Price gets guard for hearing Former teacher's lawyer cites threats ANNE ARUNDEL

August 06, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Ronald W. Price, the former Northeast High School teacher who has agreed to sell his sex-with-students story to Hollywood, arrived at the Anne Arundel County courthouse yesterday under armed guard.

Mr. Price, 49, came to Circuit Court to hear his attorneys argue that it is unconstitutional for the state to require him to turn over the proceeds of any movie or book deals.

Timothy F. Umbreit, one of Mr. Price's lawyers, said he hired the bodyguard because both he and his client have received repeated telephone threats.

"They were the 'We know where you live, we know where you shop' kind of calls," Mr. Umbreit said. "It's a little scary."

At one point, the unidentified guard whisked Mr. Price and his lawyers away from reporters because, he said, he "didn't like the way things were looking." Later, Mr. Umbreit said the guard thought he saw a group of people standing some distance off ready to throw tomatoes.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. has sued to keep Mr. Price from profiting from his alleged crimes and has demanded to see a copy of the contract the former teacher's lawyers say he has signed with a Hollywood agent.

During the hearing, Mr. Umbreit complained to Judge Eugene M. Lerner that if the party who made the contract with Mr. Price is publicly identified, the deal will fall through.

The lawyer argued that Maryland's Son of Sam law, which requires those convicted of crimes to turn over profits from movie or book deals to the state, violates his client's First Amendment rights to free speech. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed his position when it struck down a similar New York law in 1991, he said.

"It chills the freedom of speech. It chills it because people will not be able to get their story out," Mr. Umbreit said.

In fact, he said, because the case involves First Amendment issues it belongs in federal court.

He filed a motion yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to have the case moved to federal court. A federal judge's decision is not expected for several days.

But Mr. Curran said the case belongs in a state court because it involves a state law. Judge Lerner agreed and said he would rule in the next few days on whether to force Mr. Price to turn over the contract.

Mr. Curran said he needs to see the agreement to enforce the state law. He said he wants to divert money to Mr. Price's alleged victims.

Maryland's Son of Sam law -- so called for the popular name of a New York serial murder case that prompted New York to try to bar criminals from profiting from their crimes -- was amended in 1992 to meet the standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court, he argued.

Mr. Price, who remains under house arrest, has admitted having sex with students.

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