No wrongdoing found in loss of charges against Anders

September 21, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

An audit of the District Court recordkeeping process could find no evidence of wrongdoing in the loss last month of drunken driving charges against a veteran prosecutor, but it did recommend beefed up security measures and tighter supervision of traffic charges.

Robert F. Sweeney, chief judge of the Maryland District Court, said yesterday that procedural flaws may have led to the loss of the charges filed against deputy state's attorney Gerald K. Anders after he was involved in an automobile accident July 27.

"There was no suggestion of any kind of hanky-panky," Judge Sweeney said. "With all the publicity, it's not the kind of case that anybody would try to play games with."

Mr. Anders, 51, of Annapolis, was charged by Annapolis police with driving under the influence of alcohol, negligent driving and failure to yield after an 8 p.m. accident at Rowe Boulevard and Taylor Avenue in Annapolis.

But a check of District Court records three weeks later disclosed that only the two lesser charges, negligent driving and failure to ZTC yield, were recorded in the court computer.

Annapolis police later refiled all three charges against Mr. Anders. The trial has been set for Oct. 4 in Annapolis District Court.

Judge Sweeney said yesterday that he has met with George B. Riggin Jr., the state court administrator, to discuss the findings of the report, which he requested, and to begin implementing changes that it recommends.

The recommendations include:

* Requiring traffic citations filed by police to be kept under lock and key until they are recorded in the District Court computers. They currently are left in unlocked storage areas.

* After a citation is recorded in the computers, it should be verified with the Police Department that filed it by a court clerk other than the one who typed it into the computer system. There should also be a signed verification record.

* The Judicial Information System, which is charged with handling recordkeeping operations for all four of Maryland's courts, should not have control over determining when traffic citations are filed by District Court clerks.

Under the current system, District Court clerks who receive traffic citations from Police Departments have to wait for approval from the Judicial Information Service before filing them, which can slow down the process, according to the audit.

"We should be controlling our own system; they shouldn't be telling us what to do," said Frederick C. Cox, chief internal auditor for the Maryland district courts, who completed the report.

Mr. Cox said although the delays are usually brief, they leave the potential for citations to be lost or tampered with before they are recorded in the computer system.

Mr. Cox said that random checks on the status of hundreds of traffic citations filed by police in Maryland district courts over the past two years have revealed few problems with the system.

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