State's attorney accused by challenger of waste Judge's remark also disputed

October 13, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

An Annapolis lawyer running for Anne Arundel County state's attorney charged yesterday that incumbent Frank R. Weathersbee's scheduling of criminal cases is wasting money and that his acceptance of an employee's campaign contribution clouded his judgment when it came to disciplining him.

John R. Greiber Jr. said in a press briefing yesterday that Mr. Weathersbee's acceptance of roughly $3,000 in contributions from Deputy State's Attorney Gerald K. Anders and his wife in recent years clouded his judgment when Mr. Anders was charged with drunken driving after a July 27 traffic accident.

Mr. Anders, who had been found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol in 1983, was acquitted of the drunk driving charge. Mr. Weathersbee initiated no disciplinary action against his assistant.

"Firing someone before the outcome of a trial is inconsistent with any sense of fairness," Mr. Weathersbee said after the verdict was announced. "At this point, what am I going to fire him for, having an alcohol problem and seeking treatment? Being in a car accident?"

Mr. Greiber charged that Mr. Anders' refusal to take a Breathalyzer test at the accident scene should have been enough for Mr. Weathersbee to ask for his resignation.

"It would be very difficult to accept money from someone and then turn around and effectively discipline them," Mr. Greiber said. If elected, he said, he would not accept any contribution from an office employee beyond a $50 ticket to a fund-raiser.

Mr. Weathersbee said yesterday that he was unaware Mr. Anders had made such significant contributions and denied that they had come into play.

"If I didn't know how much he contributed, how could it cloud my judgment?" Mr. Weathersbee said.

He emphasized that Mr. Anders voluntarily sought alcohol treatment after the accident and that he must remain alcohol free to continue working as a prosecutor.

Mr. Greiber also scored Mr. Weathersbee's handling of the criminal docket, saying it has left defendants in jail awaiting trial longer than necessary.

"We're the only major county in the state where the state's attorney schedules the criminal cases, and we have a deplorable record for bringing cases to trial," said Mr. Greiber, a 49-year-old Republican.

According to the Administrative Office of the Courts, the average number of days from the filing of a criminal complaint to disposition in Anne Arundel went from 139 days in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1990 to 138 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1992. The statewide average dropped from 121 days to 112 in those years, according to the administrative office. The figures are the most recent available, an office spokesman said yesterday.

Mr. Greiber said he had no statistics on the percentage of those defendants who await trial in jail. But he said the numbers mean many defendants are behind bars longer than necessary. He noted that county jail officials say each inmate costs $52.10 a day.

"That's a cost that should be looked at closely, and if there's any way to reduce it, it should be reduced," Mr. Greiber said.

Mr. Weathersbee said the basic operating costs of the jail remain the same regardless of the exact number of inmates, and that cases come to trial as quickly in Anne Arundel as any jurisdiction in Maryland.

"We have no backlog of cases in this county," he said.

Mr. Greiber yesterday also criticized Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. for saying in an Oct. 8 article in The Sun that it is "just plain wrong" to say the state's attorney has complete control of the criminal docket.

The judge, responding to a reporter's questions last week, noted that postponements or disputes between attorneys over a trial date may be resolved by one of the Circuit Court judges.

But Mr. Greiber said the judge should have referred a reporter's questions to court administrator Robert Wallace.

He said his complaints about the judge's comment to county Republican officials will prompt a letter from the GOP to Judge Robert C. Murphy, chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, to say that the judge's comments were improper.

"Judge Thieme is a former state's attorney, a former Democratic state's attorney and Frank (Weathersbee) worked for him. For him to inject himself into the process I think is improper," Mr. Greiber said.

Judge Thieme yesterday declined to comment, saying he preferred to "stay out of that one."

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