Laney held on new set of charges

Bail set at $250,000 for suspect who was released last week

15 weapons-related counts

Judge notes concern for public safety in arrest of ex-candidate

March 27, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

An Ellicott City man accused of hoarding a cache of weapons in his house was back in court yesterday, four days after his unexpected release from the Howard County Detention Center left court officials scrambling to find a way to send him back to jail.

Richmond C. Laney, 44, was ordered held in lieu of $250,000 bond yesterday on a new warrant charging him with 15 explosives-related offenses; a 12-count indictment charging him in the same case was dropped last week because prosecutors said there was a problem with the wording in the document.

In arguing for an even lower bond - Laney's bond on the original indictment had been $2 million - his defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Louis P. Willemin, noted yesterday that much of the evidence in the case had been destroyed without being tested.

But Howard County District Judge James N. Vaughan said concerns for public safety required the higher bond.

Yesterday's court appearance was the latest chapter in the whirlwind that has surrounded the case since prosecutors, in a surprise move, temporarily dropped all charges against the former Republican candidate for sheriff just four days before he was to go to trial.

In making the decision to put off the case, prosecutors said last week that they expected an unrelated civil contempt conviction to keep Laney in jail while they worked out problems in the original indictment.

But just hours after the explosives case evaporated Thursday, Laney posted a $2,000 cash bond that had been set when he appealed the contempt case. He was released from the detention center later that night.

That release set off alarms among some court workers, at least one of whom had accused Laney of making threats against him in the past, and left prosecutors and police looking for ways to get him back in jail quickly - even though there were plans to take the case back before the grand jury this week.

Yesterday, Willemin said he believes the concerns were unfounded.

"There's absolutely no reason for that kind of attitude toward Richmond Laney," he said.

Still, prosecutors filed a 15-count criminal information Friday afternoon, but dropped that when they realized it wouldn't allow them to obtain an immediate arrest warrant.

"By Friday afternoon, the consensus was we should move immediately because of Mr. Laney's history and the nature of the charges," said Howard County State's Attorney Marna L. McLendon.

By Friday night, the Howard County police had gone before a commissioner and sworn out a warrant for Laney's arrest. He was arrested at his son's Woodlawn home shortly after midnight Saturday.

"Anytime we have a case that involves weapons as this case did, we are concerned," said Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn. "We thought it was in the best interests of public safety to bring Mr. Laney back into custody."

Laney, who ran unsuccessfully for Howard County sheriff in 1990 and 1994, was charged in July after a property manager for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs called authorities to say he found a stockpile of weapons during a foreclosure visit to Laney's Fels Lane home. Indictments and charging documents list numerous weapons, including rockets, mortars and grenades.

Firearms were also found in Laney's home, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has forwarded a report to the U.S. Attorney's office. A spokeswoman there said yesterday that the case is being reviewed.

In the Howard County case, which is expected to move through the court system quickly, prosecutors will have to deal with the destroyed evidence, which McLendon called "an issue."

But, she has also said at least one piece of evidence - a piece of commercial detonating cord - remains. The 15-count criminal information that was drawn up and dropped Friday included three charges involving the cord.

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