Hoggle defense: Murder case ‘should have been dismissed’ weeks ago

The lawyer for Catherine Hoggle has doubled down on an argument that murder charges should be dropped against the mother in the 2014 disappearance of her two young children.

In a motion filed Thursday, defense attorney David Felsen said Montgomery County prosecutors want to “manipulate the charging procedures,” and that Maryland law dictates that felony charges be dropped against a defendant who has been determined to be incompetent to stand trial for five years.

“The indictment in this matter must be dismissed and, in fact, should have been dismissed on January 10, 2020,” which marked exactly five years from the 2015 hearing in which a Montgomery County District Court judge first ruled Hoggle was incompetent to stand trial.

Since that time, mental health experts treating and testing Hoggle at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital — as well as an independent psychiatrist hired by the Montgomery County state’s attorney’s office in 2019 — have reached the conclusion that Hoggle is dangerous but remains incompetent, but could eventually become competent to assist in her own defense.

At the time of their disappearance, Sarah Hoggle, left, was 3 years old, and Jacob Hoggle was 2. (Courtesy Montgomery County police)

Hoggle was arrested in September 2014 and charged with misdemeanors in connection with the disappearance of her children, Sarah and Jacob Hoggle, since she was the last person seen with them.

As WTOP first reported, the Montgomery County state’s attorney’s office filed a motion on Jan. 23, arguing the five-year clock had not began running until Hoggle was indicted for the murders in September 2017.

“The defense argues that the court should begin the tolling of time from when the defendant was found not competent on misdemeanor charges because the felony indictment was based on the same factual circumstances,” prosecutors wrote. “The Defense Motion to Dismiss … will not be ripe until December 1, 2022.”

In Thursday’s response to the state’s opposition to the defense motion to dismiss, Felsen said county prosecutors are searching for ways to “effect serial detention of an incompetent defendant.”

“The state argues that it can intentionally circumvent the mandatory time frames [in the legislature’s statute] and increase the maximum time an incompetent defendant will be held from five years to eight years,” Felsen wrote.

Prosecutors had said the presiding judge had ordered a new evaluation of Hoggle after she had been indicted for murder, contending “the specific enumerated charges against the defendant were an integral factor in determining whether the defendant was competent to stand trial on those charges.”

However, Felsen cited statements by State’s Attorney John McCarthy, in which he acknowledged delaying indicting Hoggle for murder while she was still incompetent, because it would eliminate his ability to use a grand jury in a fact-finding capacity.

“The state has clearly treated all the charges in this matter as the same case,” wrote Felsen, saying the state was attempting to circumvent the mandatory language of the statute regarding dismissal, contrary to the intent of the incompetency statute.

Circuit Judge Robert Greenberg had previously set a Feb. 18 hearing to consider whether Hoggle’s charges should be dismissed.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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