Candidates for Montgomery County State's Attorney were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:
Prosecute: Is it necessary for the state's attorney to personally prosecute cases in court?
Plea Bargaining: What are your views on plea bargaining?
Daniel J. Cassidy (D), 34, of 30 Brassie Ct., Gaithersburg, is a trial attorney specializing in criminal, personal injury and administrative litigation. He is a former prosecutor who has represented the Commission for Women and the Police Department as an associate attorney for Montgomery County.
Prosecution: The community deserves active representation by the state's attorney to effectively combat violent crime, drunken driving and racial and religions hate-violence incidents. I believe the state's attorney for Montgomery County should personally try major felony cases so that the most experienced prosecutor handles the most serious cases. I have extensive trial experience, both as an assistant state's attorney and as a defense attorney. Because many of the assistants come directly to the office from Law school, it is important that the state's attorney lead them by example. I feel it is impossible to effectively administer this trial office without trying cases. This is in direct contrast to the indumbent who has not personally tried a case in court during his last two terms in office. My active representation will gain the respect of the Police Department while protecting the safety of the community.
Plea Bargaining: Extensive plea bargaining is counterproductive in the fight against crime in Montgomery County. Any community allowing prosecutors to plea bargain extensively does so at great risk. When the expectation of maximum punishment for crime is removed, the likelihood of its commission increases. As state's attorney, I will use all admissible evidence to seek convictions for the crimes actually committed. This policy serves to accurately reflect both the nature and number of crimes actually committed by the accused and will send a message that crime in Montgomery County is not "cheaper by the dozen." During the past 12 years, the incumbent's office has plea bargained away charges, such as the use of a handgun in an armed robbery, thus inviting distant felons to prey on local residents. My publicly announced policy will be a deterrent to violent criminals because of the promise of swift and certain prosecution.
Andrew L. Sonner (D), (incumbent) 48, of 205 W. Montgomery Ave., Rockville, has been the county's state's attorney since 1970. He serves on the Governor's Crime Commission and is chairman of the Montgomery County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. He has been active in professional associations.
Prosecutions: The Montgomery County State's Attorney Office is the largest law firm in the county, with 28 lawyers and 37 paralegal and secretarial aides. The state's attorney must lead the office, as the managing partner leads a law firm. Familiarity with trial practice and the courtroom are essential qualifications for the position of state's attorney, but experience throughout Maryland and throughout the nation has shown that it is more important that the state's attorney perform a role of leadership in recruiting, developing and guiding an able staff of assistant prosecutors than that he personally try cases in court. The state's attorney must be an expert in criminal law as well as an innovative and capable administrator who works to make the criminal justice system serve the public.
Plea Bargaining: Candidates who promise to eliminate plea bargaining are misleading the public. Plea bargaining is part of the criminal justice process in every state. It cannot be eradicated completely, and in some cases it serves to ensure speedy conviction when complex problems of evidence would make the trial process slow and uncertain. In Montgomery County, all cases are evaluated by senior attorneys, who determine if the public will derive a substantial benefit from the trial of a defendant. In cases where a trial would accomplish little in the public interest, defendants are permitted to plead guilty, in accordance with the Maryland rules for plea negotiations. Plea bargaining is not practiced in cases of violent crime in which the defendant is a previously convicted felon. The state's attorney must ensure that the office has sufficient resources to prosecute all cases vigorously and should never use plea bargaining indiscriminately to control court caseload.