Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Stanley Frosh, recently labeled too lenient by States' Attorney Andrew L. Sonner, gave a two-year prison sentence yesterday to a man he had convicted of 11 criminal charges stemming from a car theft and ensuing high speed chase that left two police officers seriously injured.
Under Maryland sentencing guidelines, Jeffrey W. Bidden, 20, of 2001 16th St. NW could have been sentenced to 24 to 48 years on charges ranging from theft to assault.
Sonner called the sentence "outrageous," adding that Maryland law gives a prosecutor no recourse to challenge a sentence.
But Frosh said the police and Sonner's office knew through an informant that Bidden had planned to steal a car on March 15 and should have acted to prevent the crime.
Instead, police put Bidden under surveillance as he was stealing the car. When Bidden noticed the police, he rammed a cruiser, then hit an officer on the street, according to court records. Bidden sped away and when another officer tried to stop him at Bradley Lane and Seven Locks Road, Bidden hit that cruiser, which gave chase. That cruiser went off the road, hit a tree and seriously injured another officer.
"Technically [Bidden] is guilty of all these counts, but this is a crime that never should have happened," Frosh said. When the state's attorney learned Bidden had a key to the Mercedes-Benz, "he should have called him in and said, 'We'll give you 24 hours to hand them over,' " Frosh said in an interview yesterday.
Or, Frosh said, the police could have arrested Bidden when he started the car.
"It's outrageous for them to want blood," Frosh said, "to want a 24-year sentence for this kid when they induced" the crime.
"When they know that a crime is going to be committed and they have the power to prevent it, they have just as much responsibility to prevent it as to punish it," he continued. "I think the insurance company that had to pay the $50,000 to fix the Mercedes should sue the states' attorney for instigating it."
Yesterday's barbs between Frosh and Sonner are the latest in a continuing clash between the aggressive prosecutor, who believes jail deters criminals, and the judge, who prides himself on his "compassionate" sentencing record.
Bidden also pleaded guilty to theft and assault charges in a Jan. 31, 1984, incident in which he led police on a chase after they saw him cutting open telephone change boxes at Little Falls Shopping Center. He faces sentencing today before Judge DeLawrence Beard.