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Ex-courthouse deputy charged in wife’s death.


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Man faces reckless endangerment count; service weapon used in her suicide

By Danielle E. Gaines News-Post Staff | Posted 2 weeks ago

A former Frederick County courthouse deputy will return to the United States to face reckless endangerment and gun charges related to his wife’s death, a special prosecutor said Thursday.

George Elias Salibi, 50, of Briargrove Court in Frederick, was indicted Nov. 1 and a criminal warrant was issued, but the charges were sealed until Wednesday, Washington County Deputy State’s Attorney Steven Kessell said.

Kessell, who is handling the case to avoid conflicts in Frederick County, made a motion Wednesday to convert the arrest warrant to a summons to appear in court.

An arraignment scheduled for Feb. 28 — almost exactly a year after Salibi’s wife died of gunshot wounds from his Frederick County Sheriff’s Office-issued weapon — was canceled Thursday after Salibi hired a lawyer.

Salibi has been overseas in Lebanon and is expected to return to the U.S. soon, Kessell said.

Judge G. Edward Dwyer Jr. ordered Salibi to surrender his passport to the sheriff’s office and not attempt to leave the United States, according to online court records.

He is charged with reckless endangerment and two counts of leaving a loaded firearm in a location where a minor child could gain access.

The charges are misdemeanors.

First responders went to the Salibis’ home just before 3:30 a.m. Feb. 27 for the report of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to scanner communications obtained by The Frederick News-Post.

Salibi’s wife, Grace Breidy Salibi, 44, who later died at Frederick Memorial Hospital, fatally shot herself with his agency-issued firearm, according to the sheriff’s office. An autopsy report showed the cause of death was two gunshot wounds to the chest.

George Salibi was employed at the time as a non-sworn civilian courthouse deputy who had been hired by the sheriff’s office less than two years earlier, Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said in April.

After the shooting, Jenkins said his office would conduct a criminal death investigation and an internal investigation. Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Bailey said Thursday that Salibi resigned April 8.

“We opened the investigation internally, but once he resigned, that ended,” Jenkins said Thursday.

Bailey said the office would not be able to provide further comment because personnel issues are confidential.

“The criminal case speaks for itself,” Jenkins said.

The criminal investigation of Salibi was forwarded in May by Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith to the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office for further review.

The sheriff’s office did not notify the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office about the shooting as required by state law, according to the state’s attorney’s response to a Public Information Act request from The Frederick News-Post.

In response to the information request, Smith said his office became aware of the death a number of hours after the shooting through “collateral sources.”

The law does not outline any penalties for failure to make a notification.

Jenkins said in April he didn’t know why the notification wasn’t initially made.

“I can assure you that won’t happen again in the future,” he said.

An investigator from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner was notified shortly after deputies were called and went to the house.

Charges unsealed

Kessell explained Thursday the basis for the charges against Salibi.

“When the deputies arrived at the house, they recovered two handguns. The two guns were out where they could have been accessed by a minor child,” Kessell said.

The Salibis’ young son lived with them in the home.

Each of the loaded firearm charges carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine.

The reckless endangerment charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

In the week before her death, authorities were called to the home because Grace Salibi was believed to be suicidal, Kessell said. On the day of that call, George Salibi left work to go home, he said.

A charge of reckless endangerment is appropriate because Salibi left a loaded gun open in the home knowing his wife’s emotional state, Kessell said.

The Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions, the state organization that certifies police officers and police agencies, trains officers to keep their service weapons unloaded while at home, with the ammunition stored separately. Secondary security devices, such as a safe or lock, are recommended.

Salibi did not violate state regulations by carrying an agency-issued firearm without being a sworn officer if he had a valid gun permit from Maryland State Police, said Thomas C. Smith, director of policy and process review at the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions.

Maryland State Police confirmed earlier this year that Salibi had permits to carry weapons.

An autopsy report at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore showed that Grace Salibi died of two gunshot wounds, one of which pierced part of her lung.

An attorney advocating on behalf of her family welcomed the unsealed indictment Thursday.

“The family is very grateful to Steve Kessell for this very thorough investigation,” attorney Andrew V. Jezic said. However, “the family still believes (George Salibi’s) involvement was greater than the charges in the indictment.”

Richard Bricken, who is representing Salibi in the criminal matter, said his client “fully expects to come back and face the charges.”

Bricken said he could not comment on particulars before receiving all information that will be released as part of the case.

Salibi will maintain his innocence and plead not guilty to the charges, Bricken said.

“His loss is immeasurable in losing his wife, whom he loved deeply,” he said.

Charges Dropped Against Man Accused of Assaulting Girl, 8 in Prince George’s County


By Ruben CastanedaWashington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 10, 2007

Prince George’s County prosecutors yesterday dropped charges against a 35-year-old man who was accused of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl as she walked from a school bus stop to her Upper Marlboro home last fall.

The decision came after prosecutors obtained DNA test results that exonerated Andre C. King and read statements from defense witnesses who provided a solid alibi for him, said both Prince George’s State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey and Andrew V. Jezic, King’s defense attorney.

At the request of Assistant State’s Attorney Donine Gaynor, Circuit Court Judge Sherrie L. Krauser dismissed the charges of first- and second-degree rape against King.

King, who had been jailed without bond at the Prince George’s Detention Center since he was arrested shortly after the alleged attack in September, was to be released yesterday afternoon or evening, Jezic said.

Jezic said he commended Gaynor and Ivey during the brief court hearing. The alleged victim and her mother have continued to accuse King, even as evidence pointing to his innocence has mounted in recent weeks, Jezic said.

“The state’s attorney’s office in this case did everything right,” Jezic said. “We had many conversations about whether the defendant was innocent.”

Ivey said he decided that charges against King should be dropped because DNA evidence produced no connection between the defendant and the victim and because “the defense produced multiple, credible alibi witnesses.”

“We’re not only here to convict the guilty but to exonerate the innocent,” Ivey said.

DNA results from the county police lab became available about two weeks ago. Genetic material from a swab taken from the victim did not match King’s DNA, Jezic said.

Jezic and Ivey both said they believe the girl was sexually assaulted.

The incident occurred about 2:30 p.m. Sept. 28. The girl had stepped off a school bus and was walking through a neighbor’s back yard along Brimfield Drive when she was grabbed from behind by a man who threatened to kill her, then sexually assaulted her, the documents said.

The girl ran home and told her mother; police found King at his home about four blocks from where the girl said the attack occurred, Jezic said. Police brought the girl to see King, and she identified him as the attacker, according to police charging documents.

Private defense investigators located three witnesses who said King was in his back yard during the time the rape allegedly occurred. The witnesses said King was sitting in a chair from the time the school bus would have arrived until the time police arrested him, according to defense papers that were part of an unsuccessful motion to persuade a judge to grant King a bond.

Ivey said the investigation into the assault would continue.

Jezic argues cutting-edge MRI brain science in Montgomery County murder trial

By Michael Laris,

Gary Smith says he didn’t kill his roommate. Montgomery County prosecutors say otherwise.

Can brain scans show whether he’s lying?

Smith is about to go on trial in the 2006 shooting death of fellow Army Ranger Michael McQueen. He has long said that McQueen committed suicide, but now he says he has cutting-edge science to back that up.

While technicians watched his brain during an MRI, Smith answered a series of questions, including: “Did you kill Michael McQueen?”

It may sound like science fiction. But some of the nation’s leading neuroscientists, who are using the same technology to study Alzheimer’s disease and memory, say it also can show — at least in the low-stakes environment of a laboratory — when someone is being deceptive.

Many experts doubt whether the technology is ready for the real world, and judges have kept it out of the courtroom.

Over three days, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Eric M. Johnson allowed pretrial testimony about what he called the “absolutely fascinating” issues involved, from the minutiae of brain analysis to the nature of truth and lies. But he decided jurors can’t see Smith’s MRI testing.

“There have been some discoveries that deception may be able to be detected,” Johnson said, but he added that there’s no consensus that the results can be trusted. “These are brilliant people, and they don’t agree.”

Still, researchers and legal experts say they can envision a time when such brain scans are used as lie detectors. Standard polygraphs are generally not admitted in trials because some consider them deeply flawed. During his police interrogation, Smith said he would submit himself to a polygraph, but Johnson said such results would not be allowed as evidence.

Smith’s attorney, Andrew V. Jezic, argued in court that the MRI test should be allowed, and neuroscientists sparred over the credibility and usefulness in a jury trial.

Prosecutors hate the idea, saying that replacing living, breathing suspects with a stack of colorful brain images would upend the legal system. “The jury’s the decider of credibility,” said John Maloney, Montgomery deputy state’s attorney, who argued that Smith’s brain scans are worthless.

But Smith, who is facing his second murder trial in the case after an appeals court threw out an earlier conviction, says it’s an important tool to back up his account. “After fighting for everybody else’s freedom . . . to be put in prison for a crime I did not commit was extremely frustrating,” Smith said. “It may not be perfect, but it’s definitely something reliable and should be considered.”

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Smith and McQueen, who had served together in Afghanistan and shared a Gaithersburg apartment, hung out the night of Sept. 25, 2006, drinking beer and smoking marijuana, court papers say. They went to a VFW and played pool. Just before 1 a.m., Smith called 911. “Oh my God, help me,” he sobbed, telling the dispatcher that he had found McQueen dead. “I dropped him off at the house, and I came back, and he had a big hole in his head.”

When officers arrived, they found Smith, with blood on his hand, face and clothes, vomiting outside the apartment, court papers say. McQueen’s body was in a metal chair in front of a flickering television. They didn’t find a gun.

In evidence that is key to the prosecution’s case, Smith would later give detectives three accounts of what happened, court papers say.

The first time, Smith said he’d been out and returned to find McQueen dead with no gun in the house. Pointing to possible suspects, he said McQueen had argued with some Hispanic men in the past. In version two, Smith returned to find McQueen dead with a gun in his hand. In version three, Smith was in the apartment and McQueen shot himself.

Smith said McQueen used Smith’s gun, and he panicked. He removed the bullets and tossed them and the gun in a nearby lake.

Outside of crimes caught on video or solved with DNA, few pieces of evidence offer clear proof of guilt. Eyewitnesses can make mistakes, and problems have been found in hair and fiber analysis and arson investigations. Maryland judges tell jurors to use their common sense and life experiences to decide whether witnesses are being truthful.

Frank Haist, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego, analyzed Smith’s brain scans. He was hired as a consultant in Smith’s case for No Lie MRI, a firm commercializing the technology. In his own research, Haist has used brain MRIs to study how people of different ages and races and those with autism process faces.

If Smith chooses to testify at trial, Haist said, “he would be asked and the jury would like to know: ‘Did he shoot Michael McQueen?’ Obviously, his answer would be no.” Jurors would see whether Smith was sweating or not, Haist said. They would see whether he appeared nervous. And they would make judgments.

Rockville man savoring freedom after nine months in jail despite videotaped false confession

Man found not guilty following what lawyers say was false confession

by Danielle E. Gaines, Staff Writer Publised on

Helen Vasquez told a white lie as her 4-year-old son peered through the plate glass at the Montgomery County Detention Center in March. On the other side of the partition was her husband, Marvin Cuque.

“Daddy’s dirty from fixing all the buses, so he has to stay back there,” she told their son. Cuque, a safety auditor at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, went along with the ruse.

Cuque’s wife visited her husband under the cover of that same lie for 40 minutes at a time, once per week, for the next nine months.

Cuque spent exactly 271 days behind bars last year — an ordeal he describes as “sort of like hell.”

He was released Nov. 30 — just in time for the holidays — after a jury concluded he was not guilty of the charges against him.

“It was a lot of pain. So much pain,” Cuque said later. “I had never been arrested before.”

The 35-year-old Guatemala native was arrested by Montgomery County Police on Sept. 17, 2010, and charged with second-degree sex offense, child molestation and abuse of a child by a custodian — crimes that could carry a prison sentence of more than 35 years. He was released from jail the same day, but later detained without bail, starting March 4, after prosecutors said his connection with Guatemala posed a flight risk.

According to police and prosecutors, the crimes Cuque was charged with occurred in 1999 or 2000 when he and a former girlfriend boarded with a woman and her three children at the White Oak Towers complex on Old Columbia Pike in White Oak.

During an interrogation with two police detectives in Rockville on Sept. 14, Cuque was flustered. He didn’t learn to speak English until he moved to Silver Spring in 1984 at the age of 6. In a psychological evaluation after his arrest, he said he still has difficulty “finding the right words in English.”

Toward the beginning of the one-hour-and-15-minute interrogation, when one detective asked Cuque if she was “right in thinking that, you know, you guys didn’t have full blown sex?” Cuque responded: “Not even touching.”

He went on to deny the allegations nine more times before answering “Yes,” when a detective asked if he felt bad about what had happened. When the detective asked him whether the girl had put her mouth on his penis, Cuque said “Probably, yeah, I guess so.”

Cuque explains the admission by a lifelong nervousness around police and a feeling that they were out to get him during the interrogation. During the psychological evaluation after his arrest, Cuque said he thought, “Even though I didn’t do it, if I admit to touching, it wouldn’t be a big deal and they will stop.”

Days later, he was arrested and charged. After meeting with an attorney and again asserting that he was innocent, Cuque entered an Alford plea, a plea in which a defendant refuses to accept guilt, but acknowledges the prosecution likely has enough evidence for a conviction.

Unlikely assistance

After a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge accepted the Alford plea in April and days before Cuque was scheduled to be sentenced for second-degree sex offense, the ex-girlfriend who lived with him stepped in. Her mother hired Wheaton-based attorneys Andrew V. Jezic and David H. Moyse to defend Cuque.

“It wasn’t a decision we jumped on,” Moyse explained later. “We had the video [of the interrogation], met with Marvin several times, met with experts. The bottom line was, we believed him when we looked at him eye to eye. False confessions do happen.”

The attorneys quickly came to think that several factors led to a false confession: Cuque’s stunted education, non-confrontational demeanor and tendency to please others — coupled with interrogation techniques that minimized the crime he was accused of and maximized the case against him with the threat that officers would “think the worst” if he didn’t confess.

Cuque said after police told him the girl had passed a lie detector test, he felt as though police would not believe he was innocent. He believed lie detector tests were 99 percent accurate because of their use on daytime talk shows, he said.

“In my opinion, given the totality of the circumstances, I feel that Mr. Cuque was at risk to make a false confession,” Dr. Michael J O’Connell, a forensic psychologist from Ellicott City, wrote in an evaluation of Cuque.

At trial, Jezic was barred from calling O’Connell as an expert witness on false confessions because Judge Robert A. Greenberg thought O’Connell would tell the jury information they could conclude through other testimony.

In the final hours of a five-day trial that stretched through the Thanksgiving holiday, Cuque’s attorneys presented the jury with a parade of witnesses who testified to his character. Among them was his boss at WMATA.

“To have 10, 12 people available as character witnesses, that is difficult,” Jezic said. “Because some character witnesses, when they know the charges, will back off.”

Helen Vasquez took the stand in defense of her husband as well.

“I was always supportive. I never doubted him,” Helen said. “I never doubted his honesty and his innocence. I knew I had to be brave and tell [the jury] who my husband was and that I knew the man I married.”

After six hours of deliberation, during which the jurors watched the interrogation video twice, they emerged with a verdict: Not guilty. On all counts.

“It was like a thunderbolt,” Jezic said.

After incarceration

Maryland jurors are anonymous in court and identified only by number. Although jurors could not be reached after the verdict, Jezic said he spoke with several of them.

“The jurors hung around and talked with us and it came down to not having much faith in the confession,” Jezic said.

The prosecutor, Deborah W. Feinstein, did not return a call for comment about the verdict. Montgomery County Police spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer McNeal referred all questions about the crime to the State’s Attorney’s Office because she said it was an open case.

Cuque finds it hard to describe the emotions he felt as the verdict was read. The hours after were a blur as well.

“The first thing I saw was my wife and my son running toward me. It was very beautiful,” he said.

They walked together to California Tortilla, where Cuque ordered a soda and savored the moment.

“I couldn’t believe I was walking out of the court building and into freedom. The fresh air was the main thing,” Cuque said.

Cuque’s trials won’t soon be finished. His court file remains open to inspection, because it could hurt his bid for U.S. citizenship to have the records expunged. While Cuque has a green card, the ambiguous paper trail left by an expungement could create complications when he applies for citizenship, Jezic said.

Despite everything, Cuque said he has not lost faith in the legal system.

“In the end, the jurors did what our system allows,” he said.

While he was imprisoned, the life Cuque had worked so hard for came crashing down around his wife. Two of the family’s cars were repossessed, mortgage payments went unpaid. Helen went back to work at a former job with Chipotle, but couldn’t keep up with the financial demands.

For Christmas this year, the family had to wait until payday Dec. 23 to buy gifts and hurriedly wrap them on Christmas Eve, hours before the family’s celebration. Each year, at midnight on Christmas morning, before opening their gifts, the family gathers to pray and call extended family in Guatemala.

“Every time I talk to my mother, she cries,” Cuque said.

For Jezic’s part, he was pleased to be able to reunite a family for the holidays.

“Daddy was the biggest gift,” Jezic said.




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