Simms Revisits Gansler's Reprimanded for Making 'Extrajudicial' Comments

By Steve Vogel and Robert Barnes
Thursday, September 7, 2006

On the sixth day before the Maryland primary, the Democratic candidates for attorney general traded barbs, Republican Senate candidate Michael S. Steele launched a new commercial and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer continued to be William Donald Schaefer .

Former Baltimore state's attorney Stuart O. Simms criticized his attorney general rival, Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas Gansler , and called on Gansler to vow not to repeat the actions that led to his reprimand in 2003 by Maryland's highest court. Gansler responded that he had no intention of violating the court's rules on talking to reporters about cases and accused Simms of negative campaigning.

The Maryland Court of Appeals chided Gansler in November 2003 for statements he made to reporters about two high-profile murder cases. The court ruled that such comments could materially prejudice the outcome of cases. Gansler defended his actions last week during a debate on Washington Post Radio, suggesting the reprimand was in retaliation for his criticism of a Montgomery County judge.

"He should not suggest he's going to disobey the Court of Appeals," Simms said at a news conference in Annapolis, where he was endorsed by former governor Parris N. Glendening (D). "The implication was the court was wrong and he was right."

Gansler said that Simms had distorted his comments and that he would adhere to the rule of law. "They made the ruling, and I abide by it," he said.

Gansler reacted angrily to Simms's comments, calling the matter a three-year-old case that has nothing to do with the race. "People should be disappointed that Mr. Simms had decided to be negative," he said. "It's very disappointing. We're here to talk about the issues."

The Court of Appeals found that Gansler went too far when he gave details about a confession in the slaying of jogger Sue Wen Stottmeister in January 2001 and when he discussed evidence pointing to a suspect's involvement in the slaying of Monsignor Thomas Wells in June 2000.

Gansler's is the only case in which a sitting prosecutor in Maryland has been reprimanded for making "extrajudicial" comments. "I follow the rules of the state's highest court because I'm constantly mindful of the rights of defendants," Gansler said yesterday. "I've always been extremely careful of what I can and cannot say."

Steele Goes for Green Image

Steele was on the Eastern Shore yesterday unveiling his environmental initiatives with Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest (R) at his side. Steele pledged to increase federal water quality testing and strengthen the Clean Air Act by reducing mercury pollution.

Before his speech, which he delivered on the sandy shores of Stevensville as water fowl glided past, he outlined some of his plans for Tuesday's primary.

Steele also unveiled his second TV commercial, which uses inspirational music and snippets of his speeches to introduce him to voters. Imagine "Rocky" as a political ad.

The spot includes video from hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons , who endorsed Steele last month. It shows Steele at his campaign announcement making the statement that most clearly identified him as someone wishing to cast aside his deep ties to the national Republican Party -- something Steele has seen as a must when running in a state that's majority Democrat. "For too long, one party worried more about prices in the stock market than prices in the corner market," he says, referring to the Republican Party. "And too many in the other party preached reconciliation at the same time they practiced division."

The closest Steele comes in the commercial to acknowledging his party affiliation is when a black woman -- presumably a Democrat -- says she is crossing party lines to vote for him.

Steele said he will embark on his first statewide tour next week in a recreational vehicle, modeled after Sen. John McCain 's 1999 "straight talk express," with the candidate accessible to the media.

Democrats are making their plans for a unity event Wednesday, assuming they have a clear primary winner. As for Steele's environmental initiatives, Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman issued a statement calling them "a joke" and noting that some of the steps Steele pledged to take with respect to air pollution were the opposite of efforts he undertook as lieutenant governor.

Chivalry Is Dead in Some Camps

Democratic comptroller candidate Peter Franchot came galloping to the defense of a female rival yesterday, just days after incumbent Schaefer said she looked like Mother Hubbard.

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens "shouldn't have to deal with the kind of personal, hurtful attacks she received from our current comptroller," Franchot, a state delegate from Montgomery County, said at a news conference in Takoma Park to announce his endorsement by several female legislators and women's rights leaders. "What he said the other day, like what he said so many times before, was wrong, and he owes her an apology."

Instead, Schaefer, 84, defended his remarks at an event in Baltimore, saying Owens, 62, "is not a spring chicken," according to Capital News Service.

As chivalrous acts go, Franchot's remarks fell a little short. Franchot prefaced his remarks by making it "very clear" that "I don't agree with Janet Owens on her pro-slots, pro-sprawl, pro-Bob Ehrlich agenda" and followed by restating his campaign slogan that he is "the only real Democrat running for comptroller."

Staff writers Matthew Mosk and Nelson Hernandez contributed to this report.

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