three days before Maria Gertson died. An autopsy report completed July 20 concluded that Mrs. Gertson died of a pre-existing brain abscess.
Because there is no statute of limitations for a felony charge in Maryland, Gertson could still be charged with murder if the state's attorney's office decides to reopen the case.
DePaul said he and Gertson have talked about civil action against the state but have made no decision.
"I think it has the potential of a good civil case," DePaul said. "It may be a case of deprivation of civil rights--the fact that she was charged and the duration of the charge."
DePaul said that Gertson has not been notified of the prosecutor's most recent action because she is in Ocean City.
In a written statement issued Aug. 5, State's Attorney Marshall said that "matters concerning the family situation of Victoria Gertson have been referred to the Department of Social Services and Juvenile Services."
However, June Campbell, deputy director of DSS, said she has not yet received a referral on the Gertson case.
"I don't think DSS would want to get involved unless they had a complaint," DePaul said. "They have enough work to do without looking for a problem."