Lobbyist gets fine, probation on marijuana charge ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

August 10, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

One of Maryland's most influential lobbyists, who admitted that police found marijuana in his Annapolis hotel suite, was fined $300 and sentenced to 12 months' probation yesterday in District Court in Annapolis.

Ira C. Cooke, 47, of the 2400 block of Ken Oak Road in Baltimore was granted probation before judgment by Judge Joseph P. Manck on charges of possession of marijuana. A charge of possession of drug paraphernalia was dismissed.

"If nothing more, this is probably the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you," Judge Manck told Mr. Cooke as he pronounced sentence.

Under Maryland law, probation before judgment means Mr. Cooke, a lawyer with the Baltimore firm of Levin and Gann, has the conviction stricken from his record if he completes probation.

Laura Kaufman, Anne Arundel County assistant state's attorney, said Annapolis police received a complaint last April about drug activity in the sixth-floor suite of rooms Mr. Cooke leased at Loews Annapolis Hotel for the General Assembly's three-month legislative session.

Police obtained a search warrant and on April 6 found 12.5 grams of marijuana in a night stand next to his bed, and a half gram in the bathroom, she said.

The quantity is equivalent to about five teaspoons, police said.

Mr. Cooke, a father of five with no criminal record, had no comment after the proceeding, but told the court he regretted what happened.

"I'd just like to say to my wife and my kids that I'm real sorry for all this," he said.

Annapolis Police Sgt. John Groh, who supervised the drug search, said that he was satisfied with the sentence.

"That's about standard for first-time offenders," he said.

A review of 12 randomly selected 1992 Annapolis District Court cases showed all of the first-time offenders facing simple possession charges were sentenced to either probation or probation before judgment.

Sergeant Groh said the case began with a complaint about drug activity in the suite, including reports that marijuana odors were emanating from it. He refused to identify the source of the complaint. But he said based on the evidence involved, the investigation has been completed and the case "will not be going any farther."

William Pitcher, Mr. Cooke's attorney, said that his client wasn't in the rooms when the police searched them and that the suite was used both as a living area and an office, with two employees and numerous other people having access to it.

He said that since his arrest, Mr. Cooke has been seeing a Columbia physician, and he presented letters from the doctor to certify that random urinalysis tests show Mr. Cooke to be drug-free since his arrest.

Neither Mr. Pitcher nor Mr. Cooke would speculate on who reported the incident to police.

Mr. Cooke originally was charged April 7 with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, a felony.

But a week later, State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee reduced charges to simple possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor, after he reviewed the case and concluded it was "a garden-variety possession case."

Along with the $300 fine, Judge Manck also assessed Mr. Cooke $50 court costs.

According to state records, Mr. Cooke earned $386,985 as a lobbyist for 27 clients during the six-month period that ended April 30.

That made him the second-highest paid lobbyist in Annapolis behind Bruce C. Bereano, who earned $811,406 in the same period.

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