Heavier penalty weighed in case of Nazi mimicry

January 24, 1991|By Michael J. Clark | Michael J. Clark,Howard County Bureau of The Sun

The Howard County sheriff is considering imposing a stiffer punishment -- perhaps even dismissal -- than a trial board recommended for two top deputies who mimicked Nazi behavior in the office, the deputies' lawyer said yesterday.

A trial board recommended Jan. 7 that Maj. Donald L. Pruitt, 40, and his twin brother, Sgt. Dennis L. Pruitt, be demoted one rank, fined $200 and required to undergo cultural sensitivity training.

But Michael L. Marshall, attorney for the brothers, said Sheriff Michael Chiuchiolo called him this week to say he was considering increasing the punishment for the deputies, who have been suspended with pay since the allegations surfaced last spring.

Sheriff Chiuchiolo confirmed yesterday that he told Mr. Marshall he might impose a stiffer punishment, perhaps even dismissal, and will hold a hearing with the deputies to hear their reasons why they should not be subject to harsher discipline.

"If he does increase the punishment or terminate them, he will have a court battle on his hands," said Mr. Marshall, who added that the deputies were prepared to accept the discipline suggested by the trial board.

The board's decision upset Jewish leaders, who have said they believe the deputies should be fired. Over a 10-year-period, according to trial board testimony, they routinely exchanged Nazi salutes and chanted "Sieg Heil" in the office.

Mr. Marshall said his clients will meet Jan. 29 with Sheriff Chiuchiolo.

If a stiffer punishment is meted out, Mr. Marshall said he would challenge Sheriff Chiuchiolo's authority to go beyond the recommendation of a trial board. Sheriff Chiuchiolo has said he believes he has that authority.

The three-member trial board said it believed its punishment was "final." Mr. Marshall said there are "no previous cases on the issue in Maryland."

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