In a rare display of judicial anger, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Stanley B. Frosh lashed out from the bench yesterday at State's Attorney Andrew L. Sonner for the prosecutor's outspoken criticism of the judge's track record on sentencing.
During a plea hearing for a Rockville veterinarian accused of falsifying prescriptions, Frosh asked the assistant state's attorney handling the case whether the sentence would be publicized as lenient.
He later imposed a one-year sentence with supervised probation.
Frosh was referring to Sonner's announcement earlier this month that Sonner would issue weekly tabulations of punishments meted out by the county's 11 Circuit Court judges for publication in area newspapers. Sonner singled out Frosh at the time as the county's most lenient judge.
"Your office has been somewhat critical . . . ," Frosh said today from the bench to newly hired assistant state's attorney Cynthia Ross.
Ross, who, like the veterinarian, his attorney and family, appeared surprised at the remarks, apologized to Frosh for the "unfortunate wording" of a Washington Post story. "Does your boss share that feeling?" Frosh shot back.
Later, Frosh said, "this is the first time I've ever answered Sonner in any way. It's about the fourth time he's issued press releases on me. For him to say we're too lenient out of one side of his mouth, then to plea bargain 80 per cent of the sentences and set the standard out of the other side of his mouth is preposterous. It's two-faced."
Frosh said Sonner's recent attacks, including Sonner's criticism in October of an 18-month jail term for a man convicted of rape, are politically motivated.
"I think Sonner is trying to run for attorney general of Maryland and he needs all the publicity he can get and I'm a foil for him. It's easy to beat up on judges," Frosh said.
In the four weeks since Sonner's office began compiling records, Frosh has imposed two sentences -- one of 30 days in jail under a plea agreement for a charge of driving while intoxicated and another of two years probation for driving under the influence of alcohol. Said Sonner after today's hearing, "He's now added to his injudicious decisions, bullying an assistant [state's attorney] . . . I'm not going to fight with him but he's still the most lenient sentencer on the bench. He's out of step with the other sentencers." Yesterday's barbs were the latest in a long-simmering dispute between the two men on how criminals should be treated. Frosh characterizes himself as a "humanist" rather than a lenient judge, saying he prefers alternative sentences for some offenders who would otherwise clog up already overcrowded prison facilities.