Keating criticizes Jessamy's actions

Potential candidate says state's attorney's office has lost credibility

First campaign appearance

January 11, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Anton J.S. Keating, a Baltimore lawyer who plans to run for state's attorney, made his first public campaign speech last night at the Mount Royal Democratic Club, throwing barbs at incumbent Patricia C. Jessamy and saying the office has "lost total credibility" under her tenure.

Jessamy, who has held the office for eight years, also plans to run in the September primary election.

Last night was the Democratic club's first meeting of the year, and attracted an audience of about 25 people, some of whom came to hear Keating, a former assistant state's attorney who lost a bid for the top job in 1978.

"Once you lose fairness, everything is suspect," said Keating, now in private law practice. "The state's attorney has lost total credibility not only in the community - with the bench, with the attorney general, with the defense bar."

Then Keating took a jab at Jessamy's reputation for being unresponsive, mentioning her refusal to explain why she reversed her longstanding opposition to release Michael Austin, who spent 27 years in prison on a flawed murder conviction.

"A public official can't turn and run," said Keating, 58. "You've got to face up, and you've got to answer questions until there are no more questions."

Keating, a Democrat, has not officially announced his candidacy, though he says he has a campaign office and has raised about $11,000 in contributions. He was, however, showing off the campaign button he was wearing - "Keating For State's Attorney" - from his race of 23 years ago, and joked privately before the meeting that his bumper stickers are no longer sticky.

Also expected to enter the race is Lisa J. Stancil, a city councilwoman since 1999 who is in private practice and made a brief appearance to greet members before the meeting.

In an interview earlier in the day, Stancil also criticized the state's attorney's office, saying criminals in Baltimore are not afraid of facing the consequences.

"I believe the atmosphere in Baltimore City has to change, especially with criminals," said Stancil, 39. "There's a general feeling that they can get away with just about murder."

Lawyer Warren A. Brown withdrew from the race in September, five days after announcing his candidacy, when reports of his personal and business problems were aired and he lost some backing.

Jessamy, who has recently been trying to remake her image by being more open to the public, declined to comment yesterday on the developing election contest.

Keating, who said he is looking for a campaign manager, has never held elective office. He was born and spent his childhood in London, attended high school in Canada and graduated from Boston University. He is also a former prosecutor for the Maryland attorney general's office, and started his private practice in 1981. He is twice married and divorced and has two grown children.

Keating, a self-described "aggressive, combative" lawyer, said if elected he would try to mend the state's attorney's contentious relationship with the Police Department.

"She's lost credibility with the police. That's critical," Keating said. "I don't want to be the state's attorney if I'm going to fight with the police. The overwhelming majority are the good guys, the heroes. I've represented a number of police, I've sued the police. I'm committed to the process."

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