Crofton lawyer opens campaign to unseat prosecutor Weathersbee Little-known attorney says Democrat runs 'an old, tired office'

March 19, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A little-known Crofton lawyer kicked off a campaign last night to unseat Anne Arundel County's longtime chief criminal prosecutor, arguing that the official runs "an old, tired office."

Richard R. Trunnell, 36, who has been introducing himself to Republican clubs in recent weeks, said yesterday that he expects to file candidacy papers within days and to begin campaigning against Frank R. Weathersbee, the Democratic Anne Arundel County state's attorney.

"It's going to be a difficult year," Trunnell said.

He has distanced himself from what some observers figured was a potentially hot issue, the criticism by County Executive John G. Gary of the state's attorney's office. Gary has criticized the office's management of its asset-forfeiture program.

Nevertheless, Trunnell criticized the forfeiture program, in which cars and other items linked to drug cases are turned over to the county. Trunnell said the program is poorly run and is symptomatic of other problems in the office Weathersbee has led since 1988.

Local Republicans were begging high-profile lawyers -- former prosecutor and County Councilman William Mulford topped the list -- to challenge Weathersbee. They hoped that greater name recognition at the race's outset would boost fund raising and give the Republican candidate the edge.

"I'll tell you, Anne Arundel County is full of attorneys, and some of them would be formidable for Frank Weathersbee to beat. But they are not ready to run," said Helen Fister, county GOP chairman.

She noted that in 1994, Republican contender John Greiber took 46 percent of the vote against Weathersbee. Greiber was little known when he began his challenge, but hard campaigning brought him recognition, she said. Trunnell has prosecutorial experience, which Greiber lacked, she said.

Trunnell was an assistant state's attorney in Prince George's County for five years and joined a private practice in Laurel in 1993. He opened his own practice in 1996 in Crofton. His caseload is mostly in Prince George's, Howard and Montgomery counties, but he is taking on more criminal-defense work in Anne Arundel District Court.

Trunnell is hoping that GOP gains in the county and a strong gubernatorial ticket in the fall will help him. "He is enthusiastic, and he is interested," Mulford said.

Trunnell, who is vice president of the Crofton Special Tax District, said Weathersbee has let "inertia" and complacency take hold among his staff members, mishandled two recent death penalty cases that were overturned and has not paid fTC enough attention to district and juvenile courts, where most criminal prosecutions take place.

"I have the benefit of knowing not only how the Anne Arundel County prosecutors office works to a certain extent, but I know how the Prince George's County office ran," Trunnell said.

He said Weathersbee has missed the opportunity to show first-time offenders in the lower courts the serious consequences of their actions with tougher prosecutions.

Trunnell said he would like to do away with "drug court," a diversion program for first-time offenders. Weathersbee defended the program as one that provides better monitoring than the traditional probation that a defendant with an otherwise clean record would get.

Pub Date: 3/19/98

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