ANNAPOLIS — An appeal by Princess Anne’s former town manager Deborah Hrusko — convicted last year of felony theft and theft scheme over $100,000 — was denied by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
In an unreported opinion the three-judge panel affirmed the judgment of Somerset County Circuit Court based on the facts at hand but noted that Ms. Hrusko during post-conviction proceedings has the opportunity to better define the alleged flaws at the trial court level.
A jury in May 2021 determined that Hrusko diverted nearly $100,750 in cash for personal use while she was town manager. Four months later she was sentenced to serve two years of a 10-year sentence but was released from prison several months ago to start five years of supervised probation and 200 hours of community service.
On appeal Hrusko contended that during the jury selection process the court “erroneously omitted certain voir dire questions submitted before trial and that defense counsel’s failure to object to this omission constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.”
The appellate court judges reviewed the information at hand and governing case law. They noted that “Ms. Hrusko didn’t raise an ineffective assistance of counsel claim in the circuit court, and nothing in this record suggests defense counsel’s rationale for declining to object during voir dire.
“Perhaps because of this silence, Ms. Hrusko asserts that defense counsel [Arch McFadden] failed to object because he was ignorant of the law, and thus no further factfinding is required to address the claim. But we cannot assume without evidence that defense counsel here failed to object because he was unaware of controlling case law.”
The state suggested “it’s possible” the voir dire issue was sidestepped because to press it could imply to the potential jurors that the state had a strong case, or because of the defense counsel’s perception of the jurors. Either way, the appellate court noted “we would have to make conjectures” and would not second guess.
“Post-conviction proceedings will present Ms. Hrusko the opportunity to develop the record to support her assertion that defense counsel failed to object due to ignorance of the law,” the decision states.
Special Appeals Court Judge Douglas R.M. Nazarian on behalf of Judges Stephen Kehoe and James Eyler wrote the unreported opinion which is not to be considered precedent in any other case. They ordered the appellant to pay court costs. The decision was filed July 26.
At the trial court no restitution was ordered because the bonding company reimbursed the town. Senior Judge Raymond E. Beck, however, suggested that the Hanover Insurance Group may want to file a civil claim against Hrusko for its losses.