More drug war setbacks

March 29, 1995

Carroll County's war on drugs suffered two setbacks in less than a week because police and a judge allowed their zeal against drug use to overwhelm the proper execution of their jobs.

The latest snafu by the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force is yet another demonstration why this group needs to be revamped and tightly supervised. On Feb. 16, the task force arrested Blair Lee Brannock, an 18-year-old Westminster High School student, on charges of possessing 811 doses of LSD. The task force touted the arrest as the largest haul of LSD in the county's history. A month later, lab tests revealed no LSD in the 811 blotter dots the task force had recovered.

Instead of enhancing its reputation by bringing down a big-time drug dealer operating in the county schools, the task force finds itself taken in by an opportunistic teen-ager who capitalized on his peers' willingness to buy just about anything purported to be a drug.

Mr. Brannock did commit a criminal act. Selling any substance under the guise of selling drugs is against the law. When Mr. Brannock was arrested, the task force should have known his goods were bogus and properly charged him with selling look-alike drugs. Apparently, the task force never staged a buy and then tested the purchase. This amateurish performance only reinforces the belief that the war on drugs in Carroll County will never be effective until the county's drug task force is completely overhauled and its operations professionalized.

Carroll Circuit Court Judge Raymond E. Beck also got his hands slapped. The Court of Special Appeals vacated a 20-year prison sentence Judge Beck had imposed on a confessed PCP dealer because the judge did not keep his end of a plea bargain. Judge Beck agreed first to allow Martin Scott Bloom, of Union Bridge, to enter a drug treatment program and then sentence him. Even though Bloom was accepted for treatment, Judge Beck imposed the harsh sentence that was to be used only if no treatment program accepted Bloom.

The appeals court ruled that trial judges are obligated to keep their promises in plea bargains. Judge Beck is well known for his antipathy to drugs and drug dealers. But as with the high-profile sentencing of marijuana advocate Pamela Snowhite Davis in 1993, the judge let his personal feelings interfere with strict adherence to the law.

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