Charging that the state's attorney's office has become "a playground for politics," Annapolis lawyer John R. Greiber has set out to unseat incumbent Frank R. Weathersbee in the 1994 elections.
Mr. Greiber, who has represented Anne Arundel's anti-tax activists and spent much of his career arguing constitutional cases, said he is concerned about the increase in juvenile crime in the county and what he sees as an increasingly politicized prosecutor's office.
"The state's attorney's the chief law enforcement officer, and that's something that's been forgotten in this county because the office has become a playground for politics," he said.
L The 49-year-old Republican announced his candidacy Sept. 25.
He said that if elected to the $89,000-a-year job he would prohibit the 30 assistant state's attorneys from working at civil practices on the side, would more aggressively seek the death penalty and would turn over scheduling of criminal cases to the ** clerk of the Circuit Court.
Mr. Weathersbee, a Democrat, has argued that the civil practices four of his assistants maintain do not affect their work as prosecutors. He says he has sought the death penalty three times in the five years he has been in office and that the local judges want the prosecutor to schedule criminal cases.
Mr. Greiber also criticized Mr. Weathersbee's decision to retain Deputy State's Attorney Gerald K. Anders after his aide's second drunken driving arrest in 10 years last July.
"I would have fired him," Mr. Greiber said. "Keeping him sends the message that there are persons who are above the law."
Mr. Weathersbee said it would be unfair to fire an employee before he is convicted and noted that Mr. Anders was acquitted Tuesday of the drunken driving charge and convicted of a traffic violation by a retired Baltimore judge who was brought in especially to hear the case.
Mr. Greiber "seems like the kind of guy who would shoot a sick puppy," Mr. Weathersbee said, noting that Mr. Anders, his top deputy, has voluntarily sought alcohol counseling.
Mr. Weathersbee was appointed state's attorney in October 1988 to replace Warren B. Duckett Jr., who was appointed to a Circuit Court judgeship. Two years later, Mr. Weathersbee edged out Timothy D. Murnane, a former assistant public defender now in private practice, for re-election.
Mr. Greiber, a partner in the Annapolis law firm Council, Baradel, Kosmerl & Nolan, has handled a number of highly publicized cases in the past few years.
He has challenged the constitutionality of Anne Arundel's redrawn congressional districts and defended the county's property tax cap. He also has challenged the fairness of the county's leasing arrangement at its Heritage office complex and the constitutionality of its pension program for top-level executives.
Since 1989, he has represented the Anne Arundel County Taxpayers Association.
"I feel very strongly that crime has become a silent tax," MrGreiber said.
Mr. Greiber said the practice of allowing the state's attorney to schedule criminal cases has led to the dismissal of some cases because prosecutors failed to bring them to trial within the required 180 days.
Last week, a man charged with attempted murder in the shooting deaths of two Annapolis youths went free because prosecutors did not bring the case to trial in time.
"There's a myriad of reasons why the state's attorney's office shouldn't be doing it, and no good reasons why they should be," Mr. Greiber said.
Mr. Weathersbee said the scheduling of criminal cases had been left up to the county's Circuit Court judges until a study of the practice determined a year ago that it would be more cost-effective for the prosecutor to set the schedule.
"It's not a case where I can just say, 'Here it is,' " Mr. Weathersbee said.
Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr., administrative judge for Anne Arundel, said he would prefer the court to handle scheduling but that the money to hire the necessary people hasn't been available in the county budget.
He said the state's attorney only shares control of the criminal docket. Judge Thieme said the prosecutor sets the initial trial date but that any changes after that must be approved by him or one of the other judges.
"To say it's something that the state's attorney now has unbridled control over is just plain wrong," he said.
Mr. Weathersbee also said that allowing assistant state's attorneys to maintain civil practice helps him retain high-quality lawyers.
"If you institute a rule like that [banning private practices], you end up losing good people," he said.
He also said he will continue to consider asking for the death penalty in every case where it may apply.
"I've been an advocate of the death penalty, and I will continue to be an advocate of the death penalty," he said.
Mr. Greiber was born in Baltimore and earned his bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Baltimore in 1966.
He earned his law degree there four years later, graduating in the top 10 from a class of 160. In 1989, he earned a master of laws in taxation from the school.
He was a law clerk for retired U.S. District Judge Shirley B. Jones from 1967 to 1970 and joined a private practice in Baltimore in 1970.
Mr. Greiber, who is married and has two children, moved to Annapolis in 1981. He joined Council, Baradel as a partner two years ago.