A former aide to county State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee has agreed to plead guilty and serve six months in jail for stealing $12,500 from an office fund, according to authorities and documents obtained by The Sun.
In a letter outlining the plea arrangement, Alvin J. Arnett, 60, of Annapolis agreed to plead guilty to one count of fraudulent misappropriation of funds.
The state attorney general's office is to recommend a five-year sentence with all but six months suspended, according to the agreement. Mr. Arnett said yesterday that he has repaid all the money.
Formal charges in the case are expected to be filed by the end of the week.
The letter from the attorney general's office to Mr. Arnett's attorney, Timothy D. Murnane, was relased to reporters by John R. Greiber, the Republican challenger in the state's attorney race. Mr. Greiber said the incident shows that Mr. Weathersbee is a poor manager and was not aware of criminal activity in his office.
Mr. Weathersbee, who fired Mr. Arnett July 14 after he found discrepancies in the office checking account, called the release of the letter an "11th-hour bid" by Mr. Greiber and Mr. Murnane to win the election. Mr. Murnane lost to Mr. Weathersbee four years ago and is one of Mr. Greiber's supporters. Mr. Arnett ran Mr. Weathersbee's 1990 campaign.
The state's attorney's office investigation into the missing funds began in June when a check written from the account, used to pay for records or other small expenses, bounced, authorities involved in the case said. After a four-week investigation, Mr. Weathersbee fired Mr. Arnett and sent the information to the state prosecutor, who turned the case over to the attorney general's office, Mr. Weathersbee said.
Mr. Greiber said the lengthy investigation was an attempt to delay making the incident public and embarrassing Mr. Weathersbee before the election.
But Christopher J. Romano, an assistant attorney general and head of the Criminal Investigation Division, disputed that claim.
"There is no political considerations in this," he said. "We file a case when it is ready to be filed without the consideration of political impact on anyone."
He said it is common practice for his office to meet with a suspect to discuss the charges or plea arrangements before the formal charges are filed and become public record.
"The timing of this case is in no matter politically motivated," he said. "It was a matter of logistics. If the letter had gotten back to me in time, the charges could have been filed last week." Mr. Romano said Mr. Arnett was given a deadline of Oct. 28 to sign and return the agreement. Mr. Murnane asked for an extension until Oct. 31. Mr. Arnett signed the agreement Thursday, but Mr. Romano said he has not received it.
According to authorities involved in the investigation, the charge against Mr. Arnett stem from about 10 checks totaling about $12,500 written to cash during an eight-month period from a discretionary fund in the state's attorney's office. Mr. Arnett, Mr. Weathersbee and Gerry Anders, a deputy state's attorney, all had access to the account and withdrawals only required one signature, authorities said.
Mr. Arnett, who recently passed Maryland Bar exam, was named Mr. Weathersbee's press spokesman in September 1993. Previously, he was a paralegal in the office and handled administrative matters for Mr. Weathersbee. Mr. Arnett will be disbarred as part of the plea agreement.