Benjamin R. Wolman, who practiced law in Upper Marlboro for decades, taught criminal justice at the University of Maryland and was known for defending police officers, died May 22 of lung cancer at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. He was 74 and lived in Mitchellville.
He occupied divergent worlds that seldom met, except through him. Besides his legal career, Mr. Wolman loved to fly kites and attend NASCAR races and was the president of the booster club of the Bowie Baysox, a minor-league baseball team. He was also a recognized authority on horsemanship, dressage and fox hunting -- even though he did not ride himself.
Among his many achievements, Mr. Wolman may be best known for championing the rights of police officers who were either involved in shootings or accused of crimes. His unstinting support brought him both admiration and controversy.
In 1983, a federal judge cleared him of charges that, as a Prince George's County prosecutor in 1967, he had conspired with a so-called police "death squad" that allegedly staged robberies that ultimately led to the death of two men. The incidents first came to light in a series of articles in The Washington Post in 1979. All the accused police officers were later absolved, as well as Mr. Wolman and former Prince George's state's attorney Arthur A. "Bud" Marshall Jr.
Mr. Wolman also succeeded in having criminal charges dropped against two Prince George's officers who were investigated in 1996 for handcuffing a man to a utility pole in Montgomery County. In a later civil trial in which Mr. Wolman was not involved, the officers were found to have violated the man's civil rights.
"He went out of his way to help police officers," said Marshall, Mr. Wolman's boss in the Prince George's County state's attorney's office from 1965 to 1968. "Ben was sort of a savior to them."
In 1974, Mr. Wolman helped draft a Maryland law known informally as the "policemen's bill of rights" that guaranteed representation and legal hearings for police officers charged with crimes or misconduct. Before its passage, officers were often subject to summary dismissal and, in effect, the loss of their careers.
One thing Mr. Wolman insisted on was prompt psychological counseling for officers who found themselves in trouble.
"This was a new concept," said Joe Wing, a former Prince George's police sergeant. "Before then, these guys were sent home to drink or eat their gun."
Popular with officers, the law was later criticized for hampering investigations into police shootings. For his advocacy, Mr. Wolman came to be called the "guardian angel of police officers."
"Everybody knew who Ben Wolman was," said Wing. "He could have done whatever he wanted. But he chose to take on this line of work because he believed in it."
Benjamin Rosner Wolman was born in Baltimore, where both of his parents and his brother were attorneys. His concern for the police may have developed in childhood. Few people knew it, but his uncle, Irving Rosenberg, had been a District police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 1942, when Mr. Wolman was 12.
He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1951, then joined the Air Force, flying 52 missions as a bombardier and navigator during the Korean War. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal.
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1956, he spent eight years with the Maritime Administration, an agency of the Department of Transportation. He opened his law office in Upper Marlboro in 1964, handling everything from murder cases to traffic tickets.
He maintained his solo practice until his death, but took on other jobs as well. He was a part-time prosecutor for three years -- "bright, intelligent, rather intense and an exceptionally hard worker," said Marshall, his former boss -- and in 1970 became a popular adjunct professor of criminal justice at the University of Maryland's College Park campus, where he taught until 1987.
In 1988, Mr. Wolman was appointed to the state Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, which provides financial support to crime victims. He was chairman of the board for several years and served until 2003. He ran a losing campaign for state's attorney in Prince George's County in 1994.
In the courtroom, he was "from the old school," recalled Phil Hatcher, who was Mr. Wolman's private investigator for six years, after 22 years on the Prince George's police force. "He knew how to play to the jury, the judge and the spectators. He was very eloquent."
That eloquence figured in one of Mr. Wolman's other interests. After his wife and daughter took up horseback riding, he became an expert in dressage, jumping and horsemanship. He and his wife had three show rings at their home, Hurry Up Farm in Mitchellville, where they often presented horse shows. He announced equestrian events for the Potomac Valley Dressage Association and other groups.
"He had a very deep, melodious voice," said Emmie Prettyman, a Prince George's horse trainer. "He knew when to talk and when to shut up."
Mr. Wolman equally enjoyed NASCAR races and fox hunts and was eventually elected president of the De La Brooke Foxhounds W, a Maryland hunt club. To satisfy his love of kite-flying, he held annual "fly-ins," inviting hundreds of people to his home, all hoping for a strong breeze.
He received many awards from police and governmental organizations. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, as well as a variety of civic and legal groups.
Over the past decade, Mr. Wolman and his wife attended almost every home game of the Bowie Baysox, a minor-league franchise of the Baltimore Orioles, and he became president of the fan club. Most years, the manager or a coach would spend the season at their house.
"His one aim this year," said his wife, Mary Laurentz Wolman, "was to make it to opening day. We made it to opening day and to four or five more games."
Survivors include his wife of 51 years and their daughters, Katherine Lynn Wolman of Redway, Calif., and Karen Louise Anadol of Mitchellville; and six grandchildren.