The Montgomery County State's Attorney Office, citing "uncomfortable" questions of ethics and conflict-of-interest, is seeking the advice of Maryland's top legal counsel in the murder trial of a woman charged with shooting her estranged husband outside a rural veterinary clinic six weeks ago.
Gary E. Bair, chief of the criminal appeals division of the Maryland Attorney General's Office, said his office is looking into whether Lisa J. Rubin should be prosecuted by authorities other than the Montgomery State's Attorney Office because of conflict-of-interest issues.
Calling the Rubin case "delicate and unusual," Bair said Montgomery County Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Tamm asked him Thursday to examine the investigation and prosecution of the case. Bair said Montgomery County prosecutors are uncomfortable about the appearance of impropriety and the possible misconduct of some defense attorneys involved in the case.
Specifically, Bair said his office will investigate whether one of Rubin's previous attorneys, a former prosecutor and campaign aide to Montgomery County State's Attorney Andrew L. Sonner, tampered with the crime scene or violated the professional code of conduct. The lawyer, Darrel Longest, along with his partner, P. David Gavin, led police to the victim's body, but refused to discuss specifics, citing attorney-client confidentiality.
Longest has withdrawn from the Rubin case and hired an attorney for himself.
Revelation of the Attorney's General Office's involvement in the Rubin case is the latest twist in a bizarre homicide that has become the talk of the county's legal community.
Rubin, who was released yesterday on $100,000 bond, is accused of the April 24 slaying of her estranged husband, Timothy Warner, 28, whose body was found face down in a wooded area in Poolesville. Rubin, 34, and Warner had planned to meet at the Peachtree Veterinary Clinic on Darnestown Road to have their aged dog put to death, police said.
A dog leash and .22-caliber Beretta pistol that had not been fired were found near Warner, and 10 used cartridges from a .38-caliber handgun were piled beside the body, police said. Law enforcement sources said that the handgun that fired the shots had been found, but would not say where.
Yesterday, at Rubin's bond review hearing, Tamm indicated Warner may not have been the only target. Citing the presence of two handguns, Tamm said, "This was going to be a double murder, but the other person didn't show up," referring to Warner's former girlfriend.
According to the state Medical Examiner's Office, Warner was shot five times in the back, once in the right temple at close range, once in the chest and twice on the right arm. The autopsy indicates he died about 8 p.m., an hour after Rubin and Warner had planned to meet at the clinic.
Law enforcement sources said a Rockville private investigator Rubin had hired to follow Warner also was at the crime scene. The sources said the private detective and his partner took photographs of the crime scene and placed the couple's dog in a nearby pen.
Since her April 25 arrest, Rubin had been held without bond in the county's Detention Center in Rockville. Yesterday, appearing on closed-circuit television from the county jail, she appeared uninterested in the proceedings, leaning silently against the wall.
Fred Joseph, one of three lawyers representing Rubin, told Circuit Court Judge John J. Mitchell that his "gentle, decent" client had been examined 22 times by a psychologist and psychiatrist since her incarceration and had been deemed not a danger to the community or herself. "Rubin did not commit this crime, and did not have anything to do with the crime," Joseph said.
Tamm disagreed. "This is one of those cases where the protection of the community is paramount," he said.
Mitchell agreed to release Rubin on a $100,000 property bond. He barred Rubin from any contact with Warner's family or girlfriend.