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Harford prosecutor reconsiders retirement, will finish term

Harford County State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly has reconsidered his decision to retire Jan. 1 and now plans to serve the remaining two years of his term.
Harford County State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly has reconsidered his decision to retire Jan. 1 and now plans to serve the remaining two years of his term. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

Long-serving Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly has decided he won't retire, after all.

Cassilly confirmed Tuesday afternoon that he rescinded the letter of resignation he wrote in October and will serve out the remainder of his ninth term which will end in late 2018.

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The resignation, which the 65-year-old chief prosecutor had characterized as his retirement, was to take effect Jan. 1.

The change of heart came the same day the five judges of the county Circuit Court, who by law are charged with filling a vacancy in the state's attorney's term, had determined who they wanted to succeed Cassilly.

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Circuit Court Administrative Judge Angela Eaves said Tuesday the judges intended to appoint M. Teresa Garland, a state administrative law judge and a former Harford assistant state's attorney, to fill Cassilly's position. Garland, a Bel Air resident, formerly worked under Cassilly.

"We made our decision Tuesday after several days of deliberating," Eaves said. "We picked who we thought was the best qualified candidates of those who applied. We're willing to stand by that decision."

She said she didn't know when Cassilly made his decision not to retire in relation to when the judges decided on their appointment.

"It's certainly his prerogative to rescind his decision," Eaves said.

The judges had planned to have someone in place by the time Cassilly's left, so the new state's attorney could have the benefit of meeting with Cassilly before taking over and to make sure they could be sworn in before his retirement became effective, Eaves said.

"I'm not going there," Cassilly said when asked if he changed his mind because of who might have been named his successor, or if he even knew the judges had selected Garland.

'Things left undone'

"I felt like there are too many things left undone and I needed to stay in there, hang in there and do them," Cassilly said. "When I got down to it, two more years isn't that far away."

He said he hopes to able to work with the incoming administration, the new U.S. Attorney General, through the National District Attorneys Association to improve state and local prosecutor relationships within state government.

"The last eight years have been very discouraging to try and work with the administration and the attitude in the Department of Justice has been very anti-state and local law enforcement," Cassilly said. "Given the new administration and new attorney general, maybe I can have some positive influence in developing a good relationship with them."

Cassilly, who oversees the staff of deputy and assistant prosecutors and rarely appears in court, says he still has a few more of his own cases to move through the system.

He said he's going to have to refund a lot of money for his retirement party, and hopes he won't have to put off for too long some of things he intended to do.

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"I hope I won't have to put them off too much. Some friends I was in Vietnam with, I'm concerned I need to take time to go visit them. They're all older than I am and I want to make sure I get out and spend time with them," he said.

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