Maryland's courts are not finished with what has come to be called "the sledding incident" in which sledding by neighborhood residents in Lanham more than two years ago ended in a fracas with police and the arrest of nine people.
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled last week that Hans Heubner, 42, and his daughter, Gisela, 20 -- the only ones arrested who are still charged with any offense -- are entitled to a jury trial.
That's what the Heubners wanted -- their day in court on a variety of charges -- in order to resolve the events of the snowy evening of Jan. 18, 1984, when a melee broke out after police ordered reopening of a street that had been barricaded to permit sledding. Hans Heubner was struck on the head and hand as he struggled with officers trying to handcuff him, and he later had 12 stitches in his scalp.
In the father's case, the charges are assaulting a police officer, tampering with a motor vehicle, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. The daughter's charges are assaulting a police officer, hindering arrest and disorderly conduct.
The Heubners asked for a jury trial in Prince George's County Circuit Court in April 1984, but the state then dropped all the charges but disorderly conduct. That denied them a jury trial, because Maryland law states that defendants on trial for offenses such as disorderly conduct for which the maximum penalty is less than 90 days are not automatically entitled a jury trial.
The Heubners' appeals reached the state's highest court, which said in its ruling last week that the decision to drop all but the disorderly conduct charges should have been made before the defendants asked for trial by jury. In effect, the court said, the Heubners were denied their right to such a trial. Louis Martucci, the Heubners' attorney, argued that his clients would have a fairer trial with a jury.
Martucci said he spoke recently with the Heubners, who now live in Charles County, "and they still proposed to proceed with a trial. Obviously, we would not have proceeded with all these appeals over two years had we not intended to go forward."
He said the trial probably will be held in six to eight weeks.
All charges were dismissed against the other seven people arrested in the incident, and a police trial board cleared two officers of using excessive force.