Laney gets time served

5 years' probation is imposed in explosives case

Spent 1 year, 37 days in jail

Ellicott City

October 12, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Richmond C. Laney, the former Howard County sheriff's candidate convicted of keeping explosives in his Fels Lane house, will spend no additional time in jail.

Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. handed Laney, 44, concurrent sentences of 10 years and 5 years in prison for each of two explosives charges yesterday but suspended all but one year and 37 days - the amount of time the former Ellicott City man spent in jail awaiting trial. Kane also placed Laney on five years' supervised probation and ordered him not to keep weapons or guns, specifically military weapons.

Kane told Laney that while "I don't want to frustrate your desire to collect military memorabilia," items such as medals and books that "don't hurt anybody" might be a better bet.

The sentence in the high-profile case was not unexpected; state sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of probation to two years in prison for Laney, who had no prior criminal record.

But the result served as a sort of an anti-climax to the furor that followed the discovery of a cache of alleged military explosives, grenades and ammunition in Laney's house during a foreclosure action by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in July 2000.

At the time, Laney, a Republican candidate for sheriff in 1990 and 1994, was in jail, serving a sentence related to a child support case. That conviction has since been overturned on appeal and the charges dropped.

Laney remained in jail on a high bond until Aug. 3 when he pleaded not guilty to two charges in an 11-count indictment and waived his right to a trial, allowing Kane to find him guilty based solely on an agreed-upon statement of facts. Yesterday, prosecutors dropped the remaining nine counts.

The two charges - one felony, one misdemeanor - related a grenade fuse and a piece of commercial detonation cord; the items were among the few that had been tested in the case. Within a few days of the discovery last year, the U.S. Army destroyed all but a few of the alleged explosives discovered in Laney's home without testing them first - a decision that prosecutors acknowledged could cause problems for their case.

The August hearing ensured a conviction for prosecutors while preserving Laney's right to appeal his conviction and an earlier ruling by Kane that investigators' decision to search of his house without a warrant was legal. An appeal was filed yesterday, said Deputy Public Defender Louis P. Willemin, who represented Laney.

During yesterday's sentencing hearing, Deputy State's Attorney I. Matthew Campbell said that while the cache of alleged weapons found in Laney's house posed a public safety concern, "we certainly have no evidence that this defendant possessed these explosive devices with an intention to hurt anybody."

And while Laney told a psychologist who performed a presentence evaluation that the items were merely part of a collection of military artifacts, "this does remain a troubling case," Campbell said. He asked Kane to include counseling as a condition of Laney's probation, a request Kane did not grant.

Calling his client an "intelligent man and a stubborn man," Willemin said his client's manner may be "off-putting" to others. But nothing in Laney's past, including an Army fitness report that called him "one of the most dependable and resilient officers in the command," points to any psychological problem, Willemin said.

"Mr. Laney had no bombs, had no [items] that would cause large destruction," he said.

Laney did not speak at yesterday's hearing. Willemin said he would not because there is still a "possibility" of federal charges arising out of the find.

When asked if he wanted to comment after the hearing, Laney smiled and walked away.

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