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State's attorney hopes for funds to prosecute prison crime

August 18, 2000

State's attorney hopes for funds to prosecute prison crime



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


Washington County State's Attorney Ken Long is watching with interest a request by another county prosecutor in Maryland for state financial assistance in prosecuting felonies committed in state prisons.

Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee is refusing to prosecute such cases until the state starts picking up some of the tab.

Weathersbee has blocked two potential cases - a prison homicide and a felony assault - that have been ready for presentation to a grand jury for more than a month.

Weathersbee said that from 1997 to 1999, the state prison facilities at Jessup generated 15 percent of the 33 homicide cases his office handled plus 78 felonies from other prison incidents.

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"I'm just not going to do it," said Weathersbee.

He said the state has been promising for months to find money for Anne Arundel County.

Maryland Public Safety Secretary Stuart O. Simms said he hopes to secure a $60,000 state grant by mid-September for Weathersbee to hire another assistant prosecutor to help with the caseload.

Long made a similar request several years ago, to no avail.

"Some years ago, we tried to get relief by getting help from the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly," Long said. "But it didn't get anywhere."

As the state's attorney for a county that is home to thousands of state prisoners, Long has to investigate many criminal cases that occur behind bars - at Washington County's expense.

"I don't keep a running number, but we handle a lot of assaults, concealed weapons, etc.," Long said. "I have two open murder cases we're working on now."

Long, state's attorney since 1982, said his office looks very carefully at cases from the prison complex south of Hagerstown with an eye toward merit and presence of evidence.

The three state prisons - Maryland Correctional Institution, Maryland Correctional Training Center and Roxbury Correctional Institution - house more than 6,000 inmates.

In Washington County, no one prosecutor is assigned to prison cases, Long said. Traditionally, they are handled quickly and mixed in with other cases.

"It's important to keep these prison cases moving," Long said.

Long is awaiting the outcome of Weathersbee's request with an eye toward renewing his own request for state assistance.

"If the Division of Correction decides to do something for Anne Arundel County, then it should do the same for Baltimore City, Washington, Somerset and Allegany counties, too," Long said, noting they all have state prisons within their boundaries.

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