Some 18 months after the Wicomico State’s Attorney created a special investigative unit to review cases that may have been impacted by a theft scandal in the Salisbury Police Department’s Evidence Room, a case that brought conviction has been vacated.
At the request of State’s Attorney Jamie L. Dykes, a county Circuit Court judge vacated the convictions of Aaron Jesse Carey, 35, formerly of Salisbury. In a 2013 jury trial, Carey was convicted of illegal possession of a regulated firearm, transporting a handgun and resisting arrest. He was sentenced to 28 eight years in state prison.
Carey’s case was reviewed by the newly established Prosecution Integrity Unit, which found that a prosecutor failed to disclose information that might have impeached the credibility of a witness.
According to Patrick M. Gilbert, Chief of the Prosecution Integrity Unit, the nondisclosure of that information had a reasonable probability of affecting the outcome of Carey’s 2013 trial.
“This information should have been disclosed to Mr. Carey, but was not,” Gilbert said. “As prosecutors, we have a duty to fix that.”
The case stems from a February 2013 incident in which Salisbury Police responded to a call of a man brandishing a handgun at the now-closed Shay’s Pub on Columbia Road in Salisbury. While responding, police stopped a car believed to be involved in the incident. Carey, who was a backseat passenger, fled the vehicle, but the gun was found on the floorboard. He was later apprehended.
In an interview Monday, Dykes said her office had intended to retry Carey, and at his retrial would have supplemented the evidence presented at his 2013 trial with testimony not originally presented.
Dykes said that after the conviction was vacated, however, Carey accepted a plea offer with terms similar to an offer made prior to his 2013 trial: Carey pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a regulated firearm and attempting to flee and elude law enforcement.
In the bargain, he was ordered to serve nine years, but has already served eight years and eight month, and will be placed on supervised probation for three years.
The county prosecutor involved in Carey’s case has since left the State’s Attorney’s Office, Dykes said.
She and Gilbert also maintain complete confidence that Carey was guilty of the charges filed against him in 2013.
“Our position has always been that we got the right guy,” said Gilbert, “but we got him the wrong way.”
Dykes also said that no cases directly related to the Evidence Room thefts have been revealed.
In 2019, an auditor discovered that a Salisbury Police employee had improperly removed cash amounting to more than $260,000, dating as far back as 1982.
The money, confiscated during criminal investigations, either should have been returned to defendants or placed in a police seizures account for department purchases.
That finding led to Dykes’ review of cases within her own office.
“Accountability to the highest standards of ethics and integrity serve as a principal check on the incredible power that prosecutors wield,” Dykes said in a statement. “My office is committed to ensuring that every defendant is afforded a fair trial and to remedying instances in which this solemn obligation has not been met.”
Dykes said the Prosecution Integrity Unit will continue reviewing past cases with a goal of restoring public confidence. When the unit was formed, Dykes estimated that dozens of old cases could be subject to new questions.