Ehrlich ad faults Townsend for breakdown in fatal arson

Accused man untracked by state parole system

October 31, 2002|By Sarah Koenig | Sarah Koenig,SUN STAFF

In a two-page advertisement in yesterday's Washington Post, Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for the first time linked his Democratic gubernatorial opponent's leadership with the recent arson in Baltimore that killed a family and made national headlines.

"On October 20, yet another chilling example of negligent management surfaced," a portion of the ad states.

"A convict on parole killed a family with five children by firebombing their Baltimore home. The parolee was in two of Ms. Townsend's programs but had not been tracked as legally required and had not even spoken to a parole officer in six months."

The fire occurred Oct. 16. Darrell L. Brooks, 21, who is charged with setting it, was not properly supervised by the state's parole and probation division.

He was supposed to be monitored under two of Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's signature law-enforcement programs, HotSpot and Break the Cycle.

"It's disgusting," Townsend campaign spokesman Peter Hamm said of the ad. "[Ehrlich] ought to be ashamed of himself for suggesting that she is connected in any way to this horrible crime."

Hamm said Townsend "took the lead" after the incident in tracking down Brooks' parole officer, finding out how the case was handled, and discussing ways to improve the parole and probation system.

The ad, which cost about $50,000, represented an about-face for Ehrlich. Just after the incident, asked whether any officials should share responsibility for the deaths, Ehrlich said, "I just don't want to politicize the firebombing. I really don't."

Yesterday, however, Ehrlich spokesman Paul Schurick said the fire was too powerful an example to let pass.

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