Local NAACP leaders rally around Snowden

Event comes on the heels of drunken-driving appeal

February 16, 2011|By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

The Anne Arundel County branch of the NAACP held a show of support Tuesday afternoon for Carl O. Snowden, the head of the state attorney general's civil rights office. The event came on the heels of Snowden's appeal of a drunken-driving conviction.

Several community leaders, including elected officials and the president of the state NAACP, spoke so effusively about Snowden's four decades of community activism that Snowden, 57, reminded those in attendance at the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center in Annapolis that it was "not a eulogy."

Snowden's work in the county has included helping to elect black residents to public office, working to pass landmark legislation barring private clubs in the city from discriminating in membership, and spearheading the current drive for what was said will be the first memorial to Coretta Scott King in the state, a garden at Sojourner-Douglass College in Edgewater.

They recalled when Snowden, whom they called a pioneer and icon, befriended them and organized the black community's civil rights and civil liberties efforts in Annapolis and the county.

"Now, as fate would have it, he needs all the friends he can get his hands on," said George Phelps, 84, who was the first black law enforcement officer in the county.

About three dozen people attended the event. His drunken-driving conviction was obliquely mentioned, though afterward some criticized its high-profile nature and outcome.

Businessman and former Anne Arundel County Council candidate Perry Ealim said the justice system shares blame in an apparent mistake in Snowden's case, as the judge initially gave Snowden probation before judgment. He said he would have liked a compromise outcome that recognized Snowden's role in the community.

In November, Snowden was granted probation before judgment for driving while impaired — the second time in less than eight years – after a 2009 change in state law prohibited such a disposition. The Anne Arundel County circuit judge and the prosecutor later said they were unaware of the change in the law. Snowden sought to keep the PBJ, a finding that would allow him to avoid a conviction if probation is successfully completed. On Friday, the judge said that sentence was illegal and found Snowden guilty. Snowden had been charged in June.

The sentence, three years' probation and a $250 fine, is the same as under the PBJ. Snowden appealed the conviction and asked that the sentence not be imposed until an appellate ruling.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, declined to say what effect a conviction could have on the job Snowden has held for four years. State employee rules say that for a first conviction, an employee can be referred to an assistance program and be disciplined; possible sanctions for a second conviction include firing.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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