Gary in wonderland Drug war in Anne Arundel: Executive's charges against judge border on the bizarre.

October 23, 1997

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY Executive John G. Gary has lost all sense of proportion in his bitter battle over the county police department's asset forfeiture program.

Even though the initiative to seize cars from people suspected of drug possession is flawed, Mr. Gary seems only upset that he doesn't have full control of it. After hurling charges of illegality against State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee, he has now resorted to accusing Administrative Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr. of favoritism. His original charges were overblown. So are the latest ones.

Affidavits supposedly signed by the police chief are at the heart of this controversy. Since September 1995, county Assistant State's Attorney Trevor A. Kiessling Jr. has submitted affidavits that attest that the police chief personally reviewed all the seizures of automobiles from drug suspects. The chief never actually reviewed and signed off on the seizures as described in the affidavits. This failure would not change the outcome of these cases, however.

To Mr. Gary, who has previously written laws as a delegate in the Maryland General Assembly but is not a trained lawyer, Mr. Kiessling committed perjury. -- plain and simple. Mr. Gary wants Mr. Kiessling punished, but he can't get the appropriate officials interested in pursuing his charges.

The county's Circuit Court judges who handled the forfeiture cases did not seem to be upset. Judge Greene declined to meet with county attorneys on the issue.

To Mr. Gary, Judge Greene's refusal is a case of political favoritism. During the last judges' race, Mr. Kiessling donated $350 to a campaign committee of the four judges who were running as a slate.

Perjury before a court is a serious offense. If Mr. Kiessling's affidavits rose to that level, Judge Greene and his fellow jurists would be the first to call for his scalp. Their indifference has nothing to do with political favoritism. They, better than Mr. Gary, know what constitutes perjury. Mr. Kiessling's transgression falls into the category of not adhering strictly to procedure, rather than lying about material facts.

If Mr. Gary believes Mr. Kiessling abused his position as an officer of the court, he can file a complaint with the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission.

If that group of impartial attorneys dismisses the complaint, as seems likely, Mr. Gary's righteous crusade to clean up the county's asset forfeiture program will continue to look like the petty, vindictive campaign it is.

Pub Date: 10/23/97

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