WASHINGTON, December 7, 2012 - This week in Maryland, an ex-criminal was denied the opportunity to serve as a state delegate. The matter went to court and a judge ruled that the county Democratic Central Committee that nominated Gregory Hall could withdraw his name for a vacant Maryland House of Delegates seat.
The withdrawal came because Maryland’s Governor made it known he would not appoint Hall, and he specifically asked the Committee to withdraw Hall from consideration. Governor O’Malley, a former state prosecutor, did not want someone with a criminal record serving in the state legislature. Hall has a criminal record, but by all accounts has totally, thoroughly redeemed himself.
Twenty years has passed since his conviction.
Gregory Hall, now age 42, is a community activist and businessman, and formerly he was a Prince George’s County Council aide. He was a crack dealer when he was 20. In 1992, as Hall and his family left a church service, Hall got involved in a gun battle that resulted in a seventh grade honors student being killed. Hall was initially charged with homicide, but the charge was withdrawn after tests showed the fatal bullet had come from the gun of another man.
Hall served time on drug charges and a reduced gun possession charge.
Through his spokeswoman, Raquel Guillory, Governor O’Malley was quoted before Tuesday’s court ruling that he had no intention of appointing Hall to the General Assembly. “There are some things that are very hard to atone for, and the governor believes the murder of a 13-year-old innocent child is one of those,” Guillory said. “There is redemption, but redemption doesn’t guarantee you a right to hold a seat in Annapolis.”
Governor O’Malley’s motivation is most probably a combination of his long-standing and strong anti-crime position, possible political ambitions, and his knowledge of the climate in the County in Maryland that now has a vacant seat.
Prince George’s County, Maryland politicos and officials have a dismal recent reputation. The seat Hall was hoping to fill was vacant because Tiffany Alston, the delegate who held the seat, was found guilty of stealing from the General Assembly last spring. A judge sentenced Alston to community service and then she was given probation.
Most recently prior to the Alston mess, the nation was witness to FBI audiotapes of former County Executive Jack Johnson telling his wife, Leslie Johnson, to hide cash bribes in her underwear while federal agents knocked on the front door of their home. Johnson is now in a federal prison in North Carolina after pleading guilty to corruption charges and his wife, who had been a Prince George’s County Council member, after embarrassingly refusing to give up her seat until she was, sentenced, got a year in prison on related charges.
The 2011 guilty plea of a retired Prince George’s County fire official was another recent blemish on the County. A large-scale corruption probe that took down developers, public officials and police officers in the county last year included Karl Granzow’s plea to conspiring to commit extortion and to income tax evasion.
Mr. Granzow, a former lieutenant colonel in the county fire department, admitted in his guilty plea to partnering with county developers for more than 10 years to bribe public officials for development favors related to a development project.
Washington Post reporter Marvin Joseph said in a recent article “the political landscape in Prince George’s is not pretty. It’s understandable, then, that some county officials prefer to remain silent about this string of unflattering events.
Joseph asks “why?” and says, “Because expectations for what happens in the nation’s premier majority-black jurisdiction must be high.”
Governor O’Malley made the right decision, if only for the people of Prince George’s County. The population of the county changed in the late 1980’s from a predominantly white to majority black. The new community consisted of younger people with higher income and higher education. The recent view of black county officials does not fairly represent the honest, smart and intelligent people who make up the community. O’Malley’s refusal to appoint Hall was right on the money.
Prince George’s County does not need someone with a criminal history representing them, even if that individual is truly fully redeemed, reformed and would have gone on to become the best legislator in state history. The nexus of crime in this place and at this time is too close. Prince George’s County needs absolutely “clean” officials in every position to conform its image to that of its population.
Of interest, Governor O’Malley took some heat for his position despite that most of the local population agreed with him. Legally, there was no reason Hall could not take a seat in the state legislature. O’Malley has the absolute right to pick and choose who gets that seat. Because you are a convicted criminal does not mean you have a right to public office.
Former Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry’s career began seeing him as a wunderkind, and we all know what happened next. Despite his crack cocaine conviction and multiple other legal problems he continued to be elected and re-elected.
Hall can run for office. Marylanders may someday elect him. Governor O’Malley does not have to appoint him to a vacancy. That is the beauty of our system of government.
Governor O’Malley may run for higher office someday. This decision will bode him well. That he might know that does not diminish the correctness of the decision.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics. Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, on the Andy Parks show, on Wednesdays at 5:15 P.M., and he is a columnist on the Washington Times Communities.
His book The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You is free to Maryland and Virginia residents and can be obtained by ordering it on his website; others can obtain it on Amazon.
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