Hutchinson appeals convictions

January 07, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

Del. Leslie E. Hutchinson was the picture of contrition in District Court in September, when she got a judicial tongue-lashing, $1,500 in fines and a suspended 14-month jail term for driving her unregistered car without insurance and on a suspended license.

She was even more contrite just after Christmas in a public letter nTC of apology and explanation for her years of unpaid debts and traffic law violations to local newspapers.

Despite those apologies, Ms. Hutchinson is trying to have her convictions reversed on appeal in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

The reason, she said, is that she's terrified that if she gets so much as a parking ticket during the three years of probation Judge G. Darrell Russell imposed, she will be sent directly to jail. If she takes her son to a baseball game and gets a parking ticket, she said, "He can put me in jail. . . .

"I apologize for absolutely everything, but I'm a human being. I'm a mother. I have to look out for my son," she said.

"I have to live with the ramifications for everything I've done. But I have to take care of business. It's me and my boy."

Her lawyer, Richard M. Karceski, said the appeal is not based on any claim of innocence. "We did not dispute the facts. It was an agreed statement of facts," he said of the deal under which the sentence was imposed.

He said he merely wants to persuade a judge to change the two guilty verdicts to probation before judgment on the two most serious charges -- driving without insurance and driving on a suspended license.

An appeal to the Circuit Court -- which is granted automatically -- results in a new trial, which could produce a more lenient sentence without strict probation.

To do that, Mr. Karceski has filed motions seeking to invalidate the charges that stemmed from the delegate's confrontation in April 1993 with a Motor Vehicle Administration investigator.

The motions seek to suppress statements she made when the inspector caught her driving her black convertible with a House of Delegates license tag that was issued in 1970 to her uncle, former legislator and Baltimore County Executive Donald P. Hutchinson.

The motions raise a variety of arguments, including possible violations of Ms. Hutchinson's constitutional rights.

The hearing before Judge Russell Sept. 14 culminated three years of run-ins with motor vehicle authorities after Ms. Hutchinson's election to the General Assembly in 1990. During that period, she failed to appear in court seven times and had her driver's license suspended four times.

She also ran up a string of debts to Annapolis landlords and hoteliers and her credit union and to the state of Maryland for income taxes.

In her letter, published in The Sun on Dec. 26 and in various weekly newspapers in Baltimore County, Ms. Hutchinson described herself as being sorry for her transgressions and offered explanations.

The Baltimore County Democratic legislator, who had a $20-an-hour job with the county Police Department before her election, said in the letter that her income dropped by $20,000 a year when she assumed her duties in the House, where she earns $28,000 a year plus expenses. She said she could no longer make ends meet and became "paralyzed with fear."

But records show that her troubles may have begun before her income declined. Police said Ms. Hutchinson didn't actually resign from her county job until January 1992, a full year after she took office. During that year, she earned about $48,000 from the two positions.

In fact, police said, she resigned because an internal investigation showed she had written a bad check to a store and had driven her car on a suspended license. The police hold both sworn and civilian employees to a stringent code of conduct.

Ms. Hutchinson's appeal hearing is scheduled for Feb. 18.

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