Prosecutor seeks recusal from gun club complaint

Group's neighbor says noise levels are too high

August 29, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes has asked that a prosecutor from Howard County be assigned to handle a disturbing-the-peace complaint against a 50-year-old gun club in northern Carroll County.

According to court records, Jessica DeTello, who lives adjacent to the Deep Run Rifle & Revolver Club Inc. on West Deep Run Road north of Westminster, filed the complaint Aug. 12, alleging that the gun club "has and continues to disturb the peace and quality of life on our property and on our neighbors' properties' homes."

Barnes said he made the request Friday to court officials to recuse himself and his office because of a potential conflict involving Jim Meyer, a deputy sheriff who could be a witness in the case. Meyer, a member of the gun club and a National Rifle Association (NRA) instructor, has had Barnes, an NRA member, teach the legal issues about gun ownership and usage in a safety program sponsored by the county's sheriff's office.

In DeTello's complaint, she said the noise from the gun club is "ongoing without any end in sight. It's loud and outrageous!"

Disturbing the peace carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Gun club officials were unavailable to comment on DeTello's complaint.

The gun club is also a defendant in a continuing lawsuit filed by a group of neighbors in the West Deep Run Road area, court records show. A trial began in January, and testimony was concluded in March before Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr., who has not rendered a decision.

At the trial, the citizens' group alleged that beginning about 1995, the club advertised online to attract more members and guests to its popular Annie Oakley and bowling-pin shoots. Cars parked along the two-lane country road had tags from as far away as New York and Georgia, the group said.

David Jarinko, a noise-control enforcement specialist for the Maryland Department of the Environment, testified that his measurements showed decibel readings reached 90; 45 decibels is the normal level, he added.

Thomas E. Hickman, an attorney for the club, said then that his client is exempt from the state noise-pollution laws because it has been operating since before the laws went into effect in 1983. No proof was offered regarding allegations of reduced property values and safety problems, Hickman said.

DeTello said she hoped prosecutors would give the same time and attention to her complaint that they did in an Aug. 11 District Court case against EIP Tuning Inc. of Westminster. The state successfully prosecuted the high-performance car center for disturbing the peace after a neighbor reported hearing revving engines during the evening and as late as 5 a.m. on occasion.

"I understand the noise levels at EIP were not even close to the gun club levels my husband, two children and I put up with every day," DeTello said.

Pub Date: 8/29/99

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