In a New York state of mind

McCormack working to erase drug activities in the county

McCormack working to erase drug activities in the county

December 28, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

Former Bronx, N.Y., prosecutor Christopher McCormack said he's not sure why some drug dealers from the New York area are drawn to Washington County, but now that he's here, he plans to help smoke them out.

McCormack, 39, a Washington County assistant state's attorney assigned to the county's Narcotics Task Force since August, is still trying to get a feel for the most serious drug crime issues here.

Related to drug cases, McCormack also is responsible for working as the county's nuisance abatement attorney. He said nuisance abatement, or getting rid of drug activity in private or public properties, is a unique, effective Maryland statute.


"Whenever we become aware of drug activity that's occurring, we just try to work with the landlords and the police departments to prevent that behavior from happening again at that location," he said. "We try to do that without getting the court actually involved."

Before moving to Frederick, Md., for this job, McCormack prosecuted as an assistant district attorney in Bronx County, N.Y., for six years. For three of those years, he was assigned to the narcotics bureau.

Since changing jobs, McCormack said he's still trying to figure out why some drug dealers from New York find Hagerstown attractive.

"I like it down here, but if you're some city kid, I can't imagine kids from the Bronx ... I can't imagine (Hagerstown) being on their radar. But it is," he said.

While looking over rap sheets as a Bronx prosecutor, McCormack said he noticed that in Westchester County, N.Y., where he was raised, the "judges, the prosecutors and the juries weren't as tolerant of drug activity as perhaps the Bronx." He said he noticed the stiffer penalties coming down from Westchester County were perhaps luring some drug dealers to a less-punitive Bronx.

"That's the message our community needs to send to people coming in," he said. "We need to send a message, 'No. Stop coming into our community before the barn doors open too much.'" He added, with a laugh, that's he's working on speaking in rural colloquialisms.

McCormack said he's still trying to get a feel for how judges sentence here, but believes the statutes in Maryland "are adequate" for the crimes.

"The potential for (higher) sentences are higher in Maryland than they are in New York," he said.

In New York, he said courts interpret case law from a more "pro-defendant" perspective.

The Tulane University law school graduate said he clerked for judges in Prince George's County, Md., and "fell in love with the D.C.-Virginia area." When he heard that there was an opening here, he sent in his rsum.

Adjusting to Hagerstown has been a learning experience for the Scarsdale, N.Y., native, whose fiance, Jennifer Bacik, is still working in New York.

McCormack said he still gets taken aback here when someone holds a door open for him or makes eye contact with him passing in the street. He said he was shocked and pleased that no one got mad at him one day while he was stopped at a red light. He was distracted and didn't notice it turned green.

"There were two cars behind me and no one honked," he said and smiled.

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