Delegate faces many charges in traffic court

July 14, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

For the seventh time in nearly three years, Del. Leslie E. Hutchinson didn't show up in court yesterday to face traffic charges -- this time that she used a state House of Delegates tag issued to her uncle in 1970 to drive an uninsured car.

By the time she arrived in Essex District Court, tearful, contrite and 45 minutes late, the judge had issued a warrant for her arrest.

"I messed up on the date," she explained, adding that she thought the cases were scheduled for next week, when she is scheduled to go to court on a charge of driving with a suspended license.

Judge Robert N. Dugan took her at her word, rescinded the warrant and postponed the case. Then, as a Sun reporter watched, Ms. Hutchinson drove off in a red Ford pickup, even though her license is still suspended.

She later denied driving the truck.

"That was my aide," she said. "I took a cab home. . . . You're mistaken."

Ms. Hutchinson's current spate of trouble began April 22, when Motor Vehicle Administration officer Robert Anderson saw a "Maryland House of Delegates-29-1970" license tag on a black Chevy convertible.

It was deja vu for Mr. Anderson. In December, Mr. Anderson said, he had confiscated an illegal license plate from Delegate Hutchinson's car. That time he let her off with a warning instead of a ticket. This time he waited until she emerged from a house on Dorsey Avenue in Essex. She drove to Lorraine Avenue, where he confronted her and confiscated the tag.

She was cited for driving an uninsured vehicle, driving an unregistered vehicle, having a suspended registration, and failing to notify MVA of an address change.

The uninsured vehicle charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The others have maximum fines of $500 each.

Ms. Hutchinson, a Democrat, said late yesterday that the 1970 tag once belonged to her uncle, Donald P. Hutchinson, who was a member of the House of Delegates and later became a state senator and Baltimore County executive.

She said she had intended to frame the tag because it was the same number issued first to her grandfather, Del. Preston A. Hutchinson, who died in office. Ms. Hutchinson said she used the old tags out of "desperation" and accused the Motor Vehicle Administration of harassing her.

MVA administrator W. Marshall Rickert said Ms. Hutchinson's accusations of harassment are "absolutely incorrect. She's been handled like every other person."

Mr. Anderson, the investigator, also denied the charge, noting that he gave her a break in December.

Mr. Rickert said it is his agency's legal responsibility to verify insurance, since Maryland requires all drivers to have insurance. Once the agency was notified in 1990 that Ms. Hutchinson's insurance had been canceled, MVA had to verify that she had insurance or was not driving, he said.

Couldn't afford insurance

Her problem, Mr. Rickert said, stemmed from going for long periods without insurance and "ignoring summons to District Court." The agency contacted her in writing and by phone and tried several times to get her on an installment payment plan, he said. She never responded to those requests.

Late yesterday, Ms. Hutchinson sought to explain her predicament. She said she missed a payment on her car insurance several years ago and was dropped by the company.

Insurance through MAIF, the state-sponsored insurance company for high-risk drivers, cost her more than $3,000 a year, more than she could afford. Even though she made good money through 1992, she rented a house that was too expensive and fell behind on bills.

"I'm a full-time mom and a full-time legislator," she said, saying her $28,000 legislative salary, plus the $98 daily expense account she gets during the 90-day legislative session has kept her in poverty.

Ms. Hutchinson has a 10-year-old son. They now live with her grandmother on Lorraine Avenue.

Besides her elective office, she said she has not had "primary employment" since January 1992, when she resigned from a $20-an-hour job in the Baltimore County Police Department's community relations section.

"They had nothing for me to do," said Ms. Hutchinson, who worked in the county's legislative liaison office for two years before taking the police job in 1988.

Failed to appear in court

She said she "was on top of the world" in 1990, after winning her first term in elective office. Her new legislative pay, plus her county employment enabled her to move out of her grandmother's house to her own home for the first time.

"I have applied for 300 jobs since then, and gone to over 100 interviews," she said.

According to her MVA driving record for the past three years, she failed to appear in District Court on March 15, 1991, to face charges related to her not having insurance. A letter notifying her that her driver's license was suspended was issued.

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