Judge Howard not soft on crime

August 18, 2010

The Monday morning quarterbacks have been criticizing Judge John Addison Howard incessantly for being overly lenient and failing to jail John Wagner for violating his probation ("Plea deal puts robber back on street," Aug. 8). Mr. Wagner has subsequently been charged with the death of Stephen Pitcairn.

While I can not discuss the specifics of the Wagner case, as the lawyer who supervises the Violation of Probation Unit of the Office of the Public Defender for Baltimore City, I can speak to what kind of jurist Judge Howard is when it comes to the people he places on probation.

"Tough but fair" would be the most apt phrase to describe him. No defendant with any sense takes a hearing before him lightly as he frequently hands down substantial jail sentences. Keep in mind that being late for an anger management meeting, missing a single appointment with a probation agent, an arrest for loitering, or failure to find a job can all lead to a violation of probation. A zero tolerance approach in these matters makes no more sense than a zero tolerance approach to police work.

Kirk Osborn

The writer is chief attorney of the Office of the Public Defender MJT/VOP Unit for Baltimore City

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