New Charges Pending In OC Manslaughter Case

SNOW HILL — Charges of manslaughter and assault were temporarily dropped this week against a West Ocean City man in the death of his longtime friend, but new charges will be filed including the original counts along with a few lesser offenses.
George Doran Nottingham, 48, of West Ocean City, was scheduled to appear for trial on Wednesday for the second time for his role in the death of Michael E. Post, 39, of Ocean City outside the Harbor Inn early in the morning last Jan. 26. Nottingham was charged early this year with manslaughter and assault following a “playful incident among friends” outside the Harbor Inn on Somerset Street last January that ended in tragedy.
Nottingham was first tried in August, but after an emotional trial that took most of the day, a Worcester County jury deliberated for several hours deep into the evening before returning without a verdict. The hung jury could not come to a clear decision in the friendly altercation that went terribly wrong and a mistrial was declared.
Nottingham was scheduled to appear for a second trial on Wednesday, but the charges against him, including manslaughter and second-degree assault, were dropped prior to the proceedings. However, it now appears the State’s Attorney’s Office will recharge Nottingham with the original counts, including manslaughter and assault, along with some lesser charges. As of Thursday, Nottingham had not been charged again, but defense attorney Mike Farlow said on Wednesday new charges were in the offing.
“It was a little bit of a surprise,” he said. “I learned last week the state was dropping the charges and that they intended to recharge Mr. Nottingham. As I understand it, he will be charged again with manslaughter and second-degree assault, but also reckless endangerment, affray and alcohol intoxication-endangerment. That last charge essentially is saying he was intoxicated to the point he was a danger to himself or others.”
The dropping of the original charges and the pending addition of new charges is somewhat unconventional, especially after the first trial ended with a hung jury and a second trial has been postponed once and delayed again after this week’s action. The intent of the state’s decision to drop the original charges and later refile new charges is uncertain, but Farlow has his own opinion.
“I think it’s a delaying tactic by the state,” he said. “It’s odd that they would recharge him this late in the game.”
Around 1:30 a.m. last Jan. 26, Nottingham and Post were among friends at the Harbor Inn when Nottingham dropped his cell phone on the bar floor. Post and others scooped up the dropped phone and kept it from Nottingham as he became more and more agitated. At one point, bar surveillance video shows Nottingham throwing bar stools, a move the prosecution characterized during the trial in August as rage, while the defense characterized the bar-throwing as Nottingham simply looking on the floor for his phone.
The bartender, Herbert “Buddy” Groff intervened when a pushing and shouting match ensued between Nottingham and Post, an altercation he characterized at trial in August as horseplay between two longtime friends, and instructed Post to go out the front door and Nottingham to remain behind for a few minutes in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
Post did go out the front door and lingered around, while Nottingham remained inside. About five minutes later, when it appeared the tensions had cooled, Nottingham went out the front door and ultimately swatted Post in the head with his left hand, causing Post to fall to the sidewalk and strike his head. The force of the fall caused a fracture of Post’s skull and he suffered a subdural hematoma that ultimately claimed his life on the icy, snow-covered sidewalk in front of the bar.
The Harbor Inn’s 16 high-tech video cameras inside and outside of the establishment captured the entire episode and there was little doubt after viewing the sequence pieced together chronologically by the OCPD forensic team of the events that led to Post’s death. What was at issue for the jury was the intent and whether or not it fit comfortably into the definition of manslaughter. After hearing testimony all day in August and deliberating for hours, the jury could not reach a decision and a new trial was scheduled.
Farlow said this week with new charges pending, including the lesser counts, he would be prepared to defend Nottingham again.
“I’ve said all along it’s just a tragic situation,” he said. “Mike Post is not coming back to his family and that is just a tragedy, but there was never any intent there. This was a case of two friends horsing around and it had a terribly bad outcome. The evidence is the evidence. The video is what it is. It paints a very real picture of what happened.”