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Former candidate granted change of venue

Charges stemming from incidents during the 2010 election season were filed Feb. 13 in Charles County Circuit Court against Curtis Litten, 41, of Dunkirk after he was granted change of venue motions in Calvert County Circuit Court in December.

In two separate cases, Litten is charged with newspaper theft and with two counts each of theft less than $1,000 and theft scheme less than $1,000.

Trial dates for both cases have not yet been scheduled.

Litten is accused of taking newspapers and returning some to racks with his own advertising inserted in July and August 2010 when he was a Democratic candidate for District 3 Calvert County commissioner.

According to original charging documents, the then Calvert Independent vice president and general manager Charlie Mister contacted a Calvert County Sheriff's Office investigator on July 29, 2010, and told investigators that someone inserted business-type cards reading “stop the pig un-elect Linda Kelley 2010” in newspapers in several newspaper box locations in Dunkirk. These types of inserts would have cost $30 per 1,000, charging documents state.

The owner and executive editor of The Chesapeake Current, Diane Burr, told Deputy C. Waldron during National Night Out on Aug. 4, 2010, that someone removed some newspapers at a North Beach location and replaced them with “political propaganda.” The remaining newspapers in the stand had a pink insert placed in them referring to Litten’s charges of illegal dumping at the old Sunderland post office property he owns and calling elected officials names. Burr’s business partner, John Pugh, also contacted investigators and said that the pink inserts were placed in newspapers in a newspaper box in Owings. During the investigation, detectives received calls from other businesses around the county that gave similar complaints of inserts being placed in the newspapers.

Burr told police that full-page inserts like the ones found in the newspaper cost $799 and she wrote in an email to investigators that the inserts were placed without permission and without payment. She also wrote that former publisher Thomas F. McKay “called Mr. Litten to ask him to please stop this unauthorized use of our newspapers and boxes.” During the phone call, Burr wrote that Litten boasted about the inserts, saying that because the newspaper was free he could do whatever he wanted to with the newspapers, charging documents state.

Investigators on the case went to several locations throughout the county where the inserts were placed in the newspapers. Witnesses told them they saw a man take newspapers from a stand, according to charging documents, and some saw him return with the newspapers containing fliers. The documents say Litten matches the description the witnesses gave, and some of the witnesses recognized him.

Gail Hatfield, elections administrator of the Calvert County Board of Elections, said her business cards that were on a desk came up missing after Litten was at the office. She said she was told by a voter that they found one of her business cards with the words “stop the pig un-elect Linda Kelley” stamped on it at the Hudson Sunoco in Prince Frederick. She relayed the information to the sheriff's office.

The board of elections sent out an email telling residents that the cards were not authorized by the board.

kfitzpatrick@somdnews.com