Candidates were asked: 1. Federal prosecutors recently criticized local state's attorneys for failing to aggressively prosecute political corruption. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
2. Do you feel plea bargains are struck in too many cases, too few, or just enough? Please give examples.
3. Prosecution of cases in the Washington suburbs of Maryland has been excellent, good, fair, or poor, in your opinion?
4. Given the limited resources of the office you seek, what types of crime do you think most need vigorous prosecution? Daniel J. Cassidy, 30, of 18700 Walkers Choice Rd., Gaithersburg, is an associate county attorney for Montgomery County. He has been an Assistant State's Attorney in Prince George's County.
1. I agree. I advocate depoliticalization of the activities of the State's Attorney once he is elected, so that he may remove himself from political situations that may tend to jeopardize his impartiality or effectiveness. I believe the State's Attorney must vigorously and independently pursue investigations of alleged official wrongdoing. Some local corruption investigations may require resources beyond the capabilities of the local prosecutor. In those cases, I advocate working with the statewide special prosecutor in Maryland to ensure an independent and fair investigation with sufficient resources for the benefit of Montgomery County's citizens and public officials.
2. The state's attorney's office should establish a major offenders unit to target multiple serious offenders. These serious offenders should be made to plead guilty to the actual offences committed, and the prosecutor should recommend an appropriate sentence from the court. This system will ensure that the community is adequately protected from major offenders by substantial jail sentences.
3. Prosecutorial effectiveness depends upon the individual leadership of the individual county state's attorney. There is a need for developing career prosecutors and a career office of public servants and not political appointees. Too often, in Montgomery County, inexperienced prosecutors must compete with experienced, highly paid defense counsel with the result that the citizens of the community receive less than the best possible representation.
4. One in every 50 households in Montgomery County was burglarized last year. More vigorous prosecution of serious offenders such as burglars, rapists and armed robbers is essential for the protection of the community. Even with the current resources of the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office, a career criminal unit could now be in operation and begin targeting multiple serious offenders. A clear policy of no plea bargaining in instances where offenders have been targeted as major offenders is long overdue. Andrew J. Sonner, 44, of 205 West Montgomery Ave., Rockville, is a lawyer. He has been state's attorney for Montgomery County since 1970.
1. The criticism does not apply to Montgomery County. We have been willing to investigate corruption and also prosecute it when we have found it necessary.
2. In Montgomery County we have developed a system which restricts plea bargaining. The system, which received an award from the National Association of Counties, selects cases for which the public demands vigorous prosecution and refuses to bargain them. For example, we do not negotiate in those cases in which a handgun was used in the commission of a felony, or in major crimes of violence. The office does plea bargain in cases where there are multiple charges and where there is no public value to multiple trials.
3. Overall, prosecution in the Washington suburbs has been excellent. That is especially so in Montgomery County, where we have attracted a superior staff, trained them in trial advocacy and have developed procedures and policies to assure top quality legal representation.
4. Most serious crimes, such as burglary, robbery, and rape, are committed by a small group of violators. These career criminals are deserving of most vigorous prosecution because guilty verdicts followed by incarceration are most likely to reduce the incidence of crime. At the same time, the office should be willing to devote resources to combating white collar crimes, major frauds, and political corruption. These crimes are most difficult to investigate and more complicated to try, but successful prosecution is an effective deterrent.