A Maryland State Police trooper was "counseled" this year after he deviated from official procedure by voiding a speeding ticket he'd written for Richard A. Palumbo, the Prince George's County judge facing criticism for dismissing a protective order against a man who three weeks later allegedly set his wife on fire.
At 12:15 p.m. Feb. 17, Trooper Michael Land cited Palumbo for driving 59 mph in a 35 mph zone on Route 193 in the Mitchellville area, according to a copy of the citation. The same day, Land wrote "VOID" across the ticket.
In a brief memo to the lieutenant who ran the Forestville barracks he was assigned to, Land wrote, "On 02/17/04 [sic] the listed citation was issued to Judge Palumbo from Prince George's Court. Please void citation. Thanks for your consideration in this matter."
The fine for the ticket would have been $140.
Greg Shipley, a spokesman for the state police, said yesterday that troopers are not supposed to void traffic tickets on their own. State police procedure calls for troopers to bring citations they want to void to the lieutenant in charge of their barracks so the lieutenant can make the decision, Shipley said.
"I don't have an explanation for why this was voided, other than that the trooper made that decision and voided the citation himself," Shipley said.
Shipley said Land was "counseled concerning this issue, and he was subsequently monitored to make sure this didn't happen again." He said he did not know why Land noted in his memo that Palumbo is a judge.
Land later was transferred at his own request and now works as an investigator, Shipley said.
Neither Land nor Palumbo returned phone calls yesterday. Palumbo's attorney, William C. Brennan, declined to comment.
Fewer than 0.5 percent of the 1.2 million traffic citations that Maryland law enforcement officers write annually are voided, said Rita Buettner, a spokeswoman for the District Court, where such matters are adjudicated. That means 200 to 300 are voided each month, she said.
It would be a serious ethical breach for a judge to use his position to get out of a traffic ticket, said Robert Condlin, a law professor who teaches ethics at the University of Maryland School of Law.
"A judge should be like any other citizen who gets a citation. He should go to court and explain it to the judge," Condlin said.
This wasn't Palumbo's first traffic ticket. On Feb. 23, 2004, he was cited for driving 59 mph in a 50 mph zone in Charles County. He pleaded guilty and paid a $65 fine.
In November 2001, he was cited by Prince George's police for failing to remain at the scene of an accident after the car he was driving hit the back of a shuttle bus near the county courthouse in Upper Marlboro. Palumbo told the bus driver he was "Judge Palumbo" and walked to the courthouse. Palumbo was found not guilty of leaving the scene of an accident but was fined $100 for speeding, his attorney said.
The judge has been in the news in recent weeks after reports that he dismissed a protective order forbidding Roger B. Hargrave from having contact with his wife, Yvette Cade, three weeks before Hargrave allegedly doused Cade with gasoline and lighted her on fire. Hargrave is charged with attempted first-degree murder and assault.
Last week, Palumbo, through his attorney, said he had intended to keep the protective order in place and blamed the dismissal on a clerical error. The chief District Court judge in Prince George's disagreed, saying there was no clerical error.
Staff writers Ann E. Marimow and Joshua Partlow contributed to this report.