This post has been updated to reflect that Rollins was not the keynote speaker at the state’s attorneys conference, and adds comments from Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.
After the chief prosecutor of Cecil County, Md., Edward “Ellis” Rollins III (R), was arrested last Wednesday by Ocean City, Md., police for indecent exposure, the Ocean City state’s attorney told the police to release his prosecutorial colleague without charges. Rollins, 60, had just
been the keynote speaker at attended the summer conference of the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association, held at the same hotel where he was arrested.
But then a local blogger got tipped to the arrest and release, and called the Ocean City prosecutor. Then the blogger posted a story and photo Friday, allegedly of the exposed Rollins, along with many specific details of the events, which reportedly went well beyond just standing around naked. On Monday, the Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby (R) charged his prosecutorial colleague with four misdemeanors, for indecent exposure and disorderly conduct.
Neither Rollins nor Oglesby would talk Monday, though Rollins told a local paper he was innocent. But the blogger, Joe Albero of the Salisbury News, feels confident that Rollins’ behavior at the beach “was getting covered up” by Oglesby, and “if I hadn’t published the story, nobody would’ve known it happened. That’s how the Eastern Shore works.”
Though Oglesby would not comment, Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said Tuesday that there was no cover-up involved. He said he spoke to Oglesby the day after Rollins’ arrest and release, and that Oglesby had “just wanted to check the evidence himself to make sure he ‘got this right.’ He then filed in the Circuit Court because as he and I discussed he wanted to make sure this case got handled appropriately and Circuit Court is where cases of a more serious nature are handled.”
Albero’s story is here. He said Monday that he got a tip on Friday morning about Rollins’ arrest, pursued and confirmed it, and even spoke to the Pennsylvania tourists who witnessed Rollins in alleged action, thus obtaining a photo. The tourists were staying in a beachfront condominium next to the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel, both just north of 100th Street on Coastal Highway. The state’s attorneys’ convention was being held there, the state prosecutors’ website confirms.
The tourists told Albero that last Tuesday, while looking out their window toward the Clarion, they saw a naked man and sometimes a woman either on the balcony or behind the sliding glass door. The man appeared to be both masturbating and receiving oral sex, Albero reported. The tourists were disgusted, and felt that the action was visible to many people in their condo building, including children. They told Albero that the next day, they saw the naked man again, were disgusted again, took photos and called police.
When officers arrived, the action had stopped, Albero said. But while the officers were still present, the action started again in full view of the police, Albero said.
Lindsay Richard, the Ocean City police spokeswoman, confirmed that officers had been dispatched at 4 p.m. Wednesday “for a report of a nude male on a balcony” at the Clarion. “The officers located the room in question and ultimately took Edward D. Rollins III into custody for disorderly conduct and indecent exposure.” She said the arresting officers then consulted with Oglesby, “and were advised to release Rollins without charges pending further investigation.” Shellenberger said Tuesday that Oglesby visited both Rollins’ and the tourists’ rooms the next morning, interviewed the witnesses and instructed police to take relevant photographs. Another prosecutor pointed out that Oglesby may have wanted to make sure that the tourists would be willing and able to return to Ocean City to testify if needed.
Albero said he prepared a story and called Oglesby, the local prosecutor, and suggested that Oglesby was covering up the event, which was two days old by that point. Most people who commit crimes in full view of the police are typically charged right away, Albero noted. Oglesby told Albero he was still considering charges, and Albero posted his scoop on SBYNews.com Friday night, quickly clocking more than 93,000 page views.
As the story spread, the Baltimore Sun reached out to Oglesby on Saturday. “Does the fact that Mr. Rollins is a state’s attorney, as am I, create conflict?” Oglesby posited to The Sun’s Jessica Anderson. He said he didn’t think so, but that he didn’t want to rush his office’s investigation. He said he might make a decision Monday.
Meanwhile, Rollins’ wife, Holly Rollins, reached out to her local newspaper, the Cecil Whig, and issued a statement Sunday clarifying things: “While my husband and I were vacationing in Ocean City last week,” she wrote, without mentioning the prosecutors’ conference, “a stranger watched and photographed us through the window of our tenth-floor hotel room…During the next 24 hours, while completely within the confines of our room, our intimate movements and activities were documented and shared publicly.”
After the charges were filed Monday, Rollins himself called the Whig to say that he was innocent and that the Ocean City prosecutor filed charges “based on one side of the story. He has not heard my side of the story. I am confident when that happens, my name will be cleared.”
Oglesby filed a four count information Monday charging Rollins with indecent exposure and disorderly conduct committed on both Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, as Albero said he was told by the tourists. Oglesby issued a press release Monday afternoon, saying that “after carefully considering which course of action would be the most appropriate given the need to handle this matter with transparency balanced against the desire to shield the identities of the victims, filing a criminal information achieved both of those goals.”
The press release said a summons would be issued for Rollins to appear in circuit court on the four misdemeanors. Indecent exposure carries a maximum three-year jail sentence and $1,000 fine, and disorderly conduct has a maximum 60-day sentence and $500 fine, though neither maximum sentence is remotely likely in this case.
Rollins has been the Cecil County state’s attorney since 2011, and is a candidate for a circuit court judgeship there, according to the Cecil Whig and other local news outlets. He is scheduled to interview with Gov. Larry Hogan for the job next month. Both his grandfather and father served long terms on the Cecil County circuit bench.
Albero is a retired businessman who said “I am absolutely not a journalist.” But for ten years he has been digging around Maryland’s Eastern Shore and developed many good sources, including the one who tipped him to Rollins’ arrest and release without charges. He reported, wrote and published the story all on Friday. “I wanted them to know you can’t cover this up,” Albero said.