Montgomery County State's Attorney Andrew L. Sonner has subpoenaed Police Chief Bernard D. Crooke Jr. to testify before a grand jury investigating allegations that Crooke knowingly allowed the Progress Club to conduct high-stakes gambling at its Rockville headquarters. Court records also show for the first time that Crooke voluntarily testified to the jury for 6 1/2 hours last month.
The subpoenas issued to Crooke and Joann Robertson, the county government attorney assigned to the police department, mark the latest round in a long-running professional and personal feud between Sonner, the county's top prosecutor, and Crooke, head of Montgomery's 800-officer force.
The feud, which dates back to 1979, intensified last October when the grand jury subpoenaed and received all county police files relating to the Progress Club, which had been raided by Rockville City Police on June 6, 1984.
Twenty-one persons, many of them elderly affluent businessmen, were arrested on illegal gaming charges and more than $25,000 was seized in the nightime raid. Only one of those club members went to trial and he was acquitted; the rest pleaded guilty to one illegal betting charge each and were sentenced to community service.
Since last fall, the grand jury has focused much of its attention on two charitable donations totaling about $6,000 that the Progress Club made in the early 1980s to two charities that had ties to Crooke and law enforcement groups. Crooke, who was involved in forwarding the donations to the groups, has adamantly denied any wrongdoing.
Crooke's six hours of testimony to the grand jury on May 21 -- revealed for the first time yesterday in documents filed by James R. Miller, his attorney -- centered in part on the charitable donations, sources said.
Miller and Robertson's attorney each received the subpoenas earlier this week and quickly filed separate motions to quash those legal orders and prevent their clients from appearing before the grand jury.
A hearing on those motions was scheduled for Monday morning, just before the time Crooke and Robertson are to appear before the grand jury.
Crooke, Robertson and Sonner declined yesterday to comment about the case.
Miller argued in his motion that the police chief should not have to reappear before the jury because he testified "voluntarily and without compulsion" and answered questions "freely" in his first appearance.
Courtland K. Townsend Jr., Robertson's attorney, argued in his written motion that Robertson should not have to appear to give testimony about conversations or correspondence with police officers, including Crooke, because of the traditional attorney-client privilege about such matters.
Sources familiar with the grand jury investigation said yesterday that prosecutors want to question Robertson about any conversations she had with county police officers who testified to the jury about the Progress Club.
In an interview, Miller said that prosecutors previously ordered those officers not to discuss their testimony. Miller has filed a companion motion contending that such orders amounted to illegal "gag orders."
Miller added that any conversations Robertson had with the officers would also be protected by attorney-client privilege. Staff writer Victoria Churchville contributed to this report.