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Rapport vs. efficiency

State's attorney candidates talk priorities

State's attorney candidates talk priorities

October 23, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County State's Attorney Charles P. Strong Jr. and his opponent, private attorney Jerry Joyce, have stood on opposite sides of the courtroom for years.

And in their race for the same job, the lawyers agree on little.

Strong, 59, a Republican incumbent, and Joyce, 58, a Democrat, will face off Nov. 7 in the general election.

The state's attorney job pays $100,350 a year.

Strong was appointed to the position in 2004 when M. Kenneth Long Jr. was appointed to a judgeship in Washington County District Court. Long is now a circuit court judge.

Strong calls himself "an equal-opportunity prosecutor. Rich or poor, regardless of race, I will prosecute those who break the laws."

He said his office of more than 35 employees has a track record of efficiency, reducing the time taken from filing charges to closing a case to the lowest time frame in five years.

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Joyce said pushing cases through the court system is not enough. He said he wants to build more of a rapport with residents in communities affected by the drug trade.

"I'd like to be an agent to improve their circumstances," Joyce said.

He said he wants to pos pictures of drug dealers and gang members on a Web site - an endeavor he said he would fund with 10 percent of his salary.

Joyce said he would like to research providing alarms for the most at-risk domestic violence victims and would appoint a liaison from his office to work with the elderly.

Joyce, a longtime Republican, switched parties, in part to run as a Democrat for state's attorney, he said.

Joyce said he would not ask for anyone's resignation in the office if he is elected, but he would evaluate prosecutors' performances. He said he would not keep Strong's deputies as his own.

Strong said he was confident in the performance of his prosecutors and credited his deputies, Joseph Michael and Steven Kessell, with helping him run the office more efficiently by expediting cases in the circuit and district courts.

His office has "applied more direct focus" to prosecuting violent crimes within the county and violent crimes within the prisons south of Hagerstown, Strong said.

Strong, of 1423 The Terrace in Hagerstown, passed the Maryland Bar in 1972 and worked for more than five years as a prosecutor in Prince George's County, Md. He worked as a prosecutor - an assistant and then deputy - in Washington County for more than a year, after which he spent about five years in private practice, he said.

In 1988, Strong returned to the Washington County State's Attorney's Office as the Washington County Narcotics Task Force prosecutor. He became the deputy state's attorney in 1993.

Strong has been married nearly 38 years to Cheryl Strong, acting director of student services for Washington County Public Schools. They have two adult daughters.

Joyce, of 109 N. Potomac St. in Hagerstown, was raised in Baltimore and worked his way through college at Towson State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in sociology. He worked "blue-collar jobs," such as driving trucks and working at a steel mill, from 1967 to 1977. He obtained his law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1989.

Before becoming a lawyer, Joyce worked for 13 years as a criminal investigator. While he was in law school, he worked as a fraud investigator for Prudential Insurance Co., he said.

Joyce worked as a prosecutor from 1990 to 2000 - in Washington County and in Carroll County, Md.

Joyce has two children with his ex-wife, Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion, and a 32-year-old daughter who lives in Seattle.

Two years ago, prosecutors dropped a misdemeanor charge of second-degree assault against Joyce. He had been charged with assaulting a Hagerstown Police Department officer who he claimed was involved with Cirincion.

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