In the lost cause of reversing Maryland's recently adopted speed camera law, few soldiers stormed the barricades with more gusto than Annapolis super-lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Bereano claimed to have collected more than 1,500 signatures in the failed effort by hauling petitions to political fundraisers and other events.
"I just feel personally very strongly about this," Bereano told The Sun. "The state presumes guilt, which is contrary to American tenets of law; ... it's making a mockery of justice."
There may be another explanation for Bereano's vehemence than a passion for justice. The felonious lobbyist - he was convicted on federal mail fraud charges in 1994 - is a chronic speeder who has collected traffic tickets at the rate of almost two a year since 1996.
Since 1996, the earliest year for which the District Court of Maryland keeps electronic records, Bereano has been ticketed 22 times in the state. Eighteen of those citations have been for speeding. In nine of those cases, court records show, the officer who issued the ticket clocked Bereano at speeds of 80 mph and above - the highest a whopping 90 mph in Caroline County in 2007.
Though he was disbarred after his conviction, Bereano has a pretty good record as an advocate for himself. On his 22 moving violation citations in Maryland, he's been found not guilty seven times - three times in speeding cases, including that one in Caroline.
Bereano was also the beneficiary of multiple acts of mercy by tender-hearted Maryland judges - many of whom have an abiding faith in the power of the break known as probation before judgment to nudge a sinner toward redemption. The lobbyist received two PBJs in his home county of Anne Arundel - in 1997 and 1999 - even though he had several speeding convictions over the previous years.
Most of Bereano's citations and convictions took place on the Eastern Shore, the personal NASCAR track where he's racked up 14 tickets over the past 13 years - including nine for which he has had to pay fines. Just last week in Dorchester County, he was found guilty of going 73 in a 55-mph zone in January. He received that speeding ticket six days after getting another one in Queen Anne's County, for which he got a PBJ. Isn't it about time the Eastern Shore delegation to the General Assembly staged an intervention? It's their constituents whose lives he's putting at risk.
Bereano is due back in court this week to face a charge of going 85 mph in a 55-mph-zone - worth $290 and 5 points - in Montgomery County. That doesn't mean he'll show up. He failed to appear for trial on that charge on Jan. 22 - the seventh time he's been a no-show since 1997.
If past is prologue, he'll probably get a break. After his previous convictions, he has seldom been hit with a maximum fine.
Given this history, it seems pretty clear by now why Bereano is such a dedicated opponent of speed cameras.
(Disclosure: Bereano stopped talking to me long ago. Our history goes back to my days covering Annapolis, when he was unhappy with my reporting on his lobbying activities. He did not change his policy for this column: "I have no comment for you whatsoever.")
The real point here is not Bereano and the way he tools around the state in his Mercedes-Benz. He's just one scofflaw among many on our roads.
What's more worrisome is his legion of enablers: the judges who have given him break after unwarranted break, the lawmakers who have given him the time of day when he blathered to them on issues of highway safety, and the General Assembly that has long tolerated a body of law too weak to get chronic speeders off the road.
But public opinion may be getting ahead of them.
When the opponents of speed cameras failed in their petition drive, they were quick to whine about how Maryland's referendum laws were stacked against them. But here's another theory:
The reason the petition effort failed was that a sufficient number of Marylanders, when asked to sign, said "hell, no" because they realized that speeding is a menace and that their families need to be protected near schools and in work zones from drivers like Bruce C. Bereano.
The upshot? Smile, Bruce, you're on candid camera.
, bereano's driving record
According to the District Court of Maryland, lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano has received 18 speeding citations in the state since 1996, the earliest year for which computerized records are available. Four citations for other traffic violations are not listed. Bereano also has a 2008 speeding conviction in New Jersey. PBJ = Probation before judgment; NG = Not guilty.
Date of ticket County Speed/limit Plea Verdict Fine & Costs
6.2.1996 Somerset 78/55 Dropped
7.10.1996 Queen Anne 80/55 Guilty Guilty 73
2.16.1997 Kent 89/55 Guilty Guilty* $143
3.21.1997 Queen Anne 80/55 Guilty Guilty $73
6.4.1997 Anne Arundel 81/65 N/A PBJ**
12.11.1997 Queen Anne 84/50 Not guilty Not guilty
6.30.1999 Anne Arundel 67/40 Guilty PBJ $33
12.24.1999 Talbot 75/55 Not guilty Guilty $50
5.19.2000 Worcester 78/55 Not guilty Not guilty
5.30.2000 Queen Anne 83/55 Not guilty Guilty $73
7.17.2003 Queen Anne Excessive Not guilty Guilty $63
10.3.2005 Anne Arundel 84/55 Not guilty Not guilty
11.01.2005 Garrett 74/65 Guilty PBJ $75
5.22.2007 Caroline 90/55 Not guilty Not guilty
5.14.2008 Dorchester 74/55 Dropped 10.8.2008 Montgomery 85/55 Pending Pending 1.4.2009 Queen Anne 74/55 Not guilty PBJ $75
1.10.2009 Dorchester 73/55 Not guilty Guilty $90
*Judge reduced speed of conviction to 84 mph.
**Circuit Court struck District Court guilty verdict, ordered probation.
Sources: District Court of Maryland, Motor Vehicle Administration