Standing in the traffic median between the city's two circuit courthouses, Warren A. Brown launched his campaign for state's attorney yesterday, promising to seek harsher sentences -- including the death penalty -- for violent criminals.
"The death penalty is essential," the defense lawyer said, appearing with his oldest son and about 25 supporters. "We do have it, but it's being used by the thugs on the street."
But Brown's announcement speech was equal parts offense and defense, as he tried to pre-emptively deflect what he termed "personal attacks" from potential challengers in next year's election.
Although he did not refer to specific attacks, Brown, 48, singled out campaign consultant Julius Henson, who works for city Councilwoman Lisa J. Stancil.
Henson attended Brown's news conference and confirmed that Stancil was also running for state's attorney.
"Your vicious lies won't send me packing," Brown said to Henson. "I am here to stay." To reporters, he said, "I am not perfect. I haven't always made the right decisions. ... But I am perfect for the position of state's attorney."
State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy plans to run for re-election and defense attorney Anton J. S. Keating has also said he will run.
Brown's professional, financial and personal background is not without what he calls "mistakes."
Last year, he and his former law partner, Lawrence B. Rosenberg, were reprimanded by the Court of Appeals for letting an unsupervised secretary handle their personal injury cases and for not giving a client her money.
The Attorney Grievance Commission had asked that their law licenses be suspended for a year.
Maryland tax and court records show Brown has a history of nonpayment of personal income and business taxes.
Documents show the state placed four liens against Brown totaling $22,142.32 for nonpayment of Maryland personal income tax from 1992 to 1998. The state also placed a lien last year totaling $35,089.60 for nonpayment of corporate and employee withholding taxes.
Brown said this week that the liens were mostly the result of being too busy to keep up with his financial obligations.
"The byproduct of running a business is being so consumed with other people's issues that when it comes to your own, it tends to take a backseat," he said. "Between going to my daughters' plays and my son's games and dealing with other people's problems -- it can all get quite consuming."
He added that he and the state also have disagreed about the amount of business taxes Brown had to pay on behalf of his practice, Warren A. Brown, P.A. "But they said, `You owe it.' So I said, `Let's pay it,'" he said.
A spokesman for the state Comptroller of the Treasury said records showed Brown had paid off nearly all the personal income tax liens. (One, for $7,431.23, was satisfied July 30.)
However, state records show he owes $1,585.09 for nonpayment of 1998 income taxes and $5,642.44 in business taxes.
Brown said he sent a check Friday to the comptroller to pay off the personal income tax lien and that the business tax debt had been fully paid as well, though the state's records did not yet show that.
His personal life also has included troubles.
Brown fathered twins born out of wedlock in 1998 and pays $651 a week to support them, court records show.
The children's 32-year-old mother is the niece of Brown's former wife, Linette. Brown said he was divorced from her when he fathered the twins. Linette is the mother of his three other children: a son, 12, and two daughters, 10 and 8, he said.
Brown is married to Donna Brown, but he described their relationship as "estranged." Court records show he took out a protective order against her in May, which remains in effect for a year.
Besides promising to seek tougher penalties for serious criminals, Brown said he would lessen punishments for minor crimes, offering petty offenders probation before judgment rather than convictions that could ruin job and housing opportunities.
"If you leave that mark on their record forever, what happens? They become unemployable. They've got to survive some kind of way, so what do they do? They hustle," he said.