Man Accused of Murder Wants Trial Away from St. Mary's

By Guy Leonard, County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Nov. 27, 2008)—The attorney for Nicholas T. Potts III, the man accused of killing another volunteer firefighter at the Bay District Volunteer Fire Department more than two years ago, has petitioned the court for a change of venue for his client’s trial.

Potts’ case is set to go to court in January after two years of being delayed, mostly for psychological evaluations to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.

Potts was found competent to stand trial for the alleged murder of James Augustus Choporis, Jr. the first week in June in St. Mary’s County Circuit Court. The victim was the defendant’s mother’s fiancé.

“There’s been a lot of publicity in this case and we’re just trying to ensure he gets a fair trial,” said James Otte, attorney for the defense.

Otte made his motion Nov. 17, and it was scheduled to be heard before Circuit Court Judge C. Clarke Raley Nov. 21 but was rescheduled.

Medical personnel evaluating Potts at the state level rejected his defense that he was insane at the time of his alleged crime.

Eight days have been set aside for trying the two-year-old murder case according to court documents.

The incident occurred June 6, 2006 at what was then the Bay District firehouse on South Coral Drive. Charging documents filed at the time by then-Detective Clayton Safford of the St. Mary’s County Bureau of Criminal Investigations alleged that Potts told the chief of the fire department that he had just killed someone inside the firehouse that evening.

Safford wrote in his statement of probable cause that when he made contact with Potts he observed blood on his shirt, shorts, shoes and socks.

Detectives who collected evidence at the scene found a large amount of blood in the upstairs sleeping quarters of the building as well as blood spatter on the wall.

They also found a trail of blood leading from the lounge area to a storage room where they found Choporis’ body wrapped in blankets, towels and plastics that were soaked in his own blood.

Choporis had sustained several wounds from an edged weapon, charging documents state, to his neck and his head. Detectives also found that some of the blood might have been the subject of an attempted cleanup effort using solvents.

Detectives found a knife, also covered in blood, in a pair of shorts near the body that was later identified as belonging to Potts, charging documents allege.

Court papers go on to say that Potts admitted to hitting Choporis in the head with a golf club after becoming agitated with him.

A struggle between the two men ensued, charging papers allege, in which Potts produced his folding knife from his pants pocket and cut Choporis several times. Potts then allegedly wrapped Choporis in the blankets and other material and dragged him to the storage area.

Potts was charged with both first-degree and second-degree murder.

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