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Harford's retiring state's attorney 'set the standard for prosecutors,' colleagues say

Duty, Honor, Harford County
Duty, Honor, Harford County (Nils Johnson for The Aegis / Baltimore Sun)

Harford County State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly has become a leader and mentor for prosecutors across Maryland and nationally during his nearly 34-year tenure as Harford's top prosecutor.

Cassilly announced Tuesday that he will retire Jan. 1, 2017. He started working as an assistant state's attorney in the fall of 1977. He has served as board president for the Maryland State's Attorneys Association and the National District Attorneys Association.

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He "set the standard for prosecutors" statewide and nationally, Steven Kroll, executive director of the Maryland State's Attorneys Association, said Thursday.

"Excellent leader, excellent mentor, and he will be sorely missed – and he's an excellent state's attorney as a litigator and a leader," Kroll said.

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"Joe has been a leader among the state's attorneys, because he's been around so long and has so much experience," Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, said.

Rosenstein, who was appointed as U.S. attorney by then-President George W. Bush in 2005, has worked closely with the Harford State's Attorney's Office on various cases, particularly cases involving gangs and violent offenders.

"We have a very good working relationship with prosecutors and the police in Harford County," he said.

The U.S. attorney said Cassilly "has a very strong commitment to public service and to law enforcement," is "always willing to express his view" and is "always well informed."

"I think he's made a big impact on prosecutors statewide," Rosenstein said.

He said Cassilly has been a role model for many young prosecutors, and a role model for living with a disability.

"Being in a wheelchair has not slowed him down one bit," Rosenstein said. "He goes to all the meetings, and he's very dedicated."

Kroll said Cassilly has been an advocate in Annapolis for multiple causes related to criminal justice, especially for protecting crime victims and witnesses.

"When Joe Cassilly talks, people listen, especially in Annapolis," Kroll said.

The Harford County Circuit Court judges will appoint his successor, and Kroll said whoever succeeds him has "a huge challenge ahead of them to meet Joe's standards."

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