A fighter with plans to take on criminals

Challenger: Anton Keating

August 25, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Anton J.S. Keating, a former boxer and captain of his London crew team as a youth, often uses sports as a metaphor for life.

He wants to be Baltimore's next state's attorney, he said, so he can use the courthouse as a fighting platform.

"A fighter likes to fight. I like being in the ring with somebody," said Keating, explaining that criminals would be his opponents.

This is Keating's second bid for the office. He ran for state's attorney in 1978, losing to incumbent William A. Swisher.

Keating, who is divorced with two children, has practiced law in Baltimore for 35 years and is a familiar face in the courtroom.

To be more familiar to voters, he stands by the Jones Falls Expressway with a campaign sign. "I get a honk about every 50 cars. I don't know if they're supporting me or saying, `Look at that poor sap out there.'"

Keating said he is not afraid to be a leader. "It's all about attitude," he said. "I told my crew team: `I'll do 85 push-ups. You keep up with me. Dare to be great.'"

In theory, he said, trying a case is no different. "You can take one case and practice an opening statement 25 times," Keating said. "I want to inspire people to do that."

Keating called the state's attorney's office "screwed up" and said he knows how to fix it. He said he would initially require prosecutors to come in for three hours on Saturdays.

He said he plans to fire a few dozen lawyers in the office and replace some of them with recent law school graduates. The office would also get help from young lawyers from private firms that Keating expects will donate their time to the state's attorney's office. He said he will offer to pay them $1 a case.

Keating has selected the person who would become his right-hand man and training director, former Baltimore Circuit Judge Peter D. Ward.

"Anton is bright and innovative," said Ward, a former prosecutor who was a judge in the early 1980s. "He has good ideas about trying to induce talented people to come to work for the office. He'll provide leadership."

Keating, 58, who attended grade school in London and high school in Canada, graduated from Boston University in 1966. He earned his law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1969.

He was an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore from 1970 to 1973, then left to become an assistant public defender. He became chief counsel in the attorney general's Medicaid Fraud Control unit before starting his private practice in 1981.

Some of his notable cases include a 1999 wrongful-death lawsuit in which he unsuccessfully sued the Police Department. He represented the family of Betty Keat, a mentally ill North Baltimore woman who was killed by police after she came at them brandishing a knife.

Keating has set up his Madison Avenue rowhouse-turned-campaign headquarters into a museum of his life. Much of the wall space is covered with legal and personal mementos.

There's a black-and-white picture of the bloody footprints of a murder victim. Another of a bingo bus riddled with bullets. A death certificate of a client who was sentenced to die before the case was overturned.

"This is my life," Keating said.

He's hoping his next step will land him in elected office.

"I believe my ambition does not exceed my talent," he said.

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