More charges possible in arms case

Howard Co. judge criticizes earlier probe

July 18, 2000|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

As Howard County prosecutors said 60 more weapons charges are possible against a former candidate for sheriff, a judge who reported being threatened by him said police "dropped the ball" on an earlier investigation.

Richmond Laney of Ellicott City, who twice was a candidate for sheriff and once served on the county's Republican Central Committee, appeared by video in court yesterday for a bail review. Judge James N. Vaughan let the $250,000 bail stand, and Laney remains in jail.

Laney, 43, was charged late Friday; he is accused of having a host of weapons, including a machine gun, grenades and a rocket launcher, in his home in the 3600 block of Fels Lane. At the time, Laney was in jail for refusing to pay child support.

Detective Keith Fisher, the lead investigator in the weapons case, said 50 to 60 additional charges could be added because some of the weapons he had in his home are illegal to own.

Master in Chancery Bernard A. Raum, who was hearing Laney's child-support case in 1998, and some other members of the judicial system said Laney made them feel unsafe long before the weapons charges.

Raum oversaw part of Richmond and Susan Laney's child-support case. He has recused himself from the case, which continues. As a master in chancery, Raum deals with domestic disputes and juvenile matters.

Laney has written volumes of letters and subpoenaed several court officials to avoid paying child support.

Now, more than two years after Richmond Laney filed for divorce, he has not paid a dime in child support for his four children, said Tobey Glee Brehm, Susan Laney's attorney.

Raum charged Laney in January 1999 with criminal contempt for not paying child support. That was the charge that landed Laney in jail.

Deputy Sheriff Joe Collins delivered the criminal contempt summons to Laney in January 1999, at which time, Raum said, Laney threatened the judge.

Collins then contacted Raum to let him know about the threat, and Raum reported it to the Howard County Police Department.

Threats against state officials are misdemeanors and carry a penalty of three years in jail and $2,500.

Raum said he feared for his safety from that moment on. "I've spent the last year and a half looking over my shoulder," he said.

Raum said it appeared that police stopped investigating after they talked to Laney.

"I think Howard County really dropped the ball on this one," Raum said.

Police said they completed the investigation into the threat against Raum. Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said the threat took place several years ago and is unrelated to the weapons charges.

"We did do an investigation, and the case was reviewed by the state's attorney's office," Howard County Police Chief G. Wayne Livesay said. "We did as much as we legally could do at that time."

Because State's Attorney Marna McLendon is on vacation, police said they could not release the details of what McLendon told Raum about the outcome of the investigation.

I. Matthew Campbell, deputy state's attorney, said he was not involved in that case but that police do not pursue every charge they could.

"Police every day use the discretion that the law has vested in them to decide when to make or not make charges," he said.

Raum said he and his staff repeatedly felt threatened by Laney.

At one point, Raum said, Laney burst into his courtroom and sat, "sweating and brooding" at the back of the courtroom until the trial Raum was presiding over was finished.

Raum said he and his staff were so fearful that he called in an extra sheriff's deputy.

Sarah Peach, a court reporter, remembered the day Laney came into the courtroom.

Peach said she has had several interactions with Laney that left her feeling unnerved.

"He is politely confrontational, but confrontational enough to make me want to back away from him," she said.

Raum said he was surprised that Laney had weapons of that quality, but he was not surprised he had weapons.

"I personally was scared of the man," he said. "And I was very concerned for the wife's safety."

Brehm said she has been worried about her client's safety all along.

She said she reported to both the Sheriff's Department and the Police Department in fall 1998 that Richmond Laney kept weapons in the home.

Brehm said she was not able to tell police how many or what kind of weapons he stored there because they were locked upin the master bedroom.

During yesterday's bond hearing, state's attorneys asked Vaughan to increase Laney's bond in light of the additional charges that might be brought against him.

"There is a strong issue of community safety here," said Erin Granger, assistant state's attorney.

Laney sat in the Howard County Detention Center during his video apearance in court yesterday. He was polite to the judge, thanking him often and quietly referring to him as "sir."

"I am greatly embarrassed by this," Laney said at one point. "I'm not a threat to anybody."

Laney was scheduled to be released from the Howard County Detention Center on Friday while he appealed his contempt conviction.

That day, representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs discovered the weapons at Laney's house during a foreclosure inspection. By law, Veterans Affairs officials must notify the homeowner, wherever he might be, before performing such inspections.

"That's an exceedingly remarkable coincidence," Raum said. "And I don't believe in coincidences."

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