Harley to mull over state’s plea offer

James Walter Harley Jr.

Prince Frederick, MD - A St. Mary’s County man who stands accused of shooting to death his estranged wife at her home in Calvert County last April has a few days to decide if he will either accept the state’s plea offer or have his case tried before a jury. James Walter Harley Jr., 39 of Mechanicsville, through his attorney, made the request for an additional three days to decide whether to accept or reject the offer before Circuit Court Judge Mark Chandlee Feb. 26.

The victim—Tanya Harley, 34 of Lusby—was found shot to death inside her home on Rawhide Drive in the Chesapeake Ranch Estates subdivision April 28. James Harley was the subject of an extensive manhunt following the discovery of Tanya Harley’s body. The accused turned himself into police in Leonardtown the following day. He has remained incarcerated at the Calvert County Detention Center.

According to police reports on file in the Maryland court system, James Harley had previously threatened to kill his wife and had attempted suicide. He was indicted last June on three counts, including murder. Back in October, the Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office announced its intention to seek life without the possibility of parole for Harley.

During the Feb. 26 hearing, attorney Brendan Callahan told Chandlee that his client wanted a chance to discuss the plea offer—which was not disclosed—with his family before making a final decision. Calvert County Deputy State’s Attorney Kathryn A. Marsh raised objections to the request, stating the state’s plea offer has been on the table for a lengthy period of time. “The original offer has not changed,” said Marsh, adding that Harley has had “ample opportunity” to discuss his decision with adult members of his family. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road.” The prosecutor further noted that the court has barred Harley from speaking to the couple’s two children since they are state’s witnesses, yet he has contacted the by telephone. “He’s in direct violation of this order,” said Marsh.

Chandlee conceded that the plea offer decision was significant and granted the defendant’s request. The judge did, however, revoke Harley’s telephone privileges.
The plea hearing has been set for Friday afternoon, March 2 at 1 p.m.

Contact Marty Madden at

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