UPDATE, 11:17 a.m.: Ellis Rollins submitted his resignation on Monday as state’s attorney, Cecil County Administrative Judge Keith Baynes confirmed today. The resignation is effective Friday at 4:30 p.m., Baynes said. The move was first reported by the Cecil Whig.
It’s Valentine’s Day, and the top prosecutor in Cecil County, Md., having already celebrated his love with his wife in full view of numerous others, will stand before a judge today and receive a criminal sentence for such public displays of affection.
Edward “Ellis” Rollins III (R) was arrested in June for indecent exposure and disorderly conduct, for having sex, standing naked and other related acts at the sliding glass door of his tenth-floor Ocean City, Md., hotel room, while four tourists, a security officer and two Ocean City police officers watched. He was convicted by a Worcester County, Md., jury after a two-day trial in December. Rollins, 61, likely will not face jail time for the two misdemeanor convictions
, and he also will probably continue as the state’s attorney of Cecil County, a county with a population of about 100,000 in the northeast corner of Maryland. He did remove himself from consideration for a circuit court judgeship, which he was scheduled to interview for with the governor shortly after his arrest, on a bench where both his father and grandfather served.
Rollins did not return phone and email messages Monday, and his attorney, Cullen Burke, also did not return a call. At trial, Rollins did not testify, but his lawyer did not deny that Rollins and his wife enjoyed various carnal relations next to the sliding glass door of their hotel room. Burke described Rollins and his wife, Holly Rollins, as “still newlyweds” after six years of marriage, according to the Cecil Whig, and Holly Rollins testified she had no idea anyone was watching from the adjacent condominiums. Burke said there was 172 feet between the two buildings and that the Rollins’ hotel room “was a speck” in the vision of the tourists’ apartment.
But the four Pennsylvania women who spotted the activity, on two different days, felt it was much more visible than a speck. They returned to Ocean City and testified in detail about Rollins’ actions. It really wasn’t the sex so much as Rollins’ naked dancing and posing at the sliding glass door that truly offended the visitors, according to the media reports of their testimony. “You’re just sickening,” one woman turned and said to Rollins during her testimony. “I have nightmares because of you. I argue with my husband because it’s all I can talk about.”
Rollins and his wife were staying at the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel, near 100th Street and Coastal Highway, where Rollins was attending the summer conference of the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association. Adjacent to the Clarion is another high rise, the Atlantis, a condominium rental. The weirdness began on June 21, when Karen Lynn and Lisa Smith, staying in the Atlantis, saw a naked man across from them in the Clarion, dancing at the sliding glass door to his balcony, squatting, posing, and masturbating, which prompted them to call Clarion security, the Cecil Whig reported.
“I was like, ‘What the hell is going on?’,” Lynn, of Harrisburg, Pa., testified. “He was looking right up at us. He made eye contact several times.” She said Rollins then had sex with his wife next to the sliding glass door.
When the same action happened the next day, with Rollins seemingly appearing whenever the women at the Atlantis stood by their own glass window, Lynn used a zoom lens to take photos of Rollins naked. Then the Pennsylvania women called their condo office and the head of Atlantis security, Michelle Jones, testified that she saw Rollins masturbating in full view shortly after she arrived at the women’s room. The Whig reported that Jones couldn’t see Rollins at first, but that after she waited by the window, Rollins appeared wearing only a towel, then dropped the towel and began posing and masturbating.
Jones called the police. Officers arrived, testified that they saw Rollins naked, and arrested him. Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby visited the scene, interviewed the women and then charged his prosecutorial colleague with two counts of indecent exposure and two counts of disorderly conduct. Oglesby and his top deputy personally tried the case in December, and Oglesby told the jury that the women’s photos of Rollins corroborated their story of his naked dancing and masturbating.
Burke argued that the acts occurred in the privacy of Rollins’ hotel room, not in the women’s presence, and that “for them to claim they made eye contact from that distance is just not believable.”
Oglesby responded that he attends Washington Capitals’ hockey games and watches goals scored from the cheap seats more than 172 feet away. “Each woman was visibly shaken by the entire ordeal and the recounting of it,” Oglesby told the jury, according to reporting by The Whig’s Carl Hamilton.
After four hours, the jury acquitted Rollins of the two charges from the first day of alleged misconduct, and convicted him of the charges for the second day of action. Rollins had told The Whig last June that he had been charged “based on one side of the story” and that Oglesby had not heard his side. “I am confident when that happens, my name will be cleared.”
The penalty for indecent exposure in Maryland can be severe, with imprisonment up to three years and a fine up to $1,000. Disorderly conduct carries a maximum punishment of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. State records indicate Rollins has no prior convictions and it is unlikely a judge would send a first-time violator to jail, particularly a state’s attorney.
But will Rollins continue as the state’s attorney? According to The Whig, he stopped trying cases in Cecil County after his arrest but continued his administrative tasks, overseeing an office with a budget of about $2.2 million, of which $1.9 million is spent on salaries and benefits, county records show. Rollins has held the job since 2011.
The Maryland constitution provides that the state’s attorney shall “be subject to removal” from office “for incompetency, willful neglect of duty, or misdemeanor in office, on conviction in a Court of Law, or by a vote of two-thirds of the Senate, on the recommendation of the Attorney General.” Whether Rollins’ conviction qualifies as a “misdemeanor in office” — he was in Ocean City for a state’s attorneys’ function, though presumably not acting in his official capacity in his hotel room — is unclear, and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) would have to launch such a removal initiative. His spokeswoman, Christine Tobar, said Monday her office had no comment on the matter.