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Lawsuit against Pr. George's sheriff can proceed, judge rules

Ruben Castaneda

Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo's lawsuit against Prince George's County's sheriff, in which he accuses county sheriff's officers of storming into his home without a proper warrant, can proceed without waiting for federal review, a judge ruled Monday.

A Circuit Court judge rejected a motion by county attorneys to delay discovery in the civil lawsuit, which regards the actions of a SWAT team that stormed into Calvo's home in 2008, fatally shooting the family's two dogs.

Judge Arthur M. Ahalt, who is retired and was specially assigned to the case, ruled that he saw no reason the lawsuit should be delayed, said Timothy F. Maloney, Calvo's attorney.

County attorneys had filed a motion asking Ahalt to suspend discovery in the civil case pending the outcome of an investigation into the actions of the SWAT officers by the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.

Ahalt's ruling means the process of discovery -- in which Calvo and his attorney can seek detailed information about the event through documents and sworn testimony -- can go forward.

"I can't wait, frankly," said Maloney, adding that he has already filed a motion seeking discovery.

Sheriff's SWAT officers raided Calvo's home on July 29, 2008, after learning that a box of marijuana was being shipped to Calvo's wife, Trinity Tomsic. The officers shot the family's two black Labradors, Payton and Chase, and forced Calvo to kneel on the ground at gunpoint with his hands bound.

It turned out that neither Tomsic nor Calvo had any connection to the package of marijuana.

An internal sheriff's investigation found no wrongdoing by the officers. County Sheriff Michael A. Jackson said in June that the findings are "consistent with what I've felt all along: My deputies did their jobs to the fullest extent of their abilities."

Calvo's lawsuit alleges that the officers stormed the home without an appropriate warrant, that they shot the dogs without any jusitification, and that the event was part of a "pattern and practice" of brutality by the sheriff's SWAT squad.

In an article he wrote for The Washington Post, Calvo said the event was business as usual."

Jackson, who is running for county executive, did not return a phone call.

The county Sheriff's Department -- which is responsible for security at the courthouses in Hyattsville and Upper Marlboro -- uses Labradors, including black Labs, as police dogs at the courthouses.

The dogs are trained to sniff out drugs and other contraband. Canine officers have said they employ Labradors in the courthouse because that breed is particularly friendly with people.

-- Ruben Castaneda

By Ruben Castaneda  |  December 22, 2009; 6:34 AM ET
Categories:  Pr. George's , Ruben Castaneda  
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I can't believe that bozo Jackson has the nerve to run for county executive. Talk about failing upward!

Posted by: usemark1 | December 22, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

The brutality, the casual use of violence, and the ignorance of the law on the part of Prince George's County Sheriff's Department and the SWAT thugs involved in the raid is truly shocking. Coupled with how close this is to the capital of the United States made these acts even more appalling.

Prince George's County sheriff's Department has been investigated by the Federal Government in the past. The FBI and Justice Department need to renew and re-double their investigative efforts. PG County can not be trusted to act in the benefit of their own citizens. A permanent oversight board for the County government should be created.

And, of course, the existing Prince George's County government should be sued back to the stone-age for allowing the their Sheriff's Department to do the things they did to Mr. Calvo and other citizens of PG County.

Posted by: bliss451 | December 24, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

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