A District Court judge yesterday granted a landlord's request to postpone his trial until Sept. 11 and ordered Anne Arundel County prosecutors to hand over records in the case against him.
Earlier this month, prosecutors sued Mohammad Zuberi, alleging that he knowingly rents to drug dealers and users at the Warfield Condominiums in Pioneer City, where he owns 62 of 284 units. County officials also posted notices on 19 of Mr. Zuberi's units, declaring them a nuisance.
The state wants another company to manage Mr. Zuberi's property and screen the tenants. Mr. Zuberi would retain ownership and continue to collect rent.
Judge Michael E. Loney ordered prosecutors to hand over their evidence by Aug. 14. A defense motion to dismiss the case will be argued during the trial. Judge Loney also rejected a defense request that Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee testify.
Trevor A. Kiessling, the assistant state's attorney on the case, filed a counter motion to keep Mr. Weathersbee from having to take the witness stand. Judge Loney's ruling pleased Mr. Kiessling.
"That motion was clearly designed for purposes of harassment," Mr. Kiessling said. "The judge saw that and properly dismissed it. It's like saying the governor has to show up every time the state of Maryland sues somebody."
T. Joseph Touhey, the attorney for Mr. Zuberi, said that the state's attorney, as the plaintiff in the case, had an obligation to appear.
"I wanted Weathersbee here to explain the motives and rationale behind this kind of suit," said Mr. Touhey, whose client is an engineer.
Mr. Touhey discounted Mr. Weathersbee's contention that he had no evidence that would help Mr. Zuberi. Such a statement was akin to Mr. Weathersbee admitting he knew nothing about (( the case, said Mr. Touhey.
"You would think that if a guy wants to seize 55 properties he would know something about the case," Mr. Touhey said. "Where are we, Oz? Are we back in Kansas yet, Toto?"
Mr. Kiessling noted that there is a difference between not knowing about a case and not having evidence to give. Mr. Weathersbee, he said, knows all about the lawsuit.
During the argument over the defense request for the prosecution to disclose its evidence, Mr. Kiessling said state legislators had no "intention to provide for discovery in these kinds of cases" when they wrote the nuisance law. Mr. Touhey countered that, without discovery, the state was trying to seize his client's property by "prosecutorial fiat."
After Judge Loney's ruling, Mr. Kiessling expressed little concern about having to turn over evidence to the defense, hinting that discovery might benefit prosecutors as well.
"I have no problem with discovery as long as it works both ways," he said. "There are a lot of things Mr. Zuberi has in his possession that I can't wait to get hold of."