St. Mary's Co. Attorney Will Handle Seized Drug Money

By Guy Leonard, The County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md.—Negotiations that have been going on for the better part of a year to include the county, sheriff’s and state’s attorney’s office in dealing with assets seized in drug raids have apparently fallen apart, with chief prosecutor Richard Fritz refusing to continue with those cases after county government did not provide more money for an attorney in his office to take on the extra responsibility.

The division of drug proceeds seized in police operations is an important issue to law enforcement because those proceeds are generally used to fund the fight against narcotics.

The Board of County Commissioners, less one dissenting vote, approved a plan Tuesday that would have the County Attorney’s office handle the proceedings from now on.

Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R-Golden Beach) said that the county’s refusal to put up more money for prosecutors to deal with asset forfeitures put the onus squarely on them, but that could be a good thing when it came to whether to pursue a case or not.

He pointed to a property in Callaway that was part of a drug asset seizure that is now the home of the new county hospice, but he also remembered some instances in times past when it cost the county to remove or replace dilapidated structures in other forfeiture cases.

“It’s much better for commissioners to make the decision on that,” Jarboe said, adding that costs of forfeiture sometimes outweighed the benefits.

“It’s good to know the rest of the story with some of these properties,” he said.

Commissioner Daniel Morris (R-Mechanicsville) disagreed and voted against the proposal, saying that because the cases started as criminal prosecutions, the forfeitures should stay with prosecutors and that it was only fair for state’s attorney’s to get more money for taking on extra duties.

“My belief is we could have settled this with Mr. Fritz,” Morris told The County Times. “It’s an extra duty, you should be reimbursed.”

Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron said most of the assets seized that his agency is interested in are vehicles and cash, while actual properties are forfeited on a selected basis.

He still believed that Fritz’s office should handle the forfeitures.

“I’m concerned about the continuity of the case,” Cameron said. “I anticipate talking to Mr. Fritz and him continuing to do asset forfeitures.

“The history proves itself, the state’s attorney’s office has done a great job.”

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