Circuit judge denies motion to drop charges in suspected explosives case

May 23, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Federal authorities did not make a "bad faith" decision when they destroyed most of the suspected explosives found in Richmond C. Laney's Ellicott City home last summer before the devices could be tested, a Howard County Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday.

Instead, investigators appeared to be motivated by concern for the public's safety, Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. said before denying the former sheriff candidate's motion to dismiss prosecutors' case against him.

Yesterday's ruling boosted prosecutors over the most basic of hurdles stemming from the Army's decision to detonate the cache of suspected explosives that were discovered July 14 in Laney's Fels Lane house. Laney, 44, will be tried June 4 on charges that he stockpiled an arsenal in his home.

But Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell acknowledged yesterday that by destroying the items before they could be tested, investigators created "obstacles" he will have to overcome at trial. Still, he said, the decision to protect public safety was more important than "making it easier for the state to prosecute this case."

Earlier, Deputy Public Defender Louis P. Willemin, who is representing Laney, argued that destruction of the suspected explosives made it impossible to determine if the items were live or not - and whether they were even explosives.

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