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A dedicated commitment to children

November 05, 2006|by Charles P. Strong Jr.

As Washington County State's Attorney, I have fought for the victims and families of physical and sexual child abuse and other offenses against children. I have personally tried many of these cases. I lead a staff dedicated to the prosecution of defendants and the protection of children. These cases can be and usually are the toughest of cases to work with because of the horrible nastiness that adults can visit on children. These atrocious actions can leave a child scarred for life. I have prosecutors who are as passionate as I am in the prosecution of those who would abuse children. It takes not only ability and passion, but also a strong internal constitution to prosecute these horrific matters.

I strongly support and work with the Child Advocacy Center that coordinates investigation, examination, treatment, counseling, and prosecution of cases involving child victims and their families. I personally sit on the board that meets every month. One of my deputies is on the management team, and we have a prosecutor assigned to work with the police, counselors, and others in the interview process. This is a commitment by me and by my prosecutors. I also sit on the board of the Friends of Safe Place, which is the fundraising organization that helps fund the Child Advocacy Center.

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I am proud to lead a successful team of prosecutors whose work has led to the conviction in the last two years of not less than 30 criminals who have molested or victimized children. Most of these criminals have received substantial prison sentences.

For example, I draw your attention to just a few of the convictions of which I am justly proud: A repeat offense child molester whose sentence totaled 30 years for the abuse of his stepson; a former public school teacher brought to justice and sent to prison for more than 20 years after molesting a student; a mother convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to prison for abandoning her newborn son to the elements.

This strong commitment by my staff and me to child crime victims makes it necessary for me to set the record straight. I cannot let go unanswered the misleading paid political ad supporting my opponent. Its allegation that an alleged child sexual abuse incident was not fully pursued is without merit or substance. The matter was presented to two separate grand juries and neither grand jury, after testimony, returned an indictment.

First, under State's Attorney Ken Long, the matter was presented with the alleged victim testifying. No indictment was returned. Subsequently, we worked with the alleged victim, parents, police, Department of Social Services, the Child Advocacy Center and others to present the matter in more complete detail to a new grand jury. An experienced prosecutor who met with and worked with the family presented the matter. Eight witnesses including the alleged victim, parents, a state trooper, social service worker, and others testified under oath before the grand jury. After hearing the live testimony and after private deliberation, the grand jury did not return an indictment. A grand jury deliberation is secret and the prosecutor is not allowed to be present. A grand jury must find probable cause to return an indictment, which is a much lower standard than that of a trial court jury which must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.

The opponent's ad was substantially less than complete, replete with omissions, and it does a disservice to the dedicated men and women of the State's Attorney's Office, The Maryland State Police, The Department of Social Services, and the Child Advocacy Center, as well as to the general public. When I was appointed state's attorney by the judges of the circuit Court (not Interim state's attorney as my opponent erroneously suggests), I took an oath to uphold the law. I appreciate the family's anguish, but cannot prosecute someone two grand juries have not indicted.

The terrible crimes of child abuse and molestation have always been and will always be my priority as State's Attorney and as a parent. I, my office and the many fine state and county agency representatives with whom I work are committed to children and the community.

Charles P. Strong Jr. is State's Attorney for Washington County.

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