No More Tears for Hutchinson

January 10, 1994

Essex Del. Leslie Hutchinson wants all of us to get out our handkerchiefs one more time. She'll probably find, though, that most people won't be able to work up any tears for her.

Ms. Hutchinson made headlines last summer when she was fined $1,500 and given a suspended 14-month jail term for driving with an invalid license and without car insurance. There were also reports of unethical acts on her part, including automobile violations, failures to appear in court, unpaid bills and tardy campaign finance reports.

The root of the first-term delegate's problems seemed to be her belief that her position entitled her to a place somewhere above the rest of the rank-and-file stiffs who follow society's rules.

Still, it looked as if she changed after her trial four months ago, when she admitted to her mistakes and apologized for them. At last she displayed a grip on reality and a contriteness that were both long overdue. Around Christmas, she expanded on this stance in an unusual mea culpa that ran in this and other local newspapers.

Well, the new year has brought out the same old Leslie. Apparently her letter was less a public apology than a calculated attempt to smooth the way toward having her convictions reversed on appeal in Baltimore County Circuit Court next month. Her goal is to downgrade each of her two guilty verdicts to probation before judgment.

As she tells it, she fears that having the convictions on her record means she could go to jail if she gets a parking ticket outside the ballpark or on an Annapolis street. In other words, she wants to return to that rarified level where people don't have to worry about feeding parking meters, paying for a spot in a garage and other unpleasant necessities with which mere mortals must contend.

"I have to live with the ramifications of everything I've done," the delegate says. She's right; she must take responsibility for her mistakes, as anyone else would be required to do for similar infractions. But it seems she doesn't want to. Why? "I'm a mother. I have to look out for my son," she says, perhaps neglecting the fact that she could be a good example for her child and avoid jail by abiding by the law the way most of her constituents do.

We suggested last summer that the delegate ponder whether she's suited for public office. Now we have to concede she appears incapable of making that judgment for herself. It will have to be left to the voters of her district at the ballot box later this year.

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