Molestor Johnny Kroll Gets Lucky

In March of 1980, John Kroll kidnapped a 12 year old Maryland girl, forced her into the trunk of his car, drove her to Pennsylvania, sexually assaulted her using, among other things, a sharpened wooden implement, then brought her back and dropped her off near her home. She required emergency surgery to repair the damage he inflicted on her.

Kroll was arrested the next day and confessed, in detail. This was not his first brush with the law, or with sexual assault. He had earlier raped a 13 year old girl and beaten her nearly to death, a crime for which he served eight years, and had committed other assaults on teenage girls as well.

He pled guilty in a Maryland court to kidnapping and sexual assault, and was sentenced to fifteen years for the kidnapping, and to natural life for the brutal sexual assault.

Anyone spotted the problem yet?

A Maryland court has no business sentencing anyone for an assault in Pennsylvania.

A guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional defects… but the defect in this case is jurisdictional. It’s the basic element of criminal law: jurisdiction of the court to exercise authority over the accused.

Now, all the statues of limitations have expired - both federal and state. Kroll has now brought to the court’s attention the fact that, despite testimony from his victim and his own confession making crystal clear that they crossed into Pennsylvania (the girl’s story included seeing a “Welcome to Maryland” sign as he drove her back home) somehow the sentencing judge and the state’s attorney did not twig to the jurisdictional problem.

Mr. Kroll is due to be released, having been imprisoned illegally for ten years.

The current Maryland State’s Attorney is trying desperately to keep Kroll in jail, arguing that Kroll has violated the terms of his plea agreement by questioning the jurisdiction, but that’s a ridiculous argument and it’s not going to fly.

Or should it? Should a mistake on the part of the state allow this guy to skate on the balance of his sentence? Or is 25 years enough?

Dunno. Was this jurisdictional problem newly-discovered (for example, did Mr. Kroll get a new attorney)?

It seems to me that Maryland should have a opportunity to show a court that Mr. Kroll or his attorney had an affirmative duty to disclose the problems with the original plea at some point prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations on the second crime and that the failure to do so was an intentional and fraudulent effort to frustrate the State’s (or Pennsylvania’s) legitimate aims. I would agree that the standard the state must meet to establish this should be a high one, but not an insurmountable one.

As an aside, one wonders how the heck this happened. How did Pennsylvania extradite Kroll to Maryland without lodging charges for the crimes which happened on its soil? As Mr. Kroll crossed state lines, how did he avoid federal charges for kidnapping and/or violation of the Mann act? So many jurisdictions had a look at this thing that it seems highly unusual for an error of that magnitude to have happened in the first place.

It definitely should. If the courts could ignore the “technicalities” when they feel like it, we wouldn’t have any guarantee of a fair trial.

I think so, anyway. 25 years is a whole generation, and besides, in my opinion, the worst crime is murder, and in almost any case, in my opinion, the maximum sentence should be reserved to murder cases. And since i’m opposed to the death penalty, the max sentence would be life.

He did. The original defense attorney is dead. Last year, Kroll hired a new attorney to appeal his conviction and sentence.

Hard to impose that duty on the client, and, as I say, the lawyer’s dead.

Even if it was, case law is very clear that jurisdictional defebcts can never be waived and never expire. You cannot consent to let Maryland imprison you for a crime that didn’t happen in Maryland, because Maryland has no power to hear the case.

Pennsylvania authorities were never involved. Kroll kidnapped the girl. drove into Pennsylvania, commited the assualt, and drove back into Maryland. He was arrested the next day by maryland police. He avoided possible federal charges by pleading to the kidnapping as a state crime; state law typically forbids a dual prosecution. I suppose the feds coiuld have insisted on their pound of flesh at the time, but they didn’t… and now they can’t.

But the error is huge. The FIRST ELEMENT of any crime is where it happened; that’s usually a pro-forma event, but there must be something on the record that shows the court has jurisdiction. In this case, the record clearly mentioned the drive into Pennsylvania, and somehow, the defense attorney, prosecuting attorney, and judge all just zoned out.

Oops – missed the drive back. Sorry about that.

Mr. Kroll should go free, after a diligent (but presumably unsuccessful) search on the part of federal and Maryland officials to try to find a legal way around the statute of limitations.

Also, I’ve rethought my position on Mr. Kroll’s alleged affirmative duty to make the court aware of its error. He should not have one. If the original attorney were still with us and he were the one who “discovered” the error, I would support a Bar Association or even criminal investigation to determine whether he intended to frustrate the court’s intent. But Mr. Kroll, who is not a officer of the court, should not have the same duty his attorney does. That’s all moot of course, given the facts of the case, but I wanted to stick it out there for hypothetical purposes.

Can Pennsylvania argue that Kroll tolled the statute of limitations on the Pennsylvania assault by voluntarily removing himself from the jursidiction?

Did anything happen to the guys who so totally screwed the pooch on this?

The rule of law should be followed. It is unfortunate that he must be released early, but we can’t just make up new law out of whole cloth because we want him in prison longer. The government, just like ordinary citizens, has to follow its own rules.

I gotta say the title of this thread is one of the more unfortunate and disturbing double entendre that I have seen on the SDMB.

The original judge is now a senior judge on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. He says that he was under the impression that it was a Maryland crime. He recalls the mention of the crime scene as Lake Koon and Lake Gordon, which are located in Pennsylvania, but “I thought they were mentioning the lakes as the general direction, not the specific site.” He says he’d been a Maryland circuit judge for sixteen years at that point, and obviously knew better than to sentence someone for a crime in Pennsylvania.

As mentioned, the original defense attorney is dead.

The original prosecutor is named Lawrence V. Kelly. He is alive, retired, and declines to comment.

That pisses me off.

The judge and the prosecutor fucked up badly but the law has to be followed. I’m glad the guy at least did 25 years, it’s better than nothing.

Bricker, is there any possibility that the victim could have a civil tort against the state of Maryland or against the judge and prosecutor for screwing her out of justice? (Maybe some kind of emotional or psychological damages caused by the negligence leading to the release of her attacker.

I realize this may be a long shot, I’m just asking.


Probably not.

Or was it an exclusive-or? :dubious:

Legally I’ve got no idea.

Morally, it seems as if it’d depend on whether he could’ve expected a substantively different plea-bargain in Pennsylvania.

That’s difficult to prove. I think in such a case the appropriate action would be to give him a new trial as if it were set in 1980 in a Pennsylvania courtroom. In other words, do the best thing you can do to find out whether a change of venue would have affected his freedom, by changing the venue now, but not applying the statute of limitations to it.

It seems that this error ought only to matter if it, well, matters. The error doesn’t change the crime he committed or the reasoning for which he was imprisoned.


Why can’t he still be imprisoned for 15 years on the kidnapping charge? To me a sentance for life means you are in jail from this point until you die. The 15 years would be in addition to that sentance. The way I look at is that he has been imprisoned wrongly on the rape charge but he has yet to serve his time for the kidnapping.

I don’t know if that flies under the law but that is an acceptable solution to me.

I was also wondering this. I was also wondering why Pennsylvania didn’t extradite him and try him at the time. Maryland wasn’t the only one that screwed up, seems to me.

treis, your plan would partly depend on whether the sentences were imposed concurrently or consecutively. But there’s a deeper problem: even if consecutive, the court decision means it is as if the life sentence never existed. He’s been serving the 15 years since day one in that case.

Wow! This relates to another thread I was thinking about starting and now will.

I’m surprised how many people replied 25 years is long enough. The question for me is our moral societal responsibility to protect others from this repeat offendor.

Even after 25 years this man is likely to repeat his offense. It’s a clear indication of a damaged mind.

I reluctantly agree that the law should be obeyed but it’s also a loophole they might want to close. Since the first crime was committed in Maryland then perhaps they could enact a law that all connected crimes can be tried there as well. He can’t be convicted of the same crime more than once but either state could convict him.

I’m not in favor of the death penalty either but our current system seems in dire need of change. Prison doesn’t rehilbilitate. Tax payers are required to pay for the houseing feeding and medical care of convicted criminals and in most cases there is no compensation for victems or any way for these criminals to pay their debt to society in any way. In some cases they can earn money in prison while we pay the tab. Somethin’ ain’t right.

Maryland had a bill, called Christopher’s Law, which would allow for the civil commitment of sexual offenders. Seems like it would be a perfect solution to make sure Johnny Kroll doesn’t hurt anyone else. Too bad the legislature refused to pass it.

And it’s more time than many child molesters get.

I agree, but to a point. So lets hand him over to Pennsylvania for a new trial. Double Jeopardy wouldn’t be an issue would it? Isn’t Double Jeopardy at the state level? So he could be freshly charged by the Pennsylvania prosecutors.

And when does Federal law come into place, if at all? It seems as if there are too many loop holes for interstate crime and prosecuting that are in the offenders favor. “Hey! I’ll just go over to this state here, commit the crime and come back to my state where they can’t charge me!”

Allowing the victim to be victimized again. A crime in and of itself. I understand jurisdiction rules, but they should be flexible for assholes like this. I wouldn’t have any problem with states negotiating jurisdiction powers for the benefit of society for Interstate crimes.

They got John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo for their Interstate crimes, why can’t they get Kroll? If you leave the U.S. and commit sexual assult in another country, you can still get charged here. How is that any different?

The Statute of Limitations has expired.