Rodricks: Dallas Dance and the failure to learn

Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt speaks to the media after the guilty plea of former Baltimore County schools leader Dallas Dance.

Nobody asked me, but the Dallas Dance matter brings to mind questions that bounce off my head every time a man who wears a suit gets charged with a crime: Doesn’t anybody around here remember anything? Have we not had sufficient numbers of white-collar crooks standing at trial tables, grim-faced, listening to statements of fact, being led from courtrooms in handcuffs and disgrace, to drive home the futility of trying to get away with stuff?

Every time an adult in public life gets indicted, I wonder: Haven’t they been paying attention to all the cases that come through the U.S. Attorney’s office, or the Maryland prosecutor’s office, or the attorney general’s office? Do they read a newspaper? Did Dance, who arrived in Baltimore County to be superintendent of schools in 2012, not hear about the Sheila Dixon case just a couple of years earlier? She had to give up being mayor of Baltimore over a few hundred bucks in gift cards.


Dance tried to hide $147,000 in consulting fees, and that included payments from a company that, with his help, won a no-bid contract from the county schools. He pleaded guilty to perjury the other day.

I used to clip and save stories about crooks who, had there been such a thing in real life, would have been eligible to enter what I humbly coined the Rodricks Plea: Guilty, but mostly stupid.

I’m talking about the doofus who, in attempting to rob a bank, used personalized stationery for a stickup note. Or consider the two brothers who tried to pull the night-deposit box out of a bank with a chain wrapped around their car’s rear bumper. When they hit the gas, the bumper pulled off. The brothers fled the scene, leaving the chain, the bumper and their license plate behind.

Such cases are a source of amusement, and they usually involve people who do not possess the intellectual prowess to excel at crime.

The Dallas Dance case is not in that class. And it is not amusing. It is sad, approaching pathetic.

I could understand the poor guy who can't afford even a used suit from Goodwill trying to get over, trying to get a little something for himself the wrong way.

But, after all this time and all these cases of corruption, I don’t know what to make of relatively intelligent and highly successful people — lawyers, lobbyists, corporate executives, people who wear fine suits — breaking laws knowing that others have fallen before them for the same or similar offenses.

Following up: In the early 1980s, the late Spiro T. Agnew — once the Baltimore County executive, once the Maryland governor, once the vice president of the United States — was ordered to compensate the state for his many years of taking bribes. In 1982, Agnew, who had moved to California, wrote a check for $264,482 to the Maryland treasury for the bribes plus interest. I noted this bit of pleasing payback in a January column. But I did not know that the audacious Agnew had tried to deduct the bribe part ($142,500) as a business expense from his California income tax return. In 1989, the California Board of Equalization denied the tax break, calling Agnew’s claim “ludicrous.” Thanks to reader Erin Gilland Roby for adding that additional layer of most satisfying fact.

Nobody asked me, but the Cuban sandwich at Parts & Labor Restaurant is just superb, and the only word I can think of to describe the bread pudding topped with ice cream and butterscotch isn’t a word yet: Platelickerish.

Nobody asked me — I don’t work for the mayor — but it seemed foolish and pointless for Catherine Pugh to go on FOX News to explain her pledge to bus Baltimore students to the March For Our Lives. Such segments are FOX traps, designed to make certain guests look as bad as possible. But Pugh thinks she would have looked worse had she left the criticism unanswered; doing FOX was her call.

Nobody asked me, but Andy Harris could use some coaching in public speaking — particularly when he’s responding to teenage girls. At the Republican congressman’s March 1 town hall in Joppa, he upbraided two of them, Alison Kenney and Lindsey Darling, when they asked questions about gun control and assault weapons. At one point, he shouted at Kenney: “You are lucky to be in America!” And he challenged Darling to define an assault rifle, something most adults would be hard-pressed to do off the tops of their heads. “You want to restrict someone’s right to obtain a firearm and you don’t even know what you’re going to restrict,” Harris said. “Next question please.”

Harris knows perfectly well what an assault rifle is. The Maryland General Assembly banned 45 of them in 2013, and they are defined by name in state law. You can look them up under the Public Safety Article, 5-101(r)(2). Next question please.