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Misplaced sympathy, miscarried justice


Those of us who frequent the galleries of the courts of Maryland try to imagine some guy who beat his wife's head against a tile floor asking a judge to wipe out his battery conviction because of "the stigma" and because otherwise he won't get membership in a country club. And you know what? It's not that hard to imagine. Similar arguments are made all the time in drunken driving cases on behalf of men who fall from grace. There's a whole lot of blah-blah-blah about how poor Mr. Dope has suffered economically and his reputation has been hurt, and won't you please give him his life and his BMW back, your honor?

It's not the chutzpah of that kind of argument that's infuriating and surprising. It's the judges who go along - like Baltimore County circuit Judge Tom Bollinger. Sympathy for wife beaters who want to get on with their lives and get into country clubs - just what the judicial system needs.

Testers don't make grade

MARTA Technologies, the company that runs Maryland's vehicle emissions-testing program, fired an employee from its Bel Air station for allegedly soliciting a bribe from a motorist in return for a passing grade. The alleged shakedown occurred in December. ("The News at 10," WBFF-TV, had the story last month. The fired tester denied the allegation and claimed in an interview with reporter Kathleen Cairns that he was dismissed because MARTA management thought he was gay.) That wasn't the first we'd heard of a problem at the Bel Air test site. A Harford County handyman told me a tester solicited a bribe from him when he drove his '79 Ford pickup there for an inspection last fall. (The handyman did not report the incident to the Motor Vehicle Administration.) Last year, MARTA dismissed another tester for a similar infraction at a test station in Prince George's County. And I'm told of another incident at the station on Erdman Avenue: In early December, a tester asked an Elkridge woman, Laurie Gray, for "a little bit of cash" before giving the results of her car's emissions test. (It had passed, but she didn't know that.) Gray reported the incident. The state investigated, and MARTA followed MVA's recommendation that the tester be fired. Good thing MARTA acts fast to dismiss these employees. But maybe they wouldn't have the problem if they paid their testers more than $6 an hour.

Platinum plastic

The Baltimore law firm of Bierer, Allentoff and Margolis represents about 100 debtors in bankruptcy every year. Its clients have heavily bruised credit histories, default judgments against them and collection agencies after them. Through bankruptcy, they're hoping to close books and move on. And now the fine people at MBNA Platinum Plus are offering to help! Just last week, in what must have been a mailing-list mix-up, a bankruptcy client of Bierer, Allentoff and Margolis got an invitation to sign up for the Platinum Plus MasterCard, with a preapproved line of credit of $100,000. Talk about your second chances! "We've taken a common sense approach to making your life better," David W. Nelms, group president, MBNA America, wrote the bankrupt client, "by creating a credit card that clearly will be the most useful card in your wallet." (I'm tellin' ya: That Dutch Ruppersberger was one smart cookie to get into debt collections for these guys.)

Breakfast buddies

Seen having breakfast together at the San Marco restaurant in the Pikesville Hilton: Mickey Steinberg and Ellen Sauerbrey. That would be the former Democratic lieutenant governor with the past and present Republican candidate for governor. Ah, to have been a fly in the linens. ... Last I checked, there was a manure spreader for sale on Falls Road, north of Shawan, and it was pretty nice, too. Someone obviously put a lot of effort into cleaning and painting the thing. Would make a great lawn ornament for one of those Hunt Valley mansions. ... "Star Wars" at the Senator is the best thing that's happened to the merchants in Belvedere Square in a long time. ... Would the United Shellfish man responsible for shipping soft-shell clams from the Chesapeake to New England please send a gallon or two over to Paul Devine at the Crab Pot in Lexington Market? Some of us in Baltimore like the long-neckers, and Paul's the only man we can trust to fry 'em the Cape Cod way. ... If you try Cafe Pangea on Falls Road, I enthusiastically suggest the "panini," or grilled sandwich, of focaccia, eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, tomatoes, mozzarella, pesto and olive paste (and I think that covers about everything). ...

If the shoe fits

Here's a response to a response to a response to a TJI item about women who shop for shoes for their husbands. It should provide good material for Rob "Defending The Caveman" Becker. A reader with a lovely name, Mary Elizabeth Butler, writes: "I just read TJI (Jan. 31), where the woman who bought her husband's shoes wrote that no salesman better make a crack to her or she'd assault him. Why isn't she assaulting the husband who, according to her, is 46 years old, insists on an exact replacement for shoes that wear out, and then complains that she spent too much on his shoes, all the while, according to her, not lifting a finger to take care of his kids when she also has a full-time job? I hate to use pop-psych terms like 'codependency,' so I'll just quote the old Ann Landers line about how no one can take advantage of you without your permission. What does this guy contribute to the relationship that she puts up with this



Pub Date: 2/07/97

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