Deputies bring a wealth of experience to Howard County prosecutor's office

Campbell, Broccolino take trial, administrative duty

May 04, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

During the murder-for-hire trials of Ruthann Aron, defense attorneys threw complicated psychological testimony at Montgomery County prosecutor I. Matthew Campbell.

But Campbell had done his homework -- and eventually won a conviction.

"Here you had a state's attorney who spends his whole career learning criminal issues and having to essentially learn the whole area of psychiatry," said Circuit Court Judge Paul A. McGuckian, who oversaw Aron's first trial. "He did as well as any medical malpractice lawyer," McGuckian said.

In January, Campbell left Montgomery to join the Howard County state's attorney's office as a deputy and will handle Circuit Court operations, including grand jury proceedings.

Campbell, 53, will draw heavily on his experience in the Aron case while prosecuting a Columbia man accused of fatally shooting his estranged wife and seriously wounding her daughter outside the Howard County courthouse last month. The defendant, Tuse S. Liu, is undergoing psychological testing.

Campbell joins another new deputy, Dario Broccolino, who handles the administrative side of the office, District Court and the child-support unit. Before joining the office in January, Broccolino was state's attorneys' coordinator and an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore for 17 years.

State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon said she recruited Campbell and Broccolino to beef up her office after deputy Les Gross resigned. Both earn $87,000 a year.

"This is my one chance to really bring in experience," McLendon said. "They're enthusiastic. I keep having to tell Matt and Dario not to take on too many things."

Courtroom observers and prosecutors said Campbell and Broccolino have improved morale in the office, which had suffered in the past few years.

Though Campbell is learning his new job in Howard, prosecutors say they are taking advantage of his 24 years of experience in a much bigger and busier county.

Assistant State's Attorney Lara Weathersbee said Campbell has given her advice about delivering evidence to juries and investigating cases. Assistant State's Attorney Keith Cave said Campbell calmed him down during a grueling trial and gave him tips on his closing arguments. "He's very approachable," Cave said.

Campbell left Montgomery County after November's election. Newly elected Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas Gansler planned to demote Campbell to assistant from deputy, a position he had held for 14 years. Assistant state's attorneys are front-line prosecutors and deputies are second-in-command of the office.

"We didn't see eye-to-eye on the important business of prosecuting cases," Campbell said. "I was very uncomfortable with the new administration."

Campbell has instituted some changes in Howard County. Prosecutors are now assigned cases after an indictment. Before, several prosecutors could handle a case before it went to trial.

He also has encouraged prosecutors to be more accessible to police officers, who complain that their phone calls are not returned and they are not always notified of plea agreements.

"We're going to Southern District to meet them," said Assistant State's Attorney Mary Murphy. "A little effort goes a long way."

Police officers aren't so sure. Some said they have not noticed those results yet. And Campbell, prosecutors say, is aware that the relationship is strained.

That's nothing new to Campbell. He investigated police officers and prosecuted them during his tenure in Montgomery. One high-profile case involved the fatal shooting of an unarmed Gaithersburg woman in 1991. Campbell won a conviction.

Since he was a child, Campbell wanted to be a lawyer -- a defense attorney, actually.

In 1967, he graduated from Pomona College in California, joined the Peace Corps and taught English in the Philippines.

In 1969, he moved to the District of Columbia and began teaching social studies at a public high school. Five years later, while getting his law degree at night from Catholic University in Washington, he joined the Montgomery County state's attorney's office as an investigator. He focused on white-collar crime.

In 1984, he was promoted to deputy.

While Campbell brings courtroom experience to the office, the other deputy, Broccolino, brings a strong administrative component, McLendon said.

For 10 years as the Maryland state's attorneys coordinator, Broccolino organized seminars and continuing education programs for prosecutors across the state. Before taking that post in 1988, he was an assistant state's attorney for 17 years in Baltimore, where he handled grand jury proceedings, drug cases and white-collar crime.

He graduated from Loyola College in 1967 and the University of Baltimore Law School in 1970. Like Campbell, he taught high school social studies -- but in Baltimore County.

He joined the Baltimore state's attorney's office in 1971 and worked in the old municipal courtrooms that were once attached to police stations. That was a wonderful experience, Broccolino said, because the people came from a totally different society -- "pimps, prostitutes, cross dressers" and "freaks of nature."

Broccolino misses the courtroom, but he will have to get a new case management computer system online by fall. The old system isn't Y2K compliant. And if the new system doesn't work, trouble could ensue.

"We're really under the gun," Broccolino said.

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