The Northern Virginia prosecutor whose office will try Prince George's County developer Mark R. Vogel on a drug possession charge said yesterday that he is still waiting to hear from federal authorities what the case is all about.
Robert F. Horan, the commonwealth attorney in Fairfax County, said he has not been told why federal drug agents stopped Mr. Vogel on the evening of his arrest. Mr. Horan wondered whether "all the rules" had been followed before the 42-year-old businessman's 1990 Corvette was searched. He also provided a different account of the arrest from the scant version given by Fairfax County police, to whom inquiries were referred by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.
"I don't know what the basis of the stop was, and nobody from [the Drug Enforcement Administration] has been kind enough to enlighten me about what the basis was," said Mr. Horan, whose office will handle the case at a preliminary hearing Oct. 16.
Mr. Vogel, the owner of Maryland's two harness racing tracks, was stopped about 9:30 p.m. Sept. 13 while driving through a residential neighborhood in Northern Virginia. A search of his car allegedly turned up 4 grams of cocaine, and Fairfax County police charged Mr. Vogel with a felony count of drug possession.
Mr. Vogel's attorney, Plato Cacheris, said his client will plead not guilty. He predicted that some of the confusion about the case "will flush out at the preliminary hearing."
When news of the arrest broke last week, a Fairfax County police spokesman would say only that "we assisted DEA in a routine traffic stop. . . . Subsequent to that traffic stop, [we] found him to be in possession of small amount of cocaine."
But, according to Mr. Horan, Fairfax County police Officer Victor LoPreto was summoned to the scene after receiving a call that "there werepeople in the vicinity with guns." When the Virginia officer arrived, Mr. Vogel had already been stopped by a DEA agent, who "was conducting some sort of investigation at that point," Mr. Horan said he was told.
"The [Virginia] officer wasn't with him [the DEA agent] when the stop was made," Mr. Horan said. "As far as I know somewhere in the course of it, they called some U.S. Attorney who declined to deal with it as a federal case. The case is now on our docket as a felony possession of cocaine.
"I don't know whether DEA is going to take us by surprise on the day of the preliminary or send us a report or whatever. It's very cloudy rightnow. I don't understand why they didn't charge him in the federal system since it clearly is a federal crime."
Mr. Horan said he expects he will have to call the DEA agent as a witness in the case because "they have to testify as to why he was stopped. . . . You can't search until you follow all the rules to begin with."
Usually when federal authorities have a case in the state courts, they notify his office, Mr. Horan said. And those cases usually are ones in which federal and local police have jointly investigated the matter. Mr. Horan said he knows of no Virginia police involved in a Vogel investigation that sources say is headed by the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore.
Breckinridge L. Willcox, the U.S. attorney in Maryland, continued to insist yesterday that he would not comment on the case because "it is a Fairfax County matter." He said he was "confident" that Mr. Horan's office "will hear from all the appropriate people in law enforcement" in due time.
When asked about the location of the 4 grams of cocaine seized in Mr. Vogel's arrest, Mr. Horan said, "I can only assume that DEA has it, if they are the ones that actually made the arrest and the seizure. But I do not know."
Warren Carmichael, a spokesman for the Fairfax County police, said he believed that the drugs were in the custody of his agency because a county police officer had charged Mr. Vogel.
In addition to Mr. Vogel's difficulties on the drug charge, he has agreed to get out of the operation of Rosecroft Raceway near Oxon Hill. The move followed a demand by the Maryland Racing Commission worried about the proceeds from the track going to Mr. Vogel's other enterprises.
The executive director of the Racing Commission will brief a joint legislative panel next Thursday on its actions regarding Mr. Vogel.