Cops And Courts – February 16, 2018

Cops And Courts – February 16, 2018

One Arrested After North-End Fights

OCEAN CITY — A Millsboro man was arrested and charged with affray and disorderly conduct last weekend after being identified as one of the main combatants in a near riot in the parking lot of an uptown Ocean City hotel.

Around 2 a.m. last Sunday, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officers were dispatched to the Fenwick Inn parking lot at 138th Street for a report of several hundred disorderly individuals with numerous fights occurring. When OCPD officers arrived, roughly 100 individuals were observed in different areas of the parking lot with several verbal arguments taking place but no active fighting.

The OCPD had 16 officers on the scene and were being assisted by Maryland State Police troopers. While one OCPD officer was attempting to clear the south end of the parking lot, he observed a group of eight to 10 people in a heated argument. As the officer approached the group, he observed a suspect, later identified as Keith West, 32, of Millsboro, punching another unidentified man repeatedly with a closed fist.

According to police reports, a crowd had gathered around West and the other man and several people were attempting to pull them apart. The fight was attracting the attention of other groups in the vicinity and was inciting the crowd further. The OCPD officer approached the fray and told the combatants to stop fighting. When West did not comply and continued punching the other man, the OCPD officer deployed his departmentally-issued FN303 less lethal launcher. The FN303 is an air-compression gun that fires non-lethal rounds and is commonly used by law enforcement for crowd control or dispersing riots.

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West was struck once in the stomach with the projectile from the FN303, but did not stop fighting the other man. The OCPD officer then fired the FN303 two more times, striking West in the lower back. West eventually complied and was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct and affray.

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Child Sex Abuse Conviction

SNOW HILL — A Pocomoke man last week was found guilty of 10 counts of sexual abuse of a minor for incidents reported over a six-year period from 2009 to 2015.

Last Wednesday, Worcester County Circuit Court Judge Richard Bloxom found Joshua Thomas Tauber, 24, guilty of 10 separate counts relating to the sexual abuse of three minor children. After a day-long trial, Bloxom returned guilty verdicts for the incidents that occurred between 2009 and 2015. Interim Worcester County State’s Attorney William McDermott praised the detective who investigated the case and the prosecutor for their diligence in prosecuting the case.

“Detective Vicki Martin of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy State’s Attorney Diane Karsnitz deserve our sincere appreciation for holding this man accountable for his abhorrent and vile behavior,” he said. “Preying on children has no place in Worcester County and Detective Martin and DSA Karnitz and the Child Advocacy Center sent that message loud and clear.”

Tauber’s bond was revoked and he will be held at the Worcester County Jail pending a pre-sentence investigation. A sentencing date has not yet been determined.

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Convicted Rapist, Cameraman Sentenced

SNOW HILL — A Delaware man, found guilty of rape in December for his role in an uptown Ocean City sexual assault was sentenced to 10 years with all but 18 months suspended last week, while another Delaware man who recorded the incident was sentenced to 90 days.

Around 4 a.m. last April 13, an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer on patrol in the 141st Street area was approached by a female who needed help. The victim told police she had just woken up in a house naked and did not know where she was. The victim told police she did not remember everything that had happened throughout the night and that she believed she had been raped.

The victim told police she had gone to a downtown bar with a friend and that they had met up with two men she knew including Isaac Lopez, 21, of Georgetown. The victim told police the group stayed at the bar until closing time and then shared a cab to a residence on 12th Street.

Around 2:50 a.m., the group decided to check out another party uptown at 141st Street and took a cab to the location. The victim told police Lopez and the other man, later identified as Taylor Bell, 24, of Wyoming, Del., had to wake her up in the cab when they arrived at 141st Street and they went into the residence where a supposed party was going on, but there was only one individual there sleeping on a couch.

The victim told police with nothing else going on, she went into a bedroom across the hall and laid down on the bed fully clothed and went to sleep. The victim told police she awoke a short time later with someone raping her. As she became more aware of her surroundings, the victim told police she observed one of the men she came to the residence with away from the bed filming it with a cell phone.

The victim told police she pushed the person off her, whom she believed was Lopez because he was on the bed when she stood up and there was no one else in the room except Bell, the cameraman. The victim said she was naked below the waist, but found her clothes and quickly got dressed and left, which is when she flagged down the OCPD officer.

OCPD detectives located Lopez and Bell and brought them in for questioning. Both Lopez and Bell told police Lopez had consensual sex with the victim. Upon further questioning, Bell admitted he had video-recorded some of the sexual contact between Lopez and the victim and that he used his cell phone to record the footage.

After consent was given to search the phone, OCPD detectives located two videos of Lopez allegedly having intercourse with the apparently unconscious victim. According to police reports, there was audio in the videos that include at least one person laughing.

When questioned further, Lopez said he had been “making out” with the victim and that she had removed her own pants. According to police reports, Lopez admitted to having sexual intercourse with the victim after she fell asleep. He also admitted Bell had used his phone to record the sex acts.

When questioned again, the victim’s account was different than Lopez’s account. She told police she had never made out with Lopez and never consented to have sexual intercourse with him. She reiterated she awoke to the light of the cell phone that was filming the act.

In December, Lopez pleaded guilty to second-degree rape, a second- and third-degree sex offense and second-degree assault and a pre-sentence investigation was ordered. Last week, Lopez was sentenced to 10 years with all but 18 months suspended. He was also placed on probation for three years upon his release and will be required to register as a Tier III sex offender. Meanwhile, Bell pleaded guilty in December to second-degree assault. Back in court last week, he was sentenced to 545 days in jail with all but 90 days suspended.

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Suspect Identified By Dog Tags Found Guilty

SNOW HILL — A Westminster man, arrested last June for entering a downtown Ocean City residence and attacking the property owner, only to have a military dog tag left behind at the scene help identify him as the assailant, was found guilty this week and now awaits his fate pending a pre-sentence investigation.

Around 11:15 p.m. last June 22, an Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer responded to a residence on 8th Street for a reported burglary and theft that had already occurred. The OCPD officer met with the victim, who had blood on his face and hands. The victim provided a description of his attacker and a neighbor who witnessed the end of the incident provided a similar description. The suspect was described as a white male wearing a gray shirt and black shorts. The witness told police he suspect had a prosthetic leg.

The victim told police he was walking from his bedroom to the bathroom when he observed the suspect, later identified as Dominic Balassone, 27, of Westminster, walking through his living room. The victim told police Balassone was carrying his personal property, including a model ship, his grandfather’s pocket watch and a geode rock.

When the victim called out to Balassone and asked what he was doing in his home, Balassone dropped the stolen items to the floor and smashed the model ship, according to police reports. The victim told police Balassone then advanced toward him and began punching him. The victim raised his arms to defend himself from the attack and was able to push Balassone through the front door and out onto the porch, according to police reports.

The victim said at that point, Balassone bit down on the victim’s index finger. Balassone then stumbled down the steps from the second-floor unit and fled on foot. According to police reports, the victim had a bite wound on his index finger about a half an inch wide. The victim told police he was concerned about an infectious disease because Balassone had bitten him. The victim was treated at the scene by Ocean City EMS and did not require transport to the hospital.

While other OCPD detectives were processing the crime scene for evidence, including taking pictures inside the victim’s residence, they found a military dog tag that read “D.G. Balassone.” About an hour later, another OCPD officer located Balassone walking up St. Louis Avenue near 15th Street. The witness who had provided a description of Balassone to police, was brought to the 15th Street area and positively identified Balassone as the suspect who had attacked his neighbor and fled the scene on foot. The victim also positively identified Balassone as his attacker. Based on the evidence, Balassone was arrested and charged with first-degree assault and first-degree burglary.

On Monday, Balassone entered Alford pleas to third-degree burglary and second-degree assault. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the state has enough evidence to prosecute the case. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered.