Ornstein v. State

Decision Date04 December 2020
Docket NumberNo. 0278,0278
CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland

Circuit Court for Cecil County

Case No. C-07-CR-17-001143


Kehoe, Gould, Eyler, Deborah S. (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Opinion by Gould, J.

*This is an unreported opinion, and it may not be cited in any paper, brief, motion, or other document filed in this Court or any other Maryland Court as either precedent within the rule of stare decisis or as persuasive authority. Md. Rule 1-104.

Appellant Aaron Ornstein committed robbery in both Maryland and Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania obtained physical custody over Mr. Ornstein first, and then convicted and sentenced him to a prison term. Over one year later, pursuant to the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (the "IAD"), Maryland took temporary custody over Mr. Ornstein for trial on the Maryland charges. A Maryland jury convicted him. Mr. Ornstein now argues that the circuit court should have dismissed his charges because he was not tried within the time constraints imposed by the IAD and, in addition, his constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. We disagree and affirm.


On May 10, 2017, the Howard Bank Branch 10 in Rising Sun, Maryland was robbed by two individuals (the "Maryland robbery"). On May 12, Detective Jonathan Wight, who was investigating the robbery, learned that the Southern Regional Police Department in Pennsylvania held two suspects for the robbery of a bank in Pennsylvania (the "Pennsylvania robbery"). The two suspects were Mr. Ornstein and his wife, Andrea Martin.

Detective Wight traveled to Pennsylvania to meet with his counterpart detective, search the suspects' car, and interview the suspects. During her interview, Ms. Martin told Detective Wight that she had stayed in the car while Mr. Ornstein committed the Maryland robbery.

As a result of his investigation, Detective Wight filed an Application for Statement of Charges to charge Mr. Ornstein with armed robbery, robbery, first-degree assault, second-degree assault, theft of more than $1,000 and less than $10,000, and relatedcharges. Mr. Ornstein was indicted by a Maryland grand jury, and an arrest warrant was issued on July 24, 2017.

On September 1, 2017, Mr. Ornstein signed a Waiver of Extradition in Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued an Order of Extradition that required Mr. Ornstein to be extradited to the State of Maryland "[a]fter disposition of pending charges and release from all commitments in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

On December 6, 2017, Mr. Ornstein pleaded guilty to the Pennsylvania robbery and was sentenced to a prison term of two to four years.

Over one year later, on January 31, 2019, Mr. Ornstein sent what he called a "Notice of Availability" (the "Notice" or the "January 31 Notice") to the Clerk of the Court for Cecil County and to the State's Attorney for Cecil County.1 The State's Attorney responded on February 7, 2019 with a letter and a Form V - "Request for Temporary Custody," along with copies of the indictment and warrant.

On March 15, 2019, officials from the Pennsylvania prison met with Mr. Ornstein and provided him with documents to sign, including (1) Form I - "NOTICE OF UNTRIED INDICTMENT, INFORMATION OR COMPLAINT AND OF RIGHT TO REQUEST DISPOSITION"; (2) Form II - "INMATE'S NOTICE OF PLACE OF IMPRISONMENT AND REQUEST FOR DISPOSITION OF INDICTMENTS, INFORMATIONS ORCOMPLAINTS"; (3) Form III -"CERTIFICATE OF INMATE STATUS"; and (4) Form IV - "OFFER TO DELIVER TEMPORARY CUSTODY." Mr. Ornstein completed and signed all forms.

On May 15, 2019, he was transferred to Maryland for trial. His trial was originally set for August 4 and 5, 2019, but was postponed at the State's request to September 4 and 5, 2019. On August 7, 2019, Mr. Ornstein filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the State failed to bring the charges against him to trial within the time period required under the IAD. Mr. Ornstein contended that the State was required to try him within 180 days of January 31, 2019, the date of his Notice. The State opposed the motion, arguing that the Notice was "not a proper or formal Request for Disposition" under the IAD, and, therefore, it did not trigger any timetable under the IAD.

A hearing was held on August 12, 2019. In addition to his arguments based on the IAD, Mr. Ornstein argued that the charges should be dismissed because his constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. The circuit court denied the motion, stating:

[Mr. Ornstein's counsel] had filed a motion to dismiss. I heard testimony from Mr. Ornstein. He indicated that he was incarcerated in the state of Pennsylvania, that he was sentenced on December 6th, 2017. He indicated that he was then transferred to a facility, Camp Hill in Pennsylvania, where he was then later - I guess that's the diagnostic center. It was determined that he would be sent to Somerset, and that's where he went.
He indicates in his testimony that he had conversations with individuals at that facility who indicated they could not assist him with resolving his outstanding charges in Maryland.
As a result, he sent notice to the State of Maryland, which has been offered into evidence, January 31st, 2019. Then on February 6th, 2019, the State's Attorney's Office forwarded documents to him. And then on March 15th, 2019, he signed documents. As such, custody of his person wasprovided to the State of Maryland. He was located in the State of Maryland in May of 2019.
The Court has had an opportunity to consider the statute and the caselaw presented by [Mr. Ornstein's attorney]. The Court finds that notice was given on January 31. The State properly responded. And Mr. Ornstein indicated - or signed appropriate documents on March 15. That was the start date. His trial date is currently scheduled for September 4 and 5. The Court finds that it's within his speedy trial right. The Court denies the motion.

On September 4, 2019, Mr. Ornstein entered an Alford plea as to the robbery charge and the State nolle prossed the remaining charges. He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

This timely appeal followed.


Mr. Ornstein presents two questions on appeal:

1. Did the trial court err in denying his motion to dismiss for failure to comply with the IAD?
2. Did the trial court err in denying his motion to dismiss for failure to comply with his constitutional speedy trial rights?

We answer both questions in the negative and affirm.


A trial court's interpretation of a statute, such as the IAD, is considered a question of law that we review de novo. Harrison-Solomon v. State, 442 Md. 254, 265 (2015); Pitts v. State, 205 Md. App. 477, 586 (2012). When we review a court's decision denying a motion for a speedy trial, "we make our own independent constitutional analysis." Vaise v. State, 246 Md. App. 188, 216 (2020) (quoting Glover v. State, 368 Md. 211, 220 (2002))."We perform a de novo constitutional appraisal in light of the particular facts of the case at hand; in so doing, we accept a lower court's findings of facts unless clearly erroneous." Id. (quoting Glover, 368 Md. at 221).


We recently described the history and framework of the IAD, so rather than reinvent the wheel, we shall quote from our opinion at length:

A "detainer" is "a notification filed with the institution in which a prisoner is serving a sentence, advising that he is wanted to face pending criminal charges in another jurisdiction." State v. Pair, 416 Md. 157, 161 n.2, 5 A.3d 1090 (2010) (citing Stone v. State, 344 Md. 97, 108, 685 A.2d 441 (1996)). Prior to the IAD, unresolved detainers were known to complicate the prisoner's ability to fully participate in the rehabilitative, educational, and vocational services and programs offered by the incarcerating institution. State v. Jefferson, 319 Md. 674, 679-80, 574 A.2d 918 (1990) (citing Carchman v. Nash, 473 U.S. 716, 730, 105 S.Ct. 3401, 87 L.Ed.2d 516 (1985)). Such problems were described by the Court of Appeals in Jefferson:
[T]he inmate is (1) deprived of an opportunity to obtain a sentence to run concurrently with the sentence being served at the time the detainer is filed; (2) classified as a maximum or close custody risk; (3) ineligible for initial assignments to less than maximum security prisons (i.e., honor farms or forestry camp work); (4) ineligible for trustee status; (5) not allowed to live in preferred living quarters such as dormitories; (6) ineligible for study-release programs or work-release programs; (7) ineligible to be transferred to preferred medium or minimum custody institutions within the correctional system, which includes the removal of any possibility of transfer to an institution more appropriate for youthful offenders; (8) not entitled to preferred prison jobs which carry higher wages and entitle [him] to additional good time credits against [his] sentence; (9) inhibited by the denial of possibility of parole or any commutation of his sentence; (10) caused anxiety and thus hindered in the overall rehabilitation processsince he cannot take maximum advantage of his institutional opportunities.
In 1956, the Council of State Governments drafted what would become the IAD to address such problems. Pair, 416 Md. at 160, 5 A.3d 1090. The IAD took the form of a congressionally-sanctioned compact between its member states.[]Id. Maryland adopted the IAD in 1965, and it has been adopted by forty-eight states, the Federal Government, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. Id. Under the IAD, the states agreed to limit their authority over certain prisoners in exchange for the right to quickly dispose of untried indictments of defendants serving time in other states. See Thomas R. Clark, The Effect of Violations of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers on Subject Matter Jurisdiction, 54 Fordham L. Rev. 1209, 1218 n.46 (1986) ("The IAD is a limitation

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