Md. 'Son of Sam' law ruling appealed Brief says judge decided nonissue

October 07, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

An Anne Arundel County Circuit judge had addressed a constitutional question that didn't exist when he ruled that Maryland's "Son of Sam" law was unconstitutional and Ronald W. Price could keep profits from book or movie deals.

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. made that argument in a brief filed yesterday with the Maryland Court of Appeals.

The case revolves around the first challenge to Maryland's "Son of Sam" law, contained in an opinion written by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner.

The judge ruled that a request to review Price's contract to sell his "sex-with-students" story violated First Amendment free speech rights. The provision is too much like a New York statute -- named for the serial killer "Son of Sam" -- ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991, Judge Lerner said.

Mr. Curran said the judge erred by calling the statute unconstitutional before determining whether Price's contract fell within its purview -- a determination that could only be made by reviewing the contract, which the attorney general was attempting to do. He also said the Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of whether contracts entered into by accused criminals can be reviewed.

The "Son of Sam" law is aimed at keeping accused and convicted criminals from profitting from their crimes.

Price, a former social studies teacher at Northeast High School in Pasadena, created a media sensation when -- after being charged with having sex with a 16-year-old and two other girls while they were his students -- he repeated the story of how he openly had sex with eight students over 20 years. He told his tale on shows such as "Geraldo!" and "A Current Affair" before signing a movie contract. He was convicted on three counts of child sex abuse in September.

Mr. Curran wanted to examine the contract to see whether Price would profit from his crimes.

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