The three-judge panel did dismiss one of the eight findings of guilt that Robbins appealed, following a 2022 trial by a judge in Cecil County Circuit Court. Robbins received time served and a suspended sentence for resisting arrest, six counts of second-degree assault and malicious destruction of property.
“This whole saga punished Ms. Robbins severely while making nobody in Cecil County any safer,” the panel wrote. “What was the point, other than to punish a citizen whose mental health crisis required law enforcement officers to do their jobs?”
The Office of the State’s Attorney in Cecil County, which prosecuted Robbins, declined to comment. The Office of the Maryland Attorney General, which handled the appeal, and the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office, which held Robbins, did not respond to requests for comment.
The protracted case began in April 2019, when Robbins, 34, of Cecil County, took a gun and a knife and ran in the middle of a Cecil County roadway during a mental health crisis, according to the appellate court ruling. Robbins had previously been assaulted and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Two off-duty Cecil County Sheriff’s deputies happened to be on the scene and managed to de-escalate the situation and took Robbins to the jail following a struggle, according to the ruling. While in a cell, Robbins stripped off her clothes and a deputy reported the smell of urine and feces emanating from inside.
Sheriff’s deputies became concerned and attempted to remove Robbins from the cell to take her to the hospital, but she grew combative and resisted being handcuffed, according to the opinion. At one point, the ruling found that Robbins yelled she had hepatitis and AIDS while holding a syringe.
Robbins was charged with 35 counts, including first- and second-degree assault, resisting arrest, unlawfully possessing a shotgun and other counts. During a 2020 jury trial, Robbins was convicted on 10 of those counts.
Robbins appealed her convictions, and the Appellate Court of Maryland reversed some of the first-degree assault convictions because the state conceded the sheriff’s deputies did not suffer serious physical harm, according to the appellate ruling. The court threw out the remaining convictions because Cecil County prosecutors did not turn over a video of the jail encounter to the defense that the appellate court found cast doubt on the sheriff’ deputies’ account of Robbins’s combativeness.
The Office of the State’s Attorney decided to retry Robbins on some of the charges. In 2022, a judge convicted Robbins on eight counts at the second trial. Sheriff’s deputies testified that they suffered minor injuries in their encounters with Robbins like scratches, abrasions and hand lacerations.
Some of the deputies had to be tested for diseases.
Robbins appealed again, arguing in part that there was not enough evidence she had the requisite mental state to convict her on the second-degree assault charges and that she was facing two counts that should be a single charge because they stemmed from the same action. The appellate court only found for Robbins on the latter point and dismissed one of the convictions.
Toni Holness, an assistant public defender who represented Robbins, said Robbins has yet to make a decision on whether to appeal the ruling of the appellate court, but said the case demonstrates pitfalls of using the criminal justice system to address mental illness.
“This is one of countless cases where criminal prosecution, which is neither equipped nor incentivized to properly address mental health concerns, does more harm than good,” Holness wrote in an email.