Trappe Police Chief George Ball Entered Guilty Plea to Covering Up Crimes after State Police Raid on Safe in Police Station Yielded Stolen Gun
Ball alleged to be hiding evidence to protect his mistress
NEWS AND COMMENTARY
UPDATE: George Ball entered a guilty plea on Oct. 20, 2017, to one count of misconduct in office, received probation as part of plea deal. 120 hours of community service…
GEORGE N. BALL, FORMER POLICE CHIEF FOR TRAPPE, MARYLAND, PLEADS GUILTY TO MISCONDUCT IN OFFICE
State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt announced Oct. 20, 2017, that George N. Ball, former Police Chief for Trappe, Maryland, pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Talbot County to one count of misconduct in office. The Honorable Paul M. Bowman sentenced Ball to a two-year sentence, all of which was suspended and placed him on two years of supervised probation. He also ordered Ball to perform 150 hours of community service.
From a statement of facts presented during the plea, the court learned that former Chief Ball deliberately mishandled two criminal matters: one involving a theft of jewelry and one involving the recovery of a handgun that was reported stolen, for the benefit of a personal acquaintance. (See statement of facts.)
STATEMENT OF FACTS IN SUPPORT OF GUILTY PLEA
George Ball was sworn in as Chief of Police for Trappe, Maryland in November of 2006 and served in that role until he was suspended in July of 2017. He resigned in August of 2017.
The investigation by the Maryland State Police and the Office of the State Prosecutor revealed that then-Chief Ball obstructed and failed to pursue a legitimate investigation of a reported theft of jewelry by Heather Harding with whom he has had a long-term personal relationship. Ball also improperly seized and held a handgun, reportedly stolen, from the apartment of Heather Harding after she was incarcerated and further failed to properly process or report the gun as evidence or recovered property.
In September of 2015, a Trappe resident reported a theft of her jewelry to Chief Ball. Heather Harding was the suspect as she had lived with the theft victim and then pawned the jewelry at a nearby pawn shop. Soon after the theft was reported to Ball, he paid the pawn shop $516.00 to recover the items and returned them to the victim. Ball made no official report of the theft and Harding was never charged. The victim would testify that she felt pressured by Ball not to pursue criminal charges.
In June of 2016, Trappe resident Dana Gibson purchased a handgun from another citizen. Neither submitted the required paperwork through the Maryland State Police and neither underwent the required background check. Gibson was living with Heather Harding at the time of the gun purchase. Soon after, Gibson moved out but left the gun behind. When he went back to retrieve it, he claimed that Harding refused to return it which prompted him to report the matter to the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office who referred him to Chief Ball. He would testify that Ball never followed up with him on the matter. During that time frame, police computer records reveal that Ball did, however, run a stolen gun check that showed that the gun was listed as still belonging to the previous owner. On May 3, 2017, Heather Harding, who had a history of drug convictions, was incarcerated based on a burglary conviction. On that same day, Ball and Heather Harding’s mother, Ida Marvel, responded to Harding’s apartment. Marvel indicated and would testify that Ball recovered the loaded handgun stating that he was going to take it with him so that Harding “doesn’t get into any more trouble”. Ball never processed the firearm as evidence or recovered property nor did he write a report as required by Trappe police department regulations and directives and Maryland State law. The State Police executed a search warrant and recovered the gun from the Trappe Police Department on June 1, 2017.
All these events occurred in the State of Maryland.
State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt stated: “Police officers take an oath to uphold the law without partiality or prejudice. Nobody is above the law and any violation of that oath is a betrayal of the public trust and cannot be tolerated.”
The State Prosecutor thanked the Maryland State Police for their investigative work in this matter.
TRAPPE, MD. — While his wife was stashed away at a beach place in Ocean City, Trappe Police Chief George Ball was at play back at the ranch. Only, the Chief allegedly had a girlfriend who may have been in possession of some stolen items and a gun. The allegations of Chief Ball covering up crimes instead of reporting and arresting those involved has now landed him on the wrong side of the law and out of a cushy job.
The stash of the hot items was found in the official Trappe Police Station Office when it was raided by the Maryland State Police and the Talbot Sheriff’s deputies. Several days later, indictments were announced by the prosecutor in Maryland who is designated for rooting out corruption and evil-doing by elected and appointed officials. Ball was a former chief deputy in Talbot County and an unsuccessful candidate for Sheriff.
The gun stashed in the official safe in the office of Chief Ball was allegedly a stolen gun. Keeping the gun in the safe instead of reporting it to police in the jurisdiction where it was stolen was tantamount to obstruction of justice which is outlined in Count One of the Indictment.
Given the years of experience on the part of Chief Ball and the fact that he was the Town’s sole police officer, even a blind and deaf prosecutor with one leg should be able to wring a guilty verdict out of a jury. However, this is Maryland which features an Alice in Wonderland Court System where anything is possible.
Trappe has been known to be relatively free of crime except for a bank robbery several years ago. Other than that incident, the most notorious recent crime wave has allegedly been perpetrated by the Chief of Police.
The charges allege that Chief Ball deliberately mishandled two criminal matters; one involving a theft of jewelry and one involving the illegal possession of a handgun that was reported stolen, for the personal benefit of a personal acquaintance.
Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt announced on Aug. 1, 2017, that George N. Ball, Chief of Police for Trappe, Maryland, has been indicted by the Talbot County Grand Jury on two counts of misconduct in office. The charges allege that Chief Ball deliberately mishandled two criminal matters; one involving a theft of jewelry and one involving the illegal possession of a handgun that was reported stolen, for the personal benefit of a personal acquaintance.
State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt stated: “Police officers take an oath to uphold the law without prejudice or partiality. Nobody is above the law, and any violation of that oath is a betrayal of the public trust and cannot be tolerated.”
Chief Ball’s photo and reference to him have been removed from the Trappe Town website, and an announcement in place of Chief Ball’s photo states: “The Town of Trappe is currently policed by the Talbot County Sheriff’s Office and the Maryland State Police Department.”
Chief Ball, a former chief deputy of the Talbot County Sheriff’s Department, ran unsuccessfully for Talbot Sheriff in 2006 losing to Talbot County Sheriff Dallas Pope. In 2010, Chief Ball announced his support for Democratic candidate Andy Larrimore, serving as treasurer for Larrimore, according to an announcement when Larrimore filed for the post in 2009. Larrimore had been a police officer on both the Easton and Centreville Police Departments as well as the Talbot Sheriff’s Department. Larrimore lost the 2010 election to Sheriff Pope.
The first name on the list of contributors to the campaign of Maryland State Police Detective Joe Gamble running for Talbot Sheriff was that of Trappe Police Chief George Ball. Chief Ball donated $100 on March 25, 2014, in yet another effort to defeat Sheriff Dallas Pope.
Ball was hired as Chief in 2006 with a salary of $60,000 with funds provided by a developer who put up the money for the police, planning and other town functions as part of a deal to approve a large development. The development stalled but the developer of Lakeside continued to provide the funds for Chief Ball. The town annexed nearly 1,200 acres of land for the proposed project of 2,500 homes. The first stage of the large addition to the sleepy bump in the road village of Trappe was planned to be named “Castle Racket.”
With the indictment of Chief Ball, the only castle produced so far was the rented office of the Town Police for the chief. Now even the sign of Trappe Police has been removed as criminal investigators probe Ball’s alleged racketeering.
The hiring of Ball was opposed by Town Commissioner Walter Chase, a former police chief in Easton. Chase cited the lack of any competitive hiring process or advertisement of the open position.
About Heather Harding
- Heather Dawn Harding, 28, of 3879 Ocean Gateway, Trappe, Md., entered into a plea deal to criminal information charges filed by the Talbot County States Attorney for incidents which took place on Sept. 27, 2016. In a trial on May 3, 2017, in Talbot Circuit Court, Harding was found guilty of resisting arrest and first-degree burglary. Harding was sentenced to five years in prison with all but 18 months suspended, allowing her to serve the time in the Talbot Jail. Criminal information charges are often used to shield having the name of an undercover police officer involved in the public charges. The Trappe Police Department is part of the Talbot Drug Task Force. Court records show that Harding was committed to jail on May 17, 2017 and that an appeal was filed along with a request for reconsideration of the sentence in which a Judge can use any reason to modify and reduce a sentence. For drug offenders to give information on other investigations is often a reason used to modify a sentence.
- Heather Harding entered a guilty plea to a theft scheme in Talbot County Circuit Court on May 19, 2016, and five other charges were dropped by Talbot States Attorney Scott Patterson in a plea deal. THE DEAL: A sentence of three months in jail with all three months suspended.
- Talbot States Attorney Scott Patterson dropped six counts of burglary and theft which his office had filed against Harding in Circuit Court on July 16, 2016. Charges are often dropped against defendants when they cooperate with investigations against others.
The news website sbynews.com first published the information that Chief Ball was under investigation on July 8, 2017, with this report:
Trappe Police Chief George Ball has been suspended while he is being investigated by a Maryland State Police inquiry board as of June 29, according to an email response sent by Town Administrator Erin Braband.
“The investigation is ongoing at this time, and therefore the council has no further comment as this is a personnel matter,” Braband wrote in an email on Monday, July 3.
Two days later at the town’s regular legislative meeting, town council members made minimal or no comment on the matter while being quizzed by Trappe residents and others.
The GRAND JURY for the State of Maryland, sitting in Talbot County, their oath, and affirmations, charge GEORGE N. BALL, with having committed the following offenses:
… in violation and perversion of his duties as the duly sworn Chief of Police of the town of Trappe,
Misconduct in Office – Common Law
The Grand Jury of the State of Maryland, for the County of Talbot, on their oath and affirmation, present that George N. Ball, from on or about August of 2016 and through and including on or about May 23, 2017, in Talbot County, Maryland, in violation and perversion of his duties as the duly sworn Chief of Police of the town of Trappe, Maryland to uphold, enforce, and obey the laws of the State of Maryland without partiality or prejudice, did corruptly commit misconduct in office by knowingly, willfully, and intentionally, under the color of his office, improperly seizing and keeping a handgun, reportedly stolen, from the apartment of Heather Harding and further failing to properly process or report same as evidence or recovered property, for the personal benefit of a personal acquaintance, Heather Harding, in violation of the common law and against the peace, government and dignity of the State.
Misconduct in Office – Common Law
The Grand Jury of the State of Maryland, for the County of Talbot, on their oath and affirmation, present that GEORGE N. BALL, on or about September 1, 2015, in Talbot County, Maryland, in violation and perversion of his duties as the duly sworn Chief of Police of the town of Trappe, Maryland, to uphold, enforce, and obey the laws of the State of Maryland without partiality or prejudice, did corruptly commit misconduct in office by knowingly, willfully, and intentionally, under the color of his office, obstructing and failing to pursue a legitimate investigation of a reported theft, for the personal benefit of an acquaintance, Heather Harding, in violation of the common law and against the peace, government and dignity of the State.
The Robbery of Talbot Bank in Trappe in 2014
Armed Bank Robbery: From the Maryland State Police: In June 2014, CED-Easton investigated an armed bank robbery at the Talbot Bank in Trappe. The suspect entered the bank and brandished a handgun demanding U.S. currency. The teller provided $5,789 to the suspect, along with a dye pack stack of currency. Through the course of the investigation, it was discovered the suspect, along with two other accomplices, went to the Harrington Casino within a few hours of the robbery. The casino security was made aware of subjects placing red dye stained money into the machines and cashing the money out (laundering). The subjects were identified and one subject was the suspect in an armed robbery in St. Michaels, MD. A joint multi-jurisdictional operation was organized with Maryland State Apprehension Team, CED, Trappe Police Department, St. Michael’s Police Department, and Delaware State Police. The suspects were quickly apprehended without incident. One suspect, when apprehended, was in possession of a substantial amount of CDS, which was seized and charged by the Talbot County Drug Task Force. Multiple search warrants were executed and several interviews conducted. The case is currently being prosecuted in Talbot County, though there is interest to have the case prosecuted at the federal level. The three suspects are currently awaiting trial.