A judge ruled that former Anne Arundel County Sheriff Ronald Bateman did not slander a Maryland State Police commander when Bateman reported allegations of wrongdoing to the agency amid a legal battle over the ownership of Eastport-based Compass Marketing.
State police Lt. George White, who is the commander of the Forestville barracks, failed to prove Bateman’s claims to state police investigators in May 2019 were false, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Elizabeth S. Morris ruled last month after a three-day trial. The ruling coincided with a federal court’s dismissal of sweeping claims that George White’s uncle, the company’s CEO, filed suit against former employees, including his two brothers.
Bateman’s allegations of time fraud, extortion and theft sparked a nine-month internal investigation by the state police that resulted in no criminal charges or disciplinary action. The complaint stemmed from George White’s resignation from his secondary employment at the troubled marketing firm owned by his family.
Bateman said in a statement after the ruling that White had “attempted to deflect blame” by suing for defamation and described Morris’ findings as “stinging”.
The defamation suit came against the backdrop of a larger feud within the company, in which CEO John White, George White’s uncle, is at odds with George White’s father, St. Marys County Orphans Court Judge Michael White, and uncle, former St. Mary’s Deputy Attorney General Daniel White. The three brothers founded the business in 1999 and ran it together until a fallout in 2018, when they began fighting over ownership of the Eastport business.
George White resigned amid the family dispute in May 2019. Several days later, John White hired Bateman as a “special advisor to the CEO” to conduct a “forensic review” of the company.
The defamation case arose out of statements Bateman made to state police investigators two weeks after being hired by Compass. He claimed that George White worked at Compass while on the clock for the police agency, where he then served in the Legislative Security Division. The former sheriff also alleged that George White, who worked as Compass’ IT administrator and requested a raise before resigning from the company, stole equipment from the e-commerce company and shut down its computer network.
State police investigated the case, and the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to pursue criminal charges against the state police lieutenant, who has consistently denied the allegations.
Brendan Callahan, George White’s attorney, argued throughout the three-day trial in February that Bateman was hired by John White to use the four-term sheriff’s law enforcement connections to take down his rival family members, including his nephew, who testified that his uncle had sent him an email threatening his “tarnished career” when he did not return company passwords after his resignation.
Callahan and George White did not return requests for comment.
“As the battle for control of the company developed, John White began pressuring George to help him with his side of the dispute,” Callahan said in his closing statement.
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The Waldorf lieutenant testified that he simply ignored the emails and left the company. He testified that he only worked for Compass after he resigned from his job with the State Police, left his equipment in his office before resigning, left network passwords in a folder, and had nothing to do with the computer network becoming closed.
But he didn’t prove it, Morris ruled. In his ruling, Morris said that White had not proven that any of Bateman’s statements were false and that they did not meet the high bar required for defamation claims. She also found out that George White had forwarded the emails his Compass Marketing account while on the clock for the state police, that he still had access to the company’s network after his resignation when employees were denied access to their emails, and that his libel claim was barred by the statute of limitations.
In his statement, Bateman said he hopes the Anne Arundel County State Attorney’s Office and Maryland State Police will “do the right thing and take another look at the case” because of evidence presented at trial.
The charges against George White were among several criminal charges Bateman and John White have made reports to the police against other members of the White family, none of which resulted in a charge.
At the same time as the defamation case, US District Judge George Levi Russell III dismissed a civil racketeering lawsuit filed by the company through John White, whose lawyers alleged that the CEO’s brothers embezzled funds through the company and conspired with other former employees to launch a competing e-commerce business . After Russell determined that the lawsuit’s broad claims were barred by the statute of limitations, the company appealed the dismissal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
John White claims he fired Daniel and Michael in 2018 and later kicked them off the company’s board, after which he hired Bateman and discovered the alleged fraud.
Daniel and Michael deny the allegations, claiming they have majority ownership of the company and could not have been fired. They filed a lawsuit in Virginia seeking to dissolve the company, alleging that their brother illegally took control of the company and abused the court system to clear his name after they reported allegations that he had committed securities fraud to the financial authorities. The Virginia lawsuit is ongoing and was scheduled for a status hearing Friday.