Judge to go to trial over dumping

The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore judge accused of illegally dumping hundreds of tons of construction debris on his waterfront property in Pasadena will have to stand trial in Anne Arundel County, despite his attorney's allegations yesterday that he is the victim of political pressures.

John F. Dougherty had argued that Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold had unfairly targeted District Judge Askew W. Gatewood Jr. for prosecution because of his position as a judge. The Maryland attorney general's office charged Gatewood in a 12-count indictment in January, two months after Leopold publicly suggested the judge was getting special treatment after the discovery of the dump site in 2006.

Dougherty, in his attempts to have the charges dismissed, also challenged the state's jurisdictional right to pursue charges, said the statue of limitations for trying the case had lapsed, and suggested the charging documents were improperly signed. He further alleged that the state had improperly "implied to a reporter that there was some kind of plea agreement."

Bernard Penner, an assistant attorney general in the environmental crimes unit, called the defense's arguments "an intellectual flanking maneuver" and accused Gatewood of exhibiting "an apparent contempt for authority." He denied that anyone from his office had talked to reporters about a possible plea agreement.

Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner agreed there was nothing improper about Leopold requesting the state's prosecutorial arm, and he dismissed other objections to the case. "It's clear that the state has the right to prosecute," he said.

Gatewood is accused of unlawful dumping, filling a wetland, water pollution and construction without a sediment-control plan. He is also facing thousands of dollars in fines from the county and state because of the truckloads of drywall, cinderblocks, bricks and other rubble discovered in October 2006 near his property along the Patapsco River.

Gatewood has declined to comment, but through his attorney has said he had been performing grading along the shoreline to repair storm damage.

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