Annapolis stiffens protections against stalkers ANNAPOLIS/SOUTH COUNTY -- Davidsonville * Edgewater * Shady Side * Deale

January 12, 1993|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writer

Annapolis became the second jurisdiction in Maryland last night to adopt legislation strengthening protections for victims of repeated harassment or stalking.

Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins and the City Council unanimously approved the measure, patterned after a Prince George's County law, that doubles the maximum fine and lengthens jail sentences against those convicted of stalking.

Under the measure, someone convicted of stalking can be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to six months in jail. Under state law, the maximum penalties are a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat who introduced the stalking bill after attending a seminar on sexual harassment in December, said such a measure might have saved the life of a friend of his. In the late 1970s, Angie Meyers called police to report that her former boyfriend was harassing her. He shot and killed her, then himself.

The new law allows police to arrest a suspect who has made a series of threats. But police must still witness the harassing behavior; have clear evidence, such as written threats or phone messages; or determine that the suspect has violated a court order.

It also permits victims to swear out a complaint in District Court.

Women's advocates testified at a hearing last week that victims of stalking often don't get police or court protection until it's too late.

Michaele Cohen, director of the YWCA Woman's Center, a domestic abuse counseling program in Annapolis, said clients have been relentlessly pursued by ex-husbands, former boyfriends and even strangers.

Women's organizations have been lobbying the state to upgrade the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony.

In an unrelated council matter, the owner of one of the city's oldest taverns still was uncertain last night whether he could enlarge the upstairs kitchen.

Jerry Hardesty, owner of the 142-year-old Middleton Tavern on City Dock, wanted to expand the upstairs kitchen by 327 square feet while repairing the leaking roof. It seemed like a simple request, but it tested the different interests of residents and merchants in the historic district.

More than 100 downtown homeowners, restaurateurs and business leaders packed City Hall last week to voice their opinions on whether Mr. Hardesty should be required to meet 15 conditions. And enough neighbors of the restaurant sent in petitions opposing the kitchen renovation that the council needed a "super majority," or three-fourths vote, to approve Mr. Hardesty's application.

Two different compromise plans were floated by factions of the council last night, but each failed for lack of a majority vote. The city attorney then declared both votes "illegal" because they violated a section of the code that requires a seven-day response period after a public hearing.

Both plans dropped a condition that would have required Mr. Hardesty to install bricks along the entire front of the tavern. Late last night, council members were trying to come up with a third plan.

"I brought four midshipmen along tonight because they wanted to see government in action," said Mr. Hardesty's wife, Jan. "I'm embarrassed by this."

In response to the Middleton controversy, three aldermen last night introduced legislation to rewrite the city code to allow businesses to make minor repairs without having to get a conditional use permit. They said the change would spare the council and community the ordeal of a long hearing on a minor repair.

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