Robber who hated lawyers given 15 years

April 22, 1994|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Sun Staff Writer

Dana L. Howard says lawyers are thieves and deserve to be robbed by their victims. But an unsympathetic judge gave him 15 years in prison yesterday for holding up a Catonsville attorney with a pellet gun and taking $2 from him.

"Have you ever heard of the Attorney Grievance Commission?" Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill asked the defendant. "It's somewhat less violent than a gun."

Howard, 30, of the 1700 block of Ingram Road, was convicted by a Baltimore County jury last month of robbery with a deadly weapon in the Sept. 23 holdup of Daniel Zerivitz at the lawyer's office in the 1600 block of Edmondson Ave.

Only minutes before that holdup, prosecutors said, Howard and another man tried the same thing at another law office on nearby Ingleside Avenue. But a receptionist spotted the weapon in Howard's bag, sent them away and called police -- who were nearby when the actual robbery occurred.

"Now he's trying to make himself out to be some kind of Robin Hood character," said Assistant State's Attorney Michael G. DeHaven, who had another explanation for Howard's conduct.

"He's robbing lawyers, yes -- but it's to support his drug habit."

Howard declined a plea bargain for a five-year sentence in return for his testimony against a co-defendant and demanded a trial, the prosecutor said.

After the jury verdict March 15, Howard sent a handwritten petition to Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill, asking to be sent to a drug-rehabilitation program. He told the judge his crime campaign against lawyers began years ago when three attorneys mishandled his personal injury and disability claims.

Their actions, he said, "prompted [his] deliberate thefts from attorneys. As a result of the physical and monetary loss, your petitioner claimed [vengeance] against the legal system. . . .

"In the long episode of feigned accident claims represented to numerous lawyers, your petitioner developed a habitual antagonistic pattern of thefts against lawyers which were associated with drug use to escape the [reality] of his losses."

Howard told the judge yesterday, "They're all the same: They steal from the little people, disabled people."

Mr. DeHaven and defense attorney John R. Getz said the Attorney Grievance Commission did take some action against the three attorneys Howard named.

But neither could verify Howard's claim that his problems arose more than 10 years ago when he was shot in the back of the head, was unable to work or get disability payments and then had two accidents and was partially blinded.

Howard apparently made a career of faking accident claims, said Mr. DeHaven. He has a recent prior conviction involving stolen cab receipts and keeping money that attorneys gave him for cab fare to their offices, as well as unrelated drug possession convictions.

Howard said yesterday that he had received some money from his original lawyers, "but not enough to compensate for my serious loss, [so] I began conning lawyers, getting advances from them by posing" as an accident victim.

Although Howard said he "would never use physical violence," Judge Cahill cited Mr. Zerivitz's victim impact statement, in which he said that facing what appeared to be a real gun has now made him fearful of people coming into his office.

"Dana Howard is not a victim of the system," the judge said. "Rather, he has victimized the system."

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