THE REST OF THE STORY
By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
An Exclusive Report
Kelly Lowther, a highly commended correctional officer in the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Department asked to share her side of the story about what led to her termination from her $55,000 per year job. This is a story about how the hierarchy of the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Department, which is heavily tilted towards male supervisors and recently restacked the deck of commanders to include females for election-year posturing – treated a woman who says she did nothing of the kind of which she was accused. She said was lied about by buddies of Major Mike Merican.
“I was not involved with the convention in Ocean City, I used my own leave time because one of my friends, Kasmira Gillingham Long, also a civilian correctional employee, was attending, so I used my vacation time and spent my own money to be there, one night in the Clarion cost me $176.00.”
“We were in the bar of the Clarion Hotel and there was a vendor there who told us to buy all the drinks we wanted and put it on his tab at the bar. Each year the Complimentary Room is also open for each evening of the convention and has free alcohol and open to everyone attending the convention. I don’t know who pays for the convention drinks.”
Lowther called the entire process of what happened to her, from the trial board appointed by St. Mary’s Sheriff Tim Cameron to the appeal to Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals, “…a farce.”
“I never spoke during the court proceeding. The video evidence cleared me. There was a band playing in the bar that was so loud that you couldn’t have a conversation without getting close to a person’s ear. The person next to you couldn’t hear anything that you said to anyone else.”
During the hearings, two correctional officers, Kreps and Baker, gave vivid accounts of crude language that Lowther allegedly used in the bar. Lowther said both employees of the jail have since retired and are “double-dipping” as new civilian employees of the jail.
At the time that William Baker and Jeff Kreps gave their testimony, both were hunting, fishing and gun show attendee pals of Major Michael Merican says, Lowther.
From the court decision:
Kelly M. Lowther, the appellant, was formerly employed as a Corporal by the Office of the Sheriff for St. Mary’s County, appellee. She served as a correctional officer at the St. Mary’s County Detention Center in Leonardtown, Maryland. On June 1, 2014, while attending a social gathering at a conference of the Maryland Correctional Administrator’s Association in Ocean City, Maryland, Ms. Lowther became intoxicated and made lewd comments to some of her supervisory officers. She also slapped her commanding officer in the face. As a result of her behavior, she was charged with violating the rules and procedures of the Sherriff’s Office. Following a hearing by an administrative hearing board, Lowther’s employment was terminated by St. Mary’s County Sheriff. Lowther sought judicial review in the Circuit Court for St. Mary’s County. The circuit court upheld the decision of the Sheriff. This appeal followed and affirmed the decision of the Circuit Court.
Lowther said that while she understood that the court decision was public record, that she was furious to find the alleged coarse language included in the record – that she never used those words, doesn’t speak that way and considers such language to be porn talk.
“I don’t talk that way and use words like that, those are porn words,” said Lowther.
“They are Merican’s buddies and go hunting and to gun shows together.”
Lowther said her attorney, Steve Sunday, was her representation as a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, and he retired after the trial board took place.
“Shaun Owens stepped in and said I had to proceed with the appeal and it took eight months.”
“My attorney told me I could have no contact with Merican. I was home on paid suspension for two months. The video clearly showed they were liars, I was ordered to appear in Merican’s office and he was alone in the office when I got there. He called Baker into the office which I felt, given what I had been through, was total harassment and I called my attorney and he filed an EEOC complaint. I took the letter to (the county’s HR director) Sue Sabo and Sabo told me it was just an ‘in-house complaint’. My EEOC complaint never got filed – it was outrageous. Merican got the complaint from the Sheriff’s Internal Affairs and he called Baker in to be a witness to my signature.
LETTER FROM CPL. LOWTHER TO SHERIFF CAMERON’s INTERNAL AFFAIRS DIVISION – Aug. 28, 2014:
Please treat this matter as a complaint against personnel and or and EEOC Complaint against Capt. Michael Merican and Lt. William Baker. As you know, Capt. Merican filed a complaint against personnel naming me as a respondent due to our interaction on June 2, 2014, at the Maryland Correctional Administrator’s Conference in Ocean City, Maryland. Following that complaint, I was suspended, and Capt. Merican and Lt. Baker are central witnesses against me.
On August 20, 2014, at approximately 1630 hours, I was contacted by Capt. Denise Hintze and ordered to come to the Detention Center to sign an order. Upon my arrival, I was escorted to Capt. Merican’s office and he said he needed me to sign a Notification of Hearing Order in the very case in which he is the complainant. He then asked me, “how’s it going.” Given that he is the complainant against me and is presenting me with a Notification of Hearing in that very case, I felt very bullied and intimidated by his personal involvement.
On top of that, he then indicated that he needed a witness to the signing of the document and brought in Lt. William Baker to be the witness. As both of these individuals are intimately involved in the very case in which they are serving me a notice, I felt that they were deliberately trying to send me a message, and I am fearful of retaliation in the employment relationship.
Additionally, I have been advised by Lt. Saraha Norris that all of my contacts in this matter had to be with her or “I.A. (Internal Affairs) detectives Michael Gray and Michael Gardiner (Supervisor of Office of Professional Responsibilities) who took recordings of my statements.”
“When my trial board took place, Major John Horne sat in on the trial board and he texted the entire time to someone.
“They offered me my job back, but I had to sign a letter of guilt. I wouldn’t do it as I never hit Merican, I had great write-ups for my work, I volunteered to do extra activities with the inmates, I had many different commendations and awards, volunteered to organize sports teams, and would gladly accept a new position. They said I hated my job – when the truth was – I loved my job.”
Lowther furnished extensive documents to back up her claim of innocence and how she was railroaded by the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Department and lost her job that she worked at performing.
An email from her attorney Steven Sunday of the firm Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner, to the Sheriff’s Department attorney Kevin Karpinski on Sept. 4, 2014, confirmed that a settlement offer was considered.
“I have spoken to Cpl. Lowther and it appears we may not be too far apart. We would propose a plea of guilty to one charge of unbecoming conduct, to wit: On June 1, 2014, Cpl. Lowther attended a social gathering at the Clarion Hotel’s bar in Ocean City, Maryland, during the Maryland Correctional Administrators Conference. During this gathering, Cpl. Lowther became intoxicated and acted in an unprofessional manner.
“All other charges would be dismissed, and Cpl. Lowther would accept a demotion for one year with reinstatement to Cpl., at that time, contingent or at the first available slot. Her rank as a CFC would not be probationary. Cpl. Lowther would agree to have an assessment done for alcohol and to follow any recommendations.
“I think this proposal fairly meets the needs of the agency and the employee. Let me know as soon as possible. “– signed Steven E. Sunday, Esq.
The proposed settlement was scotched by Sheriff Cameron when he had Lt. Gardiner send the following message to the Sheriff’s attorney Karpinski:
“Mr. Karpinski, the Sheriff’s Office will only settle to the following: Cpl Lowther would plead guilty to Conformance to policies, laws, and all other charges will be merged. A demotion to rank of Correctional Officer. The probationary policy will apply as per agency policy. Any promotions thereafter the probationary period will also be per agency policy. Cpl. Lowther would agree to have an assessment done for alcohol and to follow any recommendations.”
“I was heartbroken and thought the agency was all I had and was an organization of integrity that I admired, to find out how they are was heartbreaking. I had been proud to be an employee, to be there and of my awards, commendations, and accolades.”
“Then, when I first saw what they claimed I had said – to smear me – was heartbreaking. The ones who testified against me – retired and double-dippers – there was no way anyone could hear in the bar without cupping your hands over the ear of the person who you were trying to talk to. They lied.”
“I have never had any animosity or argument or have any reason to slap this man, its crazy, I have never had any arguments with him or shown him disrespect. I don’t understand what motived him to make this up, saying I was unhappy that I wasn’t approved for new training, I didn’t even know yet. I had put my arm around his neck and the I.A. stopped the video in mid-movement and they took a screenshot when my hand was passing was when they took that altered photo and used it against me.”
“At the trial board, Merican said he had to grab my hands and hold me down and my attorney asked him to watch the video and point out where he did that. It wasn’t there.”
Photos taken at the Clarion Bar the night of the event show Kathy Kreps, the wife of correctional officer Jeff Kreps to right of Merican in the center of a group hug, with Kasamira Long on his right shoulder and Lowther immediately behind her and him. If there is anyone behaving in a “professional manner” in the Clarion it could only have been the bartender. In the photo, a cursory glance by a viewer reveals that Merican has a firm grip on the breast of the woman he is hugging. A closer inspection shows he has a clear drink glass in his hand pressed tight to her bosom as a woman’s hand strokes his head.
Lanny Lancaster, director of the Three Oaks Homeless Shelter in Lexington Park, who sent a copy of his letter to Sheriff Cameron on Feb. 19, 2014, when he praised Cpl. Lowther. “Allow me to take a moment to express the gratitude of all of us at Three Oaks Center, and indeed of the full Continuum of Care, for your help with this year’s Point in Time Homeless Survey.”
Lt. Saraha J. Norris of the Detention Center recommended Correctional Officer First Class Kelly Lowther for Correctional Officer of the fourth quarter of 2009. “CFC Lowther has done a superior job of supervising the inmate paint detail. She has taken this assignment to the highest level possible…has on several occasions purchased supplies personally, using her own funds. She takes pride in every job she is given and has to juggle regular transport duties with the painting of the facility. Cpl. Lowther is definitely an asset to the St. Mary’s County Detention Center and is a pleasure to work with.”
Corrections Rookie of the Year 2006
“Officer Lowther has willingly worked enormous amounts of overtime and continues to maintain a professional image and positive attitude.”
Correctional Officer of Quarter 04-10
Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron wrote on Jan. 20, 2011: “Congratulations to Correctional Officer Kelly Lowther on her nomination of Correctional Officer of the 4th Quarter 2010” and he signed off on forwarding her nomination to the Awards Committee.
Re-entry Program Coordinator
Lt. Norris wrote the following in nominating Lowther for Officer of the Quarter in 2010:
CFC Lowther’s loyalty, dedication, and her ability to communicate with the different agencies is why the Re-Entry Program is becoming such a success. CFC Lowther is definitely an asset to the St. Mary’s Detention Center.
“I was on the color guard, I was a recruiter and went to colleges all over the State of Maryland recruiting for the Sheriff’s Office encouraging those attending to take jobs as deputies and correctional officers, a volunteer to screen new recruits in physical training.”
WHAT DOES THE VIDEO FROM THE CLARION HOTEL REVEAL?
HOW DOES THE OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT OF THE HEARING BOARD MATCH EVENTS ON THE VIDEO?
There are a series of errors and goofs in the official transcript of the Trial Board conducted on Sept. 10, 2014, including the Hearing Examiner failing to have participants who identified themselves speak up so the court reporter could adequately record the name of the person speaking and offering evidence or participating as a trial board member. At the time that Merican brought charges against Lowther and Sheriff Cameron allowed the affair from the Clarion Hotel Bar to go forward with the taxpayers picking up the tab for the months-long event, neither Merican or Cameron ever considered, or apparently cared that the public would be exposed to the proceedings and the video.
At 1:13:06 – Captain Michael Merican joined the throng of merrymakers at the bar at and was wearing what appears to be a Baltimore Ravens athletic jersey given the similar coloration and with the numerals “27” on the back.
At 1:13:06 – Merican moves to the bar and stands with his back to the bar and began to pose for photos with several females. One female puts her arm around Merican in an embrace for photos.
At 1:16:58 – Merican takes a selfie of himself and two females.
At 1:18:53 – Kelly Lowther and Merican are engaged in conversation with about 4 to 5 inches of separation between them.
At. 1:19:05 – Merican puts both arms around Kelly Lowther (a white female wearing a sleeveless black top and with blonde hair) who has been speaking to him while about six inches from his face. Merican’s embrace of Lowther is a full hug with both of his arms as Kathy Kreps and others are next to the friendly couple.
At 1:19:30 – After Merican releases Lowther from his grip, the two continue the discussion with only about six inches of separation between them as Lowther said the band playing in the bar was loud and made conversation extremely difficult.
At 1:19:35 – Merican initiates another close embrace of Lowther using both of his arms to draw her into his chest as he leans forward and envelopes her into his grip.
At 1:19:42 – The pair finishes the embrace and resume talking, still only a few inches of separation between them.
At 1:20:08 – Lowther, Kasmira “Casey” Long and Kathy Kreps become involved in conversation at the bar while a tall white male leans in close to Merican’s ear to talk, either due to the loud band in the bar and it is difficult to communicate or perhaps because he likes to whisper information to Merican.
At 1:20:16 – the male leans into Merican and talks closely in his ear once again.
At 1:20:47 – a white male in a yellow long-sleeved shirt who has been seated at the bar for the length of this segment, embraces Lowther while the male who had been leaning in close to Merican takes up a seat on a bar stool as he looks toward Merican.
At 1:21:57 – Kreps and Long are seated at the bar and engaged in conversation.
At 1:22:50 – Merican embraces Lowther once more and the couple appears to exchange a kiss or are talking so close it is difficult to discern whether the video showed a slight peck on the cheek or if they were talking.
At 1:25:30 – Merican leans close to a white heavy-set male wearing a white shirt to speak to him over the noise in the bar.
At 1:26:34 – The nine people packed tightly together at the edge of the bar continue in animated conversation and consuming numerous drinks, keeping the bartenders busy pouring the free booze courtesy of a vendor that supplies the St. Mary’s County Detention Center. Merican and the white male continue to exchange conversation and are as close together as Merican and Lowther had been, either indicating a level of intimacy between them or perhaps that it was simply so loud in the bar that such a close proximity was the only way to hear. This pattern also indicates that the testimony of Jeff Kreps and William Baker (drinking buddies, hunting pals, gun-show travelers and subordinates of Merican) that they heard such crude talk from Lowther as they claimed that they did was perjury.
At 1:27:08 – the male in the yellow shirt, (identified in the transcript of the Trial Board by attorney Kevin Karpinski as Matthew Griffith, who was not employed at the jail but came along on the beach junket with relatives who are employees and therefore subordinate to Merican and Cameron) Long and Kathy Kreps appear to be leading the others in a bar-side dance involving reaching their hands over their heads and bouncing to the music.
At 1:27:46 – Merican shows that he has a few good moves and begins bouncing as well.
At 1:29:03 – The white male in the yellow shirt stands, (Griffin – who Karpinski described as being 6’10” tall was misidentified in the trial board transcript twice, once as William Griffin, another as Matthew Griffin when his actual name is William Griffith, not that accuracy appears to be central to this investigation – he is momentarily blocking the camera’s view of Merican. As the man moves to the left, Lowther and Merican are shown in a close conversation.
At 1:29:32 – The bar scene with Merican continually drinking from a glass shows Merican, Long and Lowther in a three-way conversation with all of them within a separation of between six and ten inches as they yell over the noise of the band. At all times that Lowther speaks to Merican, Griffin, Baker, and Kreps were engaged in their own conversations and not paying attention to the interactions between Lowther and Merican.
At 1:29:37 – Long is close to Merican’s right ear as Lowther is shouting into his left ear.
At 1:29:37 – Lowther moved in close again to Merican’s left ear.
At 1:29:57 – Both women are close on Merican in animated conversation.
At 1:30:46 – Lowther reaches her hand around Merican’s neck to pull him into her in an embrace.
At 1:30:44 – This is the point that attorney Karpinski says the following at the trial board: “What you will see on camera one, and we have a still photo of it, because it was able to slow it down enough to see it, is that at 1:30:44 you can see Corporal Lowther’s hand basically this close to Capt. Merican’s face in the process of slapping him.”
Karpinski’s interpretation of Lowther’s reaching her arm around Merican’s neck and embracing Merican is not substantiated by the video itself, as the viewer of the video can deduce. Merican continues in the close conversation without any appearance of reacting to a slap or any untoward advance by Lowther or anyone else in the bar. (The viewer is reminded that the Office of Professional Responsibilities Detectives Gardiner and Gray that investigated this case and testified are highly paid employees of the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Department and subordinate to Merican and Cameron and are not independent investigators. Their investigation supported by the video may indicate that an outside agency should be conducting investigations.)
At 1:31:09 – Merican tilts his head back to take a deep draw on his drink.
At 1:31:46 – Lowther and Long move to the right of the screenshot of the bar scene and appear to be leaving. Merican appears to be untouched and unperturbed at the warm and close conversation he has been conducting for the previous twenty minutes with his female subordinates as they all feast on free booze. Merican continues to engage in close conversation with a group of three men, including yellow-shirt but doesn’t find them attractive enough to embrace and hug as he did the female subordinates.
From the Trial Board transcript:
The Sheriff’s attorney Kevin Karpinski tells the trial board in his opening statement after he described the critical scene of the “slap” which any viewer can see did not happen the following:
“And that’s what you can clearly see from that video, which is grainy, and you’ll obviously have the opportunity to see it.”
“In other words, you’ll see that about 1:26:22 Corporal Lowther go over and talk to Lieutenant Baker. And then you’ll see Corporal Lowther go from Lieutenant Baker and walk towards where Captain Merican is.”
“You see that at 1:30:57 shortly after this happened, I mean literally seconds afterward, you see Lieutenant Baker turn towards Kreps and Griffin (SIC) (Griffith) and raise his hand like, did you just see what happened. Corporal Lowther just struck Captain Merican.” (at this point in the trial board Lowther’s attorney Steve Sunday failed to object and point out there was no audio to the video and Karpinski didn’t introduce himself as an expert in reading lips, and therefore, as the Sheriff’s highly paid taxpayer-provided attorney, had contrived this introduction to the trial board which is not supported by the video)
“You see at about 1:31, 1:32, you see Baker and Griffin (SIC) (Griffith) you see Baker and Griffin (SIC) (Griffith) exchanging, you know, mimicking the slapping that had occurred and what they had witnessed.”
“So that is what you can discern and what you can make out of that video that corroborates what you will hear as the testimony from the live fact witnesses.”
The Fraternal Order of Police attorney Steve Sunday tells the Trial Board the following in his opening statement:
“We’re talking about an event at the Clarion Bar in Ocean City. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, I actually have. I’m familiar with that. I’ve got a friend that has a condo right next door to there.
“But you know, I want to set the scene for you. You’ve got about 1:30 in the morning when this incident occurs, so it’s about a half hour before bar closing time.
“And you’ll see from the video and from this depiction that they have been there for quite some time. That there’s a lot of drinking going on. There’s a vendor that’s offering a shot of tequila for free and people are partaking of that. And everybody is drinking, including Captain Merican and Lieutenant Baker and all of the others.
“You’ll see that there’s, you’ll hear from the testimony that there’s a band playing it’s very loud in there.
“You’ll hear and you’ll see that it was a very collegial happy, friendly event. That people are through the course of the evening, dancing. Not out on the dance floor, but the bar area, bobbing their heads and they’re moving around, sort of dancing with the music.
“You’ll see that the people are hugging each other. They ‘ve got arms around each other. They’ve got arms around each other’s necks, including Captain Merican and Corporal Lowther.
“You’ll see that it is a festive occasion. That everybody is having a great time. And what you won’t have is a fight, an argument, bad blood some event that says, oh, my gosh, you, she got really ticked off and she just hauled off and hit. You won’t see that.
“In fact, you know, you go through the video, and we’ll go through it multiple times. You’ll probably see it more than you want to see it. And it is grainy.
“But there are several things that you can see in there. You can see the party atmosphere. You can see that these people are clearly all off duty, drinking, having a good time, and sort of letting their hair down. It’s a social event.
“And you’ll see of the people that are there, the one person that was left out was Ms. Kasamira Long who was actually sitting sort of right next to Captain Merican.
“You’ll see in that in the video. And that Captain Merican indicates at a point she (meaning Lowther but the transcript didn’t specify her by name) came over to him and she leaned in and said something which he couldn’t hear because of the band. So, he leans in and he said something about a blow job, guys at the bar, something along those lines.
“And he says to her, those guys, blow job? Really? And he says at that point she slapped him.
“And you will hear testimony from Ms. Kasmira Long that it wasn’t a slap that what she did as reached up and patted him on the cheek.
“You’ll also see and watch from the video that when the hand comes up, and, you know, they make a big deal about his picture, you’ll see. And you’ll see it in the video, that when her hand comes up, it actually goes around the back of his neck as if, you know, hugging him, and stays there for probably 45 seconds while nothing else is happening.
Nobody seems to be upset, nobody is pushing anybody away. There’s no fight, there’s nothing going on except this conversation.
“And at some point, Ms. Long comes in and escorts her out of the bar. Now you’ll hear testimony that Corporal Lowther doesn’t recall a thing, and that’s just about right. She recalls getting the first shot of tequila and maybe a second shot of tequila and that is it. That did her in, because she’s not a tequila drinker.
“And that it wasn’t until the next morning that she’s told that there’s this conversation going on about her slapping Captain Merican and she’s mortified. She’s absolutely humiliated, embarrassed and says, you know, I don’t remember anything that happened. I just don’t know.
“And so, when the department says, well you slapped Captain Merican and they get a statement from her, she says well, I guess I’m guilty because she doesn’t know. She’s accepting what they’re telling her as being the actual events as they occurred.
“And she said, well, then I guess I must be guilty. I’m horribly embarrassed, humiliated, whatever because it would certainly be out of character for her or any reasonable person in that situation.
“But I think the point of the opening statement, of course, is to sort of guide you through what to anticipate or what evidence you will hear in the proceedings.
“And what I would suggest is sort of an interesting story about – sort of how life works, you know.
“I’ve been to FOP conferences, you’ve probably been to correctional conferences and, you know, they go to meetings in the morning, they might go to a golf tournament in the afternoon, or they’ll play poker in the evening down here, I know they do at the FOP Lodge.
“And then they’ll go hang out at the bars at the end of the night and everybody drinks and it’s a chance to socialize. And it’s a social event. It’s not a social event.
“And nobody is there in uniform. Nobody is there conducting business. They’re all listening to the band playing music, treating each other in a much more familiar manner than they would in the workplace because that’s the setting that you’re in.
“And, you know, there’s a misunderstanding that occurs as to sort of what happened and why it happened.
“And instead of, you know, sort of handling that as a, you know, look, I know we’re out of the workplace, were all hanging out, we’re all drinking and those type of things, you had too much to drink, you know, let’s handle that in a professional manner. I guess that would have been an appropriate way to address it.
“But here we are. So now we have to put you through this where you’ve got to listen to, you know, guy talk. And if it’s coming from a guy, you’re probably not upset about it. It if comes from a girl, maybe you think of it differently, but you shouldn’t.
“Corrections is a tough place to work, you know that. And that’s kind of the environment that you work in and that’s how you get accustomed to dealing with each other and people. So, there’s nothing particularly unusual about that.
“And, you know, you’re going to watch it and you’re going to have to interpret what you see and whether what you see matches what you hear and sort of overall what is the intent, you know.
Is there some intentional act by Corporal Lowther that says I’m absolutely intent to slapping Captain Merican for some unknown, undiscernible reason?
FOP Attorney Steven Sunday: “You’ll see people’s hands on top of each other’s heads, you know. It’s clearly a social fun event. And there’s absolutely no reason suddenly it’s not a fun event and Corporal Lowther thinks she needs to slap Captain Merican for some unknown reason.”
Or is this, you know, more of the collegial, you okay, okay, whatever, you know. Maybe he took offense to it. I mean, you’ll see Captain Merican in the videos. You’ll see him hugging multiple people, laughing throughout the course of the evening.
You’ll see people’s hands on top of each other’s heads, you know. It’s clearly a social fun event. And there’s absolutely no reason suddenly it’s not a fun event and Corporal Lowther thinks she needs to slap Captain Merican for some unknown reason.
So listen to the testimony, listen to the evidence. I trust that when we get to the end you’ll make a fair and impartial decision on these charges.
The first witness was sworn in by Lt. Gardiner – Captain Debra Deitrick.
She testified that she has been an employee for 26 years, has held the rank of captain for 10 years, wasn’t drinking, saw Corporal Lowther who was drinking. She was never asked if she has maintained a personal relationship with Capt. Merican, nor did she volunteer the existence, if any, of such a relationship. She testified that she left at midnight – about 90 minutes before the alleged slapping. Instead of being dismissed from further testimony she was allowed to present hearsay evidence of gossip about the bar event that she heard the next day – proving what a Kangaroo Court, the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Department Trial Board can be. She said that when she asked how the late-night drinking party ended that Baker told her that Kelly had smacked Merican. This is exactly where her testimony should have ended had she been honest about any long-standing personal relationship she has maintained, if any, with Merican – as such a relationship could easily skewer her participation as a supervisor in any handling of the complaint against Corporal Lowther. In addition, Sheriff Cameron should be mindful of any relationship that exists between Merican and Deitrick and he could have intervened in the beginning to put a halt to the morning gossip session that led to a devoted employee being fired – by Cameron, who would have known of an alleged long-term relationship between Merican and Deitrick.
Detrick admitted that Lowther was embarrassed to have been told by others that she slapped Merican, that she didn’t remember a thing about the incident as she and all the others were drinking.
Lt. William Baker (Good Old Boy Number One) testified that he clearly saw Cpl Lowther raise her and slap Merican, leaving her hand in place on his face. When asked by Steven Sunday, attorney for Lowther, if he heard any conversation between Merican and Lowther, the transcript reveals his answer: “No, I did not.”
Jeff Kreps (Good Old Boy Number Two) was asked by the taxpayer-paid attorney for the Sheriff’s Department Kevin Karpinski if he heard a noise in the bar with the band playing so loud that people had to get within a foot of each other to hear another person talk – after testifying that he saw Lowther drinking in the bar, which appeared to be the main activity of the group of St. Mary’s jail employees and their relatives who were assembled that night in the bar.
Question: Where you able to hear anything?
Kreps: I heard a slap noise, but I didn’t pay no attention to, you know, that’s when Lieutenant Baker said she slapped him across the face.
Question: So, would it be fair to say that you heard a slap noise, but you didn’t actually see the interaction between Corporal Lowther and Captain Merican?
Questioned by Steven Sunday, attorney for Lowther, Kreps was asked: And is it fair to say that this was a social event, there’s a band playing, it’s a lively event. People are happy, having a good time?
Question: And there is alcohol being consumed not just by Corporal Lowther, but by most of the individuals in the bar, would that be a fair statement?
Question: Including yourself?
Sunday asked Kreps where he had been and what he had been drinking and Kreps stated he had been in the vendor display where he consumed several drinks and in the bar had five or six Captain Morgan and rum drinks but didn’t partake of the tequila shots.
Question: And is it fair to say that it was fairly noisy in there. There was a band playing, was there not?
Kreps: Yes, there was.
Question: So is it possible that what you heard was unrelated to that event at all?
Karpinski objected to the question and the Hearing Examiner sustained the objection.
Question: And so without actually seeing the event, you’re merely drawing a conclusion, aren’t you, that since he said something that must be what happened. That’s how you’re interpreting it, correct?
Question: And so without having seen it – but you did not see it, correct?
Kreps: I didn’t see it, No.
Question: And you do agree the band was playing at the time, do you not?
Question: And, in fact, in order to even have a conversation with people you pretty much had to lean in to speak to them so you could be heard; isn’t that the correct?
Kreps: I wouldn’t say that.
Question: Okay. So, do you recall having a conversation with anybody else during that night?
Kreps: I was talking to Lieutenant Baker and my brother-in-law was close to me.
Question: And so they were able to just stand there and converse with you. They didn’t have to lean into you to try and make themselves heard?
Kevin Karpinski again questioned Kreps after Steven Sunday finished with Kreps (who admitted that after about eight drinks he saw nothing but heard the noise of a slap over the noise of the band).
Question: You were asked about whether you had been drinking. Do you have a clear recollection of what occurred that night?
Question: And do you know what a slap sounds like?
Question: And that is what you heard?
William Matthew Griffith, identified in various places in the transcript of the Trial Board as William Griffin and Matthew Griffin identifies himself on his Facebook page with the last name of “Griffith” was questioned by Kevin Karpinski, following Baker and Kreps. He stated he is the brother-in-law of Kreps. Griffith said he works at defense contractor Smartronix doing training following a 20-year career in the Air Force.
Griffith, as were Baker and Kreps, was sworn to tell the truth at the hearing.
Griffith said he was at the bar and when he heard Lowther talking about blow jobs that he turned away due to shyness, disinterest in the topic being related by a female or perhaps not a fan of fellatio but while he heard every syllable of what Lowther allegedly said, said he couldn’t hear anything Captain Merican was saying.
Griffith: She was basically saying that she enjoyed giving blow jobs and that was pretty much when I was like, okay, it’s time to turn around or stop listening to that conversation.
Question: Could you hear anything Captain Merican was saying?
Griffith: No. I don’t recall anything.
Question: Is it – but it’s your testimony that you could hear specifically what Corporal Lowther was making that statement?
Question: Okay, describe for the members of the panel what exactly you observed.
Griffith: I was sitting at the bar and – if this is where I was sitting, there’s a bar rail here. Captain Merican was standing here and she was standing in front of him. Casey (Kasamira Long) was standing in front of me, and then my wife was on this side and Jeff Kreps was on this side. And then I was obviously turning back and forth talking to my wife and then I was speaking to Casey and just as I looked – it wasn’t like she didn’t slap him hard, but it was, you know, a good smack to the face.
Question: And how many times did you observe the Corporal strike Captain Merican?
Griffith: One time.
Question: Did you hear Captain Merican say anything?
Griffith: Yeah. After the slap he bent down and said, don’t slap me again with a stern look on his face. And I was like, oh, okay.
Question: And how many times did you hear Captain Merican say don’t slap me?
Griffith: It was twice, I believe.
Griffith was questioned by Steven Sunday, attorney for Corporal Lowther:
Question: And when you were in this bar area, you indicated that you heard comments from Corporal Lowther of a sexual nature. Where was she at a the time that you heard those comments?
Griffith: Standing to my front, to the right.
Question: And was she talking to you or is she talking to Captain Merican?
Griffith: Captain Merican.
Question: Okay, so she is facing away from you at that point, is that correct?
Question: All right. So you’re indicating that you can hear her, but you can’t see her face as she’s talking?
Question: And Captain Merican is – they’re right up to each other, are they not? In fact, you have to be fairly close to hear each other in that bar noise, don’t you?
Question: And so Corporal Lowther’s statement to Captain Merican, but Captain Merican who is facing you, you can’t hear his statements, is that your testimony?
Griffith: I mean, I heard him when he bent over and said don’t slap me again.
Question: But you didn’t hear…
Griffith: I wasn’t involved in that conversation when I was looking and listening to her. And then when she said it, I was okay, that’s not a conversation I need to hear.
Sunday asked Griffith if he saw Lowther put her arm around Merican’s neck after reaffirming that Merican was directly in front of him and he had seen the alleged slap.
Griffith: I don’t recall seeing that, no.
While attorney Sunday played a second video of the bar scene in the Clarion, this one from a different angle, the time frame was noted at being about nine minutes prior to the alleged slap incident.
Question: Can you identify yourself in this clip?
Griffith: I’m in the neon shirt with the camouflage floppy hat on.
Question: Can’t miss you, right?
Question: And can you identify in the video Captain Merican?
Griffith: I cannot – oh, he’s in the – yeah. I see him right in the back. He’s got on the Ravens jersey.
Question: You are referring to right here?
Question: Okay, that’s a Ray Rice jersey. Again, let me know if you see any contact with Corporal Lowther there. Who is that you’re hugging right there?
Griffith: My assumption would be Corporal Lowther.
Question: Okay. So, did you engage in some conversation with her; correct?
Question: You don’t recall any of that conversation being of a sexual nature do you, sir?
Question: All right. And then you see Corporal Lowther going back towards Captain Merican; correct?
Question: This is at 1:21. Do you know who that is back there that she is hugging now?
Griffith: I do not.
Question: Let me take you up to – I’m going to advance this a little bit. Let me know if you’re talking to Corporal Lowther again at any time. Do you see her in the video at this point?
Griffith: I can see a blonde headed woman standing next to me. I can’t see her face to say that’s definitely her.
Question: Fair enough. And do you know Ms. Long?
Question: You were having a conversation with her as well during the course of the night?
Question: Fair statement, okay.
After advancing the video, Attorney Steven Sunday continued to question Griffith about the night in the Clarion Bar Hotel.
Question: All right. So, Mr. Griffin, over the course of time – and this is just human nature – you don’t recall everything exactly as you might see it if you review it on the video. I get that. But having viewed this now and looked at the people and events, do you agree with me that it’s a much longer time frame between the alleged occurrence and the time that Ms. Lowther leaves the bar area?
Question: And during the course of that minute that there’s actually additional conversation going on between Ms. Long and Ms. Lowther and Captain Merican?
Griffith: It appears that way, yes.
Question: Okay, and is it fair to say that during the time this incident is to have occurred at 1:30:41, that there’s no particular visible reaction from you or anybody else that some incident has occurred, is there?
Griffith: Not that I can see from the video, no. But I do believe like when it happened, I think – from the other angle, I pointed at the two of them, speaking to Casey (Ms. Long).
Question: And the – I think I did ask you, or did I ask you if had also been consuming alcohol?
Griffith: Yes, I had been.
Question: Do you know how much alcohol you had had to consume up to that point?
Griffith: I probably had three maybe four drinks. And then we had – I know it wasn’t too long before the video started that we all did a shot of tequila. I do remember that. Because I don’t know the guy’s name. But he had bought a shot of tequila.
Question: Okay. And he had been buying drinks throughout the course of the night, had he not?
Question: All right. And the – in the video, backing it up for just a second, can you tell me, if you can from the video, at what point you believe that this slap occurred? I’m going to play it from 1:29:39 and can you tell me just from your recollection of events.
Griffith: I think it was right about there when something happened.
Question: Okay, was it there or is it prior to that?
Griffith: I believe it was prior to that.
Question: So, your recollection then is that – is it your testimony then, sir, that you’re not actually able to see that in the video?
Griffith: That’s correct. See the slap, is that what you’re asking?
Griffith: Yes, I can’t see it on the video. No.
Question: If you can’t see it on the video, how can you be certain as to when it actually occurred?
Griffith: Because I was sitting there.
Question: You were sitting there for several hours, were you not.
Griffith: I was.
Question: So, you think somewhere in this time frame? And prior to – you would agree with me that Ms. Lowther is putting her arm around his neck at that point?
Griffith: I can’t tell you – that’s the way it looks in the video, yes, but …
Question: And you’re indicating that what you saw occurred prior to that. At any point did you see Captain Merican’s head snap back.
Question: Or him raise his hands in disbelief or any outward sign of an event having occurred?
Attorney Steven Sunday then told Griffith he had no other questions.
Sheriff’s Department provided attorney Kevin Karpinski reexamined Krep’s brother-in-law Griffith who had previously testified that while he couldn’t hear Merican said to Lowther he heard Lowther talk about blow jobs to Merican.
Question: Do you have a clear recollection that Corporal Lowther was talking about blow jobs to Captain Merican?
Question: No questions about that?
Griffith: That’s not a question.
Question: Any question in your mind that you observed Corporal Lowther slap Captain Merican?
Griffith: You’re asking me if I definitely saw it?
Question: Did you definitely see it?
Griffith: Yes. Yes.
Question: No question in your mind that you saw it?
Griffith: No question.
Question: Now, you were asked about this video. And why don’t you stand up, up here. And is it your recollection that Corporal Lowther used her right hand or her left hand?
Griffith: Right hand.
Question: And it would have been to the …
Griffith: The left side of Captain Merican’s …
Question: Left side of Captain Merican’s face?
Question: I’m clearly going to screw this up but let me go ahead and see whether I am – so that’s at 1:30:47. Do you see that?
Question: Okay. Now, right now you’re facing towards Captain Merican; correct?
Question: And it would appear that Ms. Long is to his left?
Question: And Corporal Lowther is in front of him; correct?
Question: Okay. Now, it appears that Ms. Long had moved closer to you: correct?
Question: But you’re still looking out at where Captain Merican and Corporal Lowther are; correct?
OBJECTION MADE BY STEVEN SUNDAY
- SUNDAY: Objection. I mean, why can’t the witness describe his action. It looks like he’s looking over at Ms. Long who he’s talking to.
Question: Now, just look to see whether you see a hand go up. Do you see that?
Griffith: Correct. Yes.
Question: And is that Corporal Lowther?
Question: And do you have a recollection of after the event making a hand gesture, like almost mimicking the slapping sound?
Question: Lieutenant, can you go ahead and put that other disc in and bring it to about 1:30:46.
KEVIN KARPINSKI RESUMES QUESTIONING OF GRIFFITH
Question: So, you’re leaning up against the bar looking out; correct?
Question: And who are you speaking to there, sir?
Griffith: It looks like Casey, I believe.
Question: Behind you is your brother-in-law, Kreps and Lieutenant Baker?
Question: Are you having a conversation with Lieutenant Baker there?
Griffith: I don’t believe so. I believe he was speaking to my brother-in-law. I don’t recall actually speaking to him there, no.
Question: What did you just do there?
Griffith: I was demonstrating on myself.
STEVEN SUNDAY BEGINS EXAMINATION OF GRIFFITH
Question: So, Mr. Griffith, you indicated that – and you observe in there at some point, you’re having a conversation with Ms. Casey Long; is that correct?
Question: Do you recall what the conversation was about?
Griffith: I do not.
Question: And it looks like as she’s preparing to leave that there’s something going on like this, does that ring a bell with you or does that mean anything to you?
Griffith: I don’t remember that.
Question: You don’t remember that?
Question: I’m just looking at the time counters. And your conversation with Ms. Long is around 1:30:24 to 44. And then I note that at 1:31:20 you take the drink. 1:31:50 you take another drink. This incident is supposed to have happened around 1:30:44. So now we’re a full minute, almost two minutes – actually more than two minutes past that and there’s been no reaction from you or visible reaction from you. And suddenly you make a slapping motion some two minutes later. Do recall what precipitated that?
Question: Was there a conversation going on? Were people joking about it?
Griffith: Oh, I’m sure there was a conversation going on, yeah.
Question: You’re sure there was, but you don’t remember…
Griffith: But do I, you know, recollect exactly what was being said? No.
Question: Okay. And you indicated that you weren’t really having a conversation with Lieutenant Baker or Mr. Kreps, that was your testimony; correct?
Griffith: I mean, I don’t remember engaging, you know, right into the conversation with them.
Question: Okay, all right. And in fact, when you made this motion, that would have been a gross exaggeration…
Griffith: Oh yes, definitely. If you want to hear what I said, I believe I said she slapped the shit out of him.
Question: And so there was an exaggeration of the events for humorous purposes?
Question: I got you. Now, you never made that statement before today, did you?
Griffith: That she slapped the shit out of him?
Griffith: Yeah. Oh yeah. It was the talk of the rest of the weekend.
Question: And so, you’re saying – today you’re using the phrase slapped the shit out of him, and you’re saying that that was the what you said at the time, is that your testimony? Or is that just something you’re adding now?
Griffith: No. I’m sure I said that at the time.
Question: Okay. And so that would have been important to you, that if you were telling, say for example, Internal Affairs or somebody what had happened, you would have relayed that to them, would you not?
Griffith: I mean, it wouldn’t have been very professional to say that, no.
Question: Oh, okay. So, you would have not told the…
Griffith: In a professional manner talking to a police officer, no, I probably would not have said that. When talking to my brother-in-law, yeah, I would have said she slapped the shit out him.
Question: Okay. And talking in these proceedings, of course, in front of these people, no problem.
Question: So you agree with me that that’s not a phrase you’ve used any time up until today in your official dealings with the department?
Question: And who brought it up to you to cause you to react in that fashion? Who said something to you that caused you to respond that way?
Griffith: I don’t remember exactly. I couldn’t tell you exactly who said something to me, you know, to bring that reaction. I don’t know.
Sunday and Karpinski both told the Hearing Examiner that neither had any further need for either Griffith or Kreps.
Sheriff’s Department Attorney Kevin Karpinski called Michael Merican as a witness who asserted that he was a Captain, in charge of the jail, was the head of the Maryland Correctional Association and a thirty-year employee of the Sheriff’s Department and described the day’s events leading up to the party in the Clarion Hotel Bar.
Question: Okay; directing your attention to later in the evening at the Clarion bar. Why don’t yo describe for the members of the Board was interaction you had with Corporal Lowther.
Merican: When I first got down to the bar, I really didn’t have any interactions with her.
Question: What did you do when you first got down to the bar?
Merican: When I first got down there, I was inundated with people coming up and shaking my hand and it took awhile before I got to my group. I can only say that the Team St. Mary’s for lack of a better word, to see that my folks that were there. They were up on the top tier. I was down talking to some other folks and all. And I finally made it up to the top where everybody from our St. Mary’s people were there.
Question: Okay. And what did you do once you were in the St. Mary’s group?
Merican: Talked to a couple of them. I had a few drinks over the time frame I was there and basically just tried to sit back against that wall and relax because quite frankly I had enough of the day and the evening.
Question: Tell me – describe what the interaction was that you had with Corporal (Lowther). Did you come up to you? Did you invite her over?
Merican: Well, she came up to me at one point and was starting to talk to me. And, I mean, she was around in that area for a while, but with the other people. But when she specially came to me she was talking to me and, you know, I couldn’t hear that well. The band is playing loud and, you know, I had to ask her several times, you, what are you saying. Because the word blow job came up. And when I heard that I said, well, wait a minute. At first, I was just saying, yeah, yeah, yeah. Like was saying to a bunch of people because you just couldn’t hear. I was just trying to be nice and polite and all of that. But when I heard the word blow job, I – that caught my attention obviously and I wanted her to clarify what she was saying. And when she did, she had mentioned that she wanted to blow the guys at the end of the bar and I said those guys blow job? Really? And from then she just stared at me and then all of a sudden, I got slapped.
Question: Describe for members of the Board the slap that you had.
Merican: The slap came from about halfway down and it came up and it cracked the side of my face and actually turned my head. I could feel the sting.
Question: And what was your reaction to that?
Merican: I just looked at her for a minute and I went to say, you know, what the F was that for and before I could get all of that out she was picking up her hand again and she was staring at me. And I looked at her and I said, don’t hit me again. And after I said that, her hand started to come up and and she placed it on my face. Just came up slow and placed it. And she was pushing on it. And then I grabbed her hand and told her to keep her Fucking hands off of me.
Question: And were you upset?
Merican: Very upset.
Question: Were you embarrassed?
Merican: Completely embarrassed.
Question: Other correctional officers in the bar?
Merican: Yes. Staff was there, correctional officers from all over the State of Maryland were there. Vendors are there. I mean, I didn’t see who all saw it other than, you know, you’re sitting there and your side of this happened at the time. And then I remember Casey Long coming over escorting Kelly out and saying Captain, I’ve got this. I’ll take her to her room.
Question: Did Corporal Lowther ever come to you and explain what happened?
Question: Did she ever come to you and apologize for what happened?
Question: So, I take it that you’ve had no conversation at all with her?
Merican: Didn’t even try to have a conversation. I asked her how she was doing when I was serving her notification of the hearing and she didn’t even respond to me.
Karpinski asked Merican several questions to determine if he knew the elements of assault and if the incident constituted an assault.
Merican: Definitely an assault. I didn’t consent to it, although I didn’t wind up with a cut or bruise, the slap stung the side of my face. If that’s not injury enough, I mean, it says injury but, you know, my staff seeing that, other agencies seeing it is certainly injurious to my reputation. The Sheriff’s Office reputation.
Question: Did you ever consider filing out any criminal charges?
Merican: I thought about it initially, but I figured that when I got back we could handle it administratively. There was no need for me to have to call the police down there (where an independent police investigation might come to a different conclusion) when I am the police. To embarrass ourselves any more and say that, you know, I’ve got an employee that’s slapping me.
Fraternal Order of Police Attorney Steven Sunday representing Kelly Lowther then began to question Merican following the conclusion of questioning by Karpinski.
Question: With respect to the events of that night, and you indicated that you had a lot of responsibilities and by the time you got up there you were pretty much exhausted; is that correct?
Merican: That’s correct.
Question: And then prior to getting up to the bar area, there had been a dinner of some kind; is that correct?
Merican: Yes. There was a formal banquet.
Question: And then there was an event sort of after that where there was – I guess you could go around to the vendors and that type of thing?
Merican: Yes. The serve desserts.
Question: And also, a hospitality suite of some kind where they give away free alcohol; is that correct?
Question: And at that point, you got to the vendor area, you know, you were in uniform, out of uniform?
Merican: I was in my Class A dress blouse.
Question: At the vendor’s function?
Question: And then you went and changed and then came back up to the bar area; would that be a fair statement?
Merican: Eventually, yes.
Question: You didn’t come up to the bar area in your Class A did you?
Merican: Absolutely not.
Question: Okay. And so prior to arriving at the bar area, then, had you consumed any other alcohol?
Merican: Not all day.
Question: Okay. And at the bar I think you indicated that you had a couple of drinks or some drinks, do you recall?
Merican: I had three or four drinks through the evening there.
Question: Okay. And you indicated you got there kind of late; correct?
Question: And this event occurred sort of at the – towards the end of the evening, would that be a fair statement?
Question: Now the bar area, you described it as being loud, that there was a band playing; is that correct?
Question: And that in some fashion it’s hard to hear what other people are saying so you kind of lean in and you want to hear what they’re saying. Is that a fair statement?
Merican: Yes. On top if it, I have trouble hearing a little bit sometimes.
Question: Okay. And so your recollection is that you were in the bar area for some period of time before you actually made it to your group of people; is that correct?
Question: And do you recall about approximately what time you got up to your group and started having interaction with them?
Merican: No. It was – it just seemed to be all involved – my folks were moving around. They core grouped up towards the end is the last time that I could recall. But I couldn’t give you an exact time.
Question: Okay. And is it your recollection then that prior to this interaction with Corporal Lowther that you’ve described that you really had no interaction with her up until that time?
Merican: Maybe passing interaction with her, you know, people would chit-chat coming back and forth. It’s a pretty tight space right there in the back where the bar is.
Question: Okay. But your interaction with her would not have been a very familiar nature?
Question: Okay. Now you have also indicated that you were, with your back to the wall; is that correct?
Question: And the – at some point in time Corporal Lowther approached you and engaged in conversation; is that correct?
Question: And at that time that occurred, do you recall whether Ms. Kasmira Long was present or not?
Merican: She was there on the first one when the song was playing and people were jamming and things like that, yeah. Everybody was around.
Question: Okay. At the time this incident occurred that you testified to, was she there at that time?
Merican: No. It was just Kelly talking to me.
Question: Okay. Just the two of you. All right. So it’s your testimony then that when you were struck it was just completely out of the blue, that you had no idea what that occurred?
Merican: I had no idea.
Question: Okay. And so then would it also be fair to say that prior to that time the two of you had not been engaged in an argument; correct?
Question: There had been no bad words exchanged between the two of you.
Question: You know how sometimes events lead up to and the conversation gets more heated and eventually somebody reacts out. That didn’t occur here?
Merican: It did not occur.
Question: Okay And the – and it’s your recollection then that immediately after this occurred that Ms. Long then quickly escorted her out of the bar area, would that be correct?
Merican: Immediate as in absolute right afterward – she came over while I still had a hold her hand saying, you know, what the – what the fuck, I mean what’s going on here. And then finally she came over and took her out.
Question: Okay. And do you recall Ms. Long having any physical interaction with you during that period of time.
Question: Now, you filed an initial complaint in this matter; is that correct?
Merican: I informed the Major on my way home from Ocean City what had happened. And he advised me to put in writing what happened.
Question: You’re talking about the Major that’s present in this room today?
Question: So, you had a conversation with the Major who may have been a witness to whatever your conversation was?
Merican: If you want to call him a witness to my conversation. I called him to tell him. If that’s a witness, then that’s what it is.
Question: So, what you told him might have been relevant, but of course, he’s been sitting in here for these whole proceedings so…
OBJECTION BY KARPINSKI (The Hearing Examiner failed to rule on the objection for the record)
Steven Sunday continued: This wasn’t made known to me throughout the course of this investigation. Now, let’s look at the video if we can. Captain Merican, going back through some of your testimony in conjunction with this video. You’ve indicated that prior to this incident actually occurring that other than maybe passing conversation, there’s really no interaction with you and Ms. Lowther; is that your testimony?
Question: And can you identify yourself in this – why don’t you approach the screen.
Merican: There I am coming in there.
Question: That’s you entering into the picture. That would be the first time you came up to join the group?
Merican: I guess, I don’t know.
Question: So we’re looking at 1:13:04. And let’s follow through for a little bit. Tell me when you see Ms. Lowther for the first time. Do you see here in the picture at all?
Merican: I can’t tell. I just can’t tell.
Question: You can’t tell if that is Ms. Lowther leaning into you at that point?
Merican: No, I can’t.
Question: So, you can’t tell me who that is seated at the bar?
Question: Okay. I ‘m going to 1:13:20 and I’m asking if you recognize the individuals in there.
Merican: Yeah. I think I just saw her right there when her face had turned, if that’s the one.
Question: Leaning over there with her arms around you?
Question: Too far. And ask you if you recognize and of the people in that.
Merican: Yeah. I think that’s her talking to me there.
Question: Talking to you there. Okay. And in fact, you had to kind of lean into her just, so you could hear each other; isn’t that true?
Question: Because the band was loud, right?
Merican: Well, it’s a bar.
Question: And I’m going to continue to 1:14:34 and ask if you recognize any events taking place at that point.
Merican: Everybody dancing with the music.
Question: Is somebody’s arm up over your shoulder?
Merican: Casey’s, maybe.
Question: Okay. Its fair to say everybody is having a good time; right?
Question: A good social event.
Question: Continuing to 1:18:39. I’ll ask you to keep an eye out for that time frame. Do you know where you are?
Merican: Yeah. That’s me. Right there. Watching everybody. Casey just walked by me.
Question: Okay. So you have some extended time of conversation there. Do you recall what that’s about?
Merican: I have no idea. Like I said, its tough to hear in there. That’s back and forth.
Question: Okay. There’s kind of a little hug thing going on there. Does that look like that to you?
Merican: Not a hug.
KARPINSKI interrupts: Are we watching the same thing again?
SUNDAY IGNORES KARPINSKI AND CONTINUES THE QUESTIONS.
Question: I’m just going back. Based on your testimony does it appear your right arm is going forward towards her?
KARPINSKI INTERRUPTS AGAIN: I would just object. We’ve watched this thing now five times.
HEARING EXAMINER: I agree.
Question: I think it’s. I’ll direct you to 1:19:04 and ask you if there’s additional interaction with Lowther.
KARPINSKI: I object.
SUNDAY: Captain Merican said he had no conversation, no interaction throughout the course of the night until the event occurred.
KARPINSKI: Well, that’s the (inaudible).
SUNDAY: I’m not finished. I’m trying to establish that there is ongoing conversation, there’s ongoing interaction of a very congenial, collectively fun time going on.
KARPINSKI: 30 second to a minute conversation. That’s what this is. 30 seconds to a minute.
HEARING EXAMINER: Let’s move on counsel.
KARPINSKI: It seems a lot longer when you’ve watched it five times, though.
SUNDAY: We haven’t watched this at all yet. These are all new. We haven’t seen any of these.
STEVEN SUNDAY CONTINUES TO QUESTION MERICAN
Question: Okay. Can you lean back just a little bit, I couldn’t see the screen. Is that the two of you having a conversation there?
Merican: She’s talking, trying to say something.
Question: Okay. And that’s at 1:22:42. Okay. All right. So let’s go ahead and move forward to the time of these events. Tell me when you first have a conversation with her leading up to these events.
Merican: I don’t know what she is trying to say.
Question: Okay. But at 1:29:35 you’re engaged in conversation with her and Ms. Long; is that correct?
Question: All right. So, Ms. Long is present at least at that time; correct?
Merican: At that time, yes.
Question: And I’d like you to, if I could, just have you keep an eye on Ms. Long for a second and ask you what she is doing. What was that?
Merican: I don’t know what she did to me there. I don’t know what the conversation was about.
Question: Did it appear to you that she reached up and grabbed your nose?
Question: And you tell me when this occurs, to the best of your knowledge, sir.
Merican: There you go.
Question: That’s when it occurred, right? And was that the first time or the second time?
Merican: Well, I haven’t seen any other video yet. She slapped me twice.
Question: Okay. And so it was with her right arm; correct?
Question: And were you drinking anything at the time?
Merican: I don’t know if I was drinking anything or if I was just holding an empty glass, because I did that partially through the night, too, just to keep people from trying to give me anything and to be polite.
Question: And what hand did you say you used to push her away or to grab her?
Merican: I grabbed her with my left hand.
Question: Okay. And so at 1:30:45, when her palm went up. Are you taking a drink there?
Merican: Yeah, I am.
Question: And what hand is that in?
Merican: That’s my left.
Question: So, if you’re taking a drink in your left hand, clearly you didn’t grab her with your left hand, did you.
Merican: You’re right.
Question: Okay. And I didn’t see your right hand come around at any time to grab her, did you?
Merican: It was the second time I grabbed her.
Question: Okay. And there she leaving at that point at 1:31:37. So you’ll agree with me that’s almost a full minute after you contend this occurred?
Question: Thank you. Again, you’ve indicated there were no bad words exchanged between you, nothing that you could discern that precipitated that event; correct?
Question: All right. I’m just going to show you a series of photos and ask you if they represent sort of the mood of the function that night. I show you a series of photographs, Captain Merican. Just ask if you agree with me that these appear to be – to have been taken that night at this event?
Question: Okay. So, you’ve got pictures of yourself hugging and laughing with some people; is that correct?
Question: Including Corporal Lowther; correct?
Question: And do you know when that was in relation to these events?
Merican: Obviously prior.
Question: You don’t know, though, whether it was a minute, five minutes, ten minutes? You have no idea?
STEVEN SUNDAY: I’d offer these as Defendants, collectively, 1.
Question: And so your only recollection of the conversation between the two of you then was her making some reference to blow job at the bar and you repeated back to her blow job really? That was what you recalled saying back to her?
Merican: Right. Everything else in conversations throughout the night were substance of what MCA conference was about and people having a good time, obviously. Corporal coming up to the warden and commander of the jail talking about blow jobs, it just struck me to ask why.
Question: Well, that is my question to you – that’s not my question, my question to you is, this incident occurred towards the end of the evening, would that be correct?
Question: And as you were talking to Corporal Lowther, did you have a sense of whether she appeared to be intoxicated to you?
Merican: I didn’t at the time.
Question: But your conversation was limited, would that be a fair statement?
Merican: That’s fair.
Question: Okay, All Right.
SUNDAY CONCLUDED HIS QUESTIONING OF MERICAN
Karpinski asked Merican a series of questions to reaffirm his testimony that he was struck by Lowther, didn’t know why and that he was surprised and stunned.
Kasamira Long, still a subservient employee of Sheriff Cameron and Merican at the time of her testimony was sharply questioned by Karpinski; she told of her use of the word “slap” only in leading questions by IA Detective Mike Gray. She characterized the interactions she saw Lowther have with Merican as two taps to his face and admitted that just before that took place she had reached up and tweaked Merican’s ample nose as part of the bar festival the group was having that night in the Clarion Hotel.
The following video is made from segments of the filming made by St. Mary’s Sheriff deputies that they took of themselves cleaning out newsstands in the early morning hours of Election Day 1998. The deputy’s video was seized by the FBI and made part of the federal civil rights case. Starring in this video is Assistant Sheriff Mike Merican and the other defendants who cost St. Mary’s County taxpayers millions of dollars to defend and settle the case.
Merican was one of a gang of rogue cops who violated 1st Amendment in the ruling by Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals
Karpinski summarized the case that for which he is paid handsomely by the taxpayers who fund his law firm and have employed for more than twenty years.
Karpinski expressed the profound embarrassment that Captain Merican experienced in the bar scene in which other attendees of the correctional conference were also present drinking free booze being provided by vendors in hopes bribing the jail officials with barrels of alcohol in hopes of obtaining more business from them. Of course, the taxpayers pay for all the jails and all the salaries of the freeloading jail officials. Karpinski’s concern for Merican’s humiliation must have been eased over the past years, forgetting about Merican being part of the effort on election eve of 1998 to seize all available copies of the St. Mary’s Today Newspaper from newsstands in order to prevent voters from reading critical articles about the Sheriff’s Department and the criminal record of Richard Fritz prior to casting ballots. In a landmark First Amendment decision, the United States Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit (Rossignol v Voorhaar) characterized the unconstitutional actions of Merican and his fellow defendants, Fritz, Sheriff Richard Voorhaar and six deputies as being, “from a society much more oppressive than our own” and pointed out that Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1983 in response to the Ku Klux Klan to prevent law officers from going out in the dead of night and doing what they could not do during the day in uniform. Karpinski defended Merican’s actions in that case and lost all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The actions of Merican and others cost the taxpayers more than a million dollars. In spite of Merican’s unconstitutional actions, violating both the 1st and 14th Amendments, Sheriff Tim Cameron promoted Merican from the rank of lieutenant to captain and in 2017 to major.
SUMMARY OF STEVEN SUNDAY
The thing about, you know, these situations is these are people. They’re people like you and like me and this is the way people interact with each other. And it’s just an event that takes place. And it’s the circumstances that people find themselves in that leads to the events that occur.
And so what kind of a circumstance are we in? Well, we’re obviously in a social meeting. We’re not there having a meeting, we’re not there giving instructions on the agency. We’re not having any conversation about the agency. It has nothing to do with business. It’s strictly social at this point.
And well, what separates the two? Why are we saying one is social versus business? Well, we look at the nature of the event. We’re at a bar. Clearly, that’s not going to be a business event.
We’re not in uniform. We’re drinking to great lengths. There’s a band playing. There’s people dancing, there’s people bobbing their heads. Everybody is laughing, they’re having a good time. Everybody is hugging each other and leaning into each other, they’re having conversations.
All of this is going on for hours, or at least with the video that we have, for at least a half hour to forty-five minutes.
And so that’s sort of the atmosphere that we’re in. And the people then either let their guard down or behave in a manner that they wouldn’t necessarily behave in if they were in their facility working amongst themselves or working with each other. Of course, they do.
Would Captain Merican, you know, have multiple drinks with his subordinates if it weren’t in a social setting? Of course not.
Would Lieutenant Baker have two drinks and the four or five drinks and a shot in the bar if he were not in a social setting? Of course not.
Nobody is driving. Nobody is going anywhere. It’s a chance to let your hair down, relax and have a good time. That’s exactly what it is.
And so when we talk about, okay, well, yeah, but there’s got to be an outside limited to what can happen. Okay. I get that. I can understand that.
But, you know, how do we sort of get from Point A to Point B. I stopped the video at various places and I did that for a purpose.
Because I wanted you as the Board to see that this event doesn’t occur in a vacuum. That it’s a night full of time and events and interactions that take place up to that.
And you see Captain Merican says we had no interaction prior to this even occurring. Well, that’s not really true, is it? Once you actually look at it, you know, we’re starting at 1:13 on the video which is some twenty minutes before this event actually occurs when he first walks into the bar, they’re hugging each other, okay.
Arms around each other. Laughing. Carrying on. And at multiple places throughout the events up until this incident occurs, they’ve got their hands on each other again.
FOP Attorney Steven Sunday: “And I’m not suggesting there is anything improper about that. I’m suggesting it breeds a familiarity that leads one to believe that their physical contact is acceptable. That that’s not outside the realm of expectation of the people who are at this function.”
And I’m not suggesting there is anything improper about that. I’m suggesting it breeds a familiarity that leads one to believe that their physical contact is acceptable. That that’s not outside the realm of expectation of the people who are at this function.
And it’s not only with Corporal Lowther and Captain Merican or – Kelly and Mike – it’s with everybody who’s there.
You see multiple people – you’ll watch the video and I ask you and I am very clear that I want you to review that video on multiple occasions and look at everybody’s actions throughout there.
There’s, you know, this is a very intimate type affair. And they are the – it’s sort of the culmination of a stressful week or event or whatever. And boy it’s a chance just to let butt loose. And that’s what happens.
And so as we get closer to the events that take place, we see that Captain Merican sort of has his back against the wall and he’s got his Ravens jersey on and he’s got a drink in his hand. And he’s enjoying himself just like everybody else.
And he’s got a little, you know, head bob going on from time to time from the music. And you see Corporal Lowther come over and speak to him. And you see Ms. Long there at the same time.
The three of them are having a conversation. It’s not just Captain Merican and Corporal Lowther as he indicates. It’s the three of them.
So, you recall only what you recall, but you can see it for yourself. And they are the people that are closest to Captain Merican at the time. They are right here.
Because remember, the music is loud, you can’t hear. They’re leaning into each other, they’re having a conversation, the three of them.
And so, it goes on for some extended period of time. This is not like it was just bang, bang, bang, it’s done, it’s over. There’s a good lapse of time where this conversation takes place.
And Ms. Long is sitting right there. She periodically looks over to Mr. Griffith or Mr. Kreps, has a little bit of conversation back there. She kind of does one of these things. They don’t recall what that’s about. You can see it on the video.
FOP Attorney Steven Sunday: “And then she turns her back to have an additional conversation and then what does Ms. Long do? She reaches up and does the old nose tweak thing to Captain Merican”.
And then she turns her back to have an additional conversation and then what does Ms. Long do? She reaches up and does the old nose tweak thing to Captain Merican. He said I don’t remember that and Ms. Long says, yeah, he doesn’t remember it, but he does acknowledge when he sees it that it did happen.
And so you know that wasn’t considered an assault by him. I guess that was acceptable in his mind that she pulled on his nose.
And so physical contact is contemplated. It’s suggested. It’s apparently appropriate. There’s nothing to indicate to Corporal Lowther at that point that he has an objection to close physical contact.
And the conversation continues, and the Department has introduced their exhibit. And the Sheriff’s Department’s contention has been and always has been that when the hand is raised, that’s when this incident occurred.
And what I would challenge you in reviewing the video is to follow the action through and to follow it also prior to that.
Prior to this, you see no indication that anybody is upset. You see no indication that there’s an argument. You do not see Corporal Lowther’s body move in any way to indicate that anything happens.
You don’t see her shoulders raise, you don’t see her body turn, you don’t see the arm lift. You see nothing happens.
And when you see this, and you follow it through on this, what you see is her arm go around the back of his head. That’s what you see. That’s what I see. That’s what I believe you will see.
And it stays there for some period of time. It’s not like it went there and it was suddenly removed. It stays there while there’s continuing conversation. And eventually, it comes back down.
And then there’s more conversation. There’s another minute of conversation until Ms. Long escorts Corporal Lowther out.
And you might say, well, it’s a grainy video. You can’t see everything. That’s true. It is a grainy video.
But what does it tell you is that the actual events that occurred are different than the people’s perceptions of events as they recall them.
And so you have to sort of marry those two and say, well, I don’t know, you have witnesses indicating that there was contact with her hand with his face. And was in conjunction with her putting her hand around the back of his neck or was it some other unseen time.
Not according to the witnesses. And was it, you know, a pat on the cheek? Was it stronger than that? Was it Corporal Lowther simply being playful with him as Ms. Long was when she tweaked his nose and he just took it wrong or he took it – well, he didn’t take it as playfully as she intended it.
I think the important thing is there’s no conflict. There’s no argument. There’s no somebody is upset about something. That something happened that would generate an intent to do harm or an intent to physically strike somebody because it just didn’t occur.
We’ve just got people having a good time and one person got upset because he thinks he got slapped in the face.
Okay, I mean, that’s fine. But look at it in the big picture, you know. The Department would want you to sort of isolate it into this, you know, three seconds and say horrible. Horrible. How could that have happened?
I’m asking you to look at the big picture. I’m asking you to look at it from start to finish, to place everything into context and say, Corporal Lowther, okay, she had too much to drink. And she got very friendly and maybe in the course of that and seeing Captain’ Merican’s nose get tweaked and playing along with that, she touched his face. Maybe too strong, maybe not strong enough, maybe a tap. I don’t know.
What I can say is from the evidence that is before you that there’s no indication that there’s any motive on her part to strike him for any wrongful purpose or to intentionally cause a scene or injure him or chastise him or admonish him or anything else.
So when you can’t get to that, you’re left with maybe five or six different perceptions of events because people perceive events.
And was Captain Merican upset? He seemed to be upset. But that’s different than saying that’s the intent of the party and its difference than saying Captain Merican, you know, you’re the Captain of Corrections and if you want to maintain that distance from your employees and you don’t want people t assume that they have more of a social relationship, a friendship and ability to interact with you than you think they should have, then you, yourself would behave a little differently.
And I’m not suggesting his behavior is improper. What I’m suggesting is that Corporal Lowther’s behavior is not improper because Captain Merican likes his people, he likes to hang out with them, you know.
People are in physical contact. They’re having a good time. Captain Merican is clearly having a good time with Ms. Long and Corporal Lowther.
And that atmosphere didn’t generate just like that, it happened over the course of the evening. And so when we get through all of that, I think we see it for what it was, just an unfortunate misunderstanding between the parties. But is it wrongful? Is it disciplinary? No, it’s not.
It’s just people being people. And we talk about the language, and okay, you know, the language was crude. Okay. Her language was crude.
And that’s bar language. That’s language that happens in a bar. And when I said gender issue, you know, I suppose if two guys or three guys are talking to each other and they use that kind of language they probably wouldn’t have thought anything about it.
When Corporal Lowther used that language, they made it a point to say to somebody else, did you hear what she said because she is a female. Because they made a difference of it.
And, you know, okay, that’s fine. But, you know, that’s how people talk sometimes in a bar and that’s how sometimes people talk with people they know. And that’s just people being people.
So, if you have an expectation that it should be a more formal event and that these kinds of things wouldn’t happen, then it should have been a more formal event where these kinds of things wouldn’t happen.
Nobody argues that this happened at the dinner. Nobody argues that this happened at the open area of the vendors, prior to when they went to the bar. This happens at 1:30 in the morning and you heard Captain Deitrick, you know, I left around 12:30. I didn’t have anything to drink.
Captain Merican, he left at 1:30, 1:45, bar closes at 2 am and he had a good bit to drink. So, he created – helped to create – that environment.
Again, I’m not suggesting anything wrong with Captain Merican. But what I’m suggesting is that you have to recognize when you create those opportunities and you create that social scenario and that situation that those kinds of things can happen.
And, you know, is that something that you want to either as an agency or as a Board find to be misconduct under those circumstances. So for those reasons, I ask you to find her not guilty.
Off with her head
Karpinski, in his entering the recommendation of Sheriff Cameron that when the Board entered guilty verdicts on all three charges, said Lowther should be terminated.
“There are certain codes of conduct that just simply when they are broached and breached, it is almost irretrievable. It’s like a correctional officer or a police officer who’s found guilty of lying.
“Your confidence, your ability to go ahead and maintain leadership and the chain of command in the detention center is compromised.”
“This is an incredibly – would be an incredibly poor signal to send to those who are working that if someone were permitted to go ahead and be found guilty of hitting another employee, regardless of whether it’s a supervisor or a subordinate employee, and that was anything short of termination.
Sunday disagreed with Karpinski.
“I’m simply asking that the Board make an appropriate recommendation on that. And you as the Board are able to recommend anything, from, you know, written reprimands to loss of leave to suspension days to potentially demotions to terminations.
“But I don’t think that is an appropriate recommendation in this case. I just don’t think the facts are posed and sort of throw up of the hands, is oh my gosh, we got somebody who got slapped, it was an assault. I think that’s an overdramatization of the events.
“I think discipline can be fairly administered in a much less rigorous manner in this case. And so I would ask you to temper your recommendation with the circumstances that you heard throughout the course of these procedures and trust in light of that you’ll make a fair recommendation. And I personally have a thought that a significant number of suspension days without pay would satisfy the fairness in this particular case.”
The Board deliberated and issued the following finding:
- Count one: guilty and demotion in rank from Corporal to Correctional Officer
- Count two: guilty and ten days suspension without pay.
- Count three: guilty ten days without pay consecutive to count two.
Sheriff Tim Cameron overruled the Board findings and terminated Lowther in spite of the fact that at the same bar setting another female employee of the jail tweaked Merican’s nose just minutes before Lowther tapped his check.
- The video never showed any slap of Merican at any point contradicting the testimony of Merican and his subordinates who supported the false testimony.
- The noise of the band nullified any sound of a slap as reported by one witness.
- The video failed to show any action by Lowther towards Merican except for putting her arm around his neck in an embrace and a few minutes prior, both were hugging.
- Merican falsely stated under oath that he had held Lowther’s hand after he said she slapped him, but the video clearly showed that his hand was occupied holding his drink.
- With only 45 minutes to go before the bar closed, Merican was tossing down drinks.
The taxpayers paid for those who attended the conference, their salaries, lodging, registration fees, dinners and golf outings. Lowther paid her own way as a guest of Long. The taxpayers of St. Mary’s County also paid for the law firm of Karpinski, the investigation and the loss of the services of Lowther, her training and experience all because Merican didn’t mind his nose being tweaked by Long but it was unacceptable for his nose to be bent out of joint.
The ultimate fail is that of the leadership of St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron.
The next conference of the Correctional Administrators Association is set for June 2, 2018 at the Clarion Hotel and the real fun gets underway in the bar.
Response from Sheriff Cameron to questions about this article:
Sheriff Tim Cameron was asked several questions about this incident and the resulting dismissal of Kelly Lowther.
Cameron said that he had reviewed all the evidence at the time of the event, the trial board, and the months thereafter. He had watched the bar videos from the Clarion Hotel, and witness testimony. He asserts that his decision to terminate Lowther was proper, based on the evidence. Photos from this article have been provided to him for his inspection and comment.
Sheriff Cameron has agreed to revisit the video, still photos and evidence which he believes will reaffirm his original conclusion and since the case is four years old, the outcome won’t likely change, but in the interest of being open about the claims of Lowther made in this article, a second look would be fair.
Sheriff Cameron asserted that prior to the incident Lowther was an exemplary employee, a real leader in the agency, and he was shocked at the incident and reports of witnesses. “We cannot condone physical violence on agency personnel.”
When asked following the candidate’s debate in Lexington Park, if a better outcome would have been to send both parties back to corners, to come out and shake hands and let that be the end of it, with a stern warning that any repeat of such an incident would result in the cutoff of Sheriff’s funds for attending the conference, Sheriff Cameron responded: “This isn’t the sixties,” and shook his head.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Kelly Lowther was unemployed for eight months and says she enjoys a rewarding new job. Captain Michael Merican was promoted to Major and the post of Assistant Sheriff by Sheriff Cameron and the Sheriff stated that most of the command staff, including Merican, would soon be retiring.
Sheriff Cameron also reported that a recent letter to the editor signed by 28 people who stated a lack of confidence in him included one person who never worked for the agency, others who were malcontents and dismissed for cause and a few who claim they never signed the letter which was organized by John Vezzi. In addition, the Sheriff claims that some of those who had their names attached simply retired had no beef and even one who left for a great paying job in another occupation. The only one of the signatories who has contacted THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY, other than Vezzi, to provide more information has been Lowther. None have come forward to disassociate themselves from the group letter.
Vezzi has stated that there are some on the list who desire to have more of their reasons for signing the letter explored in a new story.
Sorting out the facts in a news story like this is akin to walking across quicksand while carrying a safe. Until one side begins to believe they are going to come up short, neither side wants to talk, share the truth or provide information to the public.
The problem with this scenario is that all of the actions are funded by taxpayers and gaining accountability is next to impossible. Both sides have their cheering sections, Sheriff Cameron actively asks for support for himself and his agency, which is lawful and proper.
Citizens should support their law enforcement agencies as they are the thin blue line between civilization and animals who would rend asunder society – just look at the big cities of America with organized gangs such as Black Guerrilla Family, MS-13, and outlaw biker gangs.
Mike Merican was appointed Assistant Sheriff by Cameron and is supposed to retire soon — Will Cameron hire him as a civilian Jail Warden in a contract position? Only The Shadow knows for sure.