By Kenneth C. Rossignol
ST. MARY’S TODAY
“I am going to win the election,” Richard Fritz predicted in 1998 when asked what he thought the outcome would be.
(This article appeared in October of 1998.)
LEONARDTOWN — In a wide-ranging interview conducted Saturday at his booth at the county fair where Republican State’s Attorney candidate Richard Fritz was handing out balloons and overseeing his group of impassioned followers adorned with yellow and black shirts, the former deputy state’s attorney defended himself from charges made by State’s Attorney Walter B. Dorsey that he never accounted for drug fund money during the time he was the chief drug prosecutor.
“If Walter Dorsey wants to say I stole that money, let him just say so and I will sue him and we’ll find out in court,” said Fritz. “The state prosecutor, Stephen Montanarelli, came down and he looked at it and left, why didn’t he do anything, for one reason, there was nothing to it.”
Fritz insisted that he had done nothing wrong and that he had left behind receipts for all expenditures.
Dorsey maintains that Fritz failed to account for over $20,000 in checks that were, at his direction, made payable to cash and handed to him and that when he repeatedly pressed Fritz to account for the disbursement of those funds in 1992, that Fritz quit his post. Dorsey provided a copy of an account of the fund which supports his charge against Fritz.
Fritz stated on Saturday that he felt that the question of the handling of the funds was only due to politics. Dorsey said that he had closed the account and turned all funds over to the county finance officer to handle after Fritz left and failed to account for the money he ordered issued to himself. Dorsey then asked Finance Director Charles Wade to conduct an audit of the funds. After a year had passed with no audit conducted Dorsey says he was then told that the county decided that they decided not to get involved with the audit and at that time Dorsey was running against Fritz.
“I quit because Dorsey ordered me to stop leading narcotics investigations on the street and to stay in the office,” said Fritz on Saturday. Dorsey contends that the Maryland State Police had expressed their alarm at Fritz being something of a ‘cowboy’ running around at night packing a gun and participating in drug arrests, traffic stops, and raids when he wasn’t a trained law enforcement officer.
At the time, Fritz said that such complaints came because the state police didn’t like his way of guiding drug investigations.
Fritz complained that his campaign wasn’t getting fair coverage in this newspaper, a complaint Dorsey supporters made four years ago when ST. MARY’S TODAY supported Fritz in his unsuccessful effort to unseat Dorsey in the Democratic primary.
“Why don’t you talk about the experience of the two candidates and what is happening in the last three years,” said Fritz. “Joe Mattingly has never prosecuted a felony case, a murder or a major drug case, the rates of nolle pros in serious drug distribution cases is outrageous.”
Dorsey said on Saturday that Fritz is all wrong.
“These are false claims made by Mr. Fritz,” said Dorsey. “I don’t think he is the great defense attorney he makes himself out to be. Ninety percent of his clients are found guilty, which shows the experience of my staff of career prosecutors, his clients are going to jail. He just lost the Buckler murder case recently in Charles County.”
Dorsey said recently in a speech at a fund-raiser for Mattingly that Fritz dropped two-thirds of the distribution cases against drug dealers during the time that he was deputy state’s attorney and responsible for all major drug prosecutions.
Fritz was asked to substantiate his charges, as was Dorsey. Fritz would not say if he would supply facts citing case numbers and the names of individuals in order to back up his charges. On Friday, a request for the same from Dorsey resulted in Dorsey providing a list of 201 cases against drug dealers in 1989 thru 1992 in which Fritz personally dropped the charges against them.
After Fritz suddenly quit his post as chief drug prosecutor in December of 1992, he quickly became and remains the chief attorney for all local drug dealers that manage to come afoul of the law. Fritz maintains that he deserves the right to make a living even by representing such unsavory characters as Brian Bush and Knoxie Carson, two major drug dealers in St. Mary’s County. He also says that even drug dealers deserve adequate representation in court, thus he has no problem in using his legal skills to put drug dealers back on the street, although he points out that he doesn’t win all the time and some go to jail.
In April Fritz told a group of over 200 Republicans that he was supporting incumbent Sheriff Richard Voorhaar for reelection and was looking forward to serving alongside him in law enforcement.
As Voorhaar has come under increasingly strong criticism for his political manipulations of the Claudia Pickeral murder case, Fritz has attempted to distance himself from his previous endorsement of the incumbent Republican sheriff. Fritz has posted information on his website that he does not support any candidate for sheriff.
On Saturday Fritz said that he continues to embrace that stand, and denies that he ever said that he was supporting Voorhaar for reelection. When asked to explain why he refuses to support Voorhaar for election even though they are on the same ticket and are running mates, Fritz said that he didn’t want to get into the position of having chosen the wrong person to win, have that person lose and then not be able to get along with the winner after the election.
In 1990 and again in 1994, Fritz supported Democrat Don Purdy, who is the nominee of the Democrats for Sheriff this year. Purdy is expected to embrace Mattingly as the only way he can assure Democrats upset over him having bolted the party four years ago. Fritz and Voorhaar are now dropping any pretense of not being in cahoots and are actively campaigning together.
Fritz’s major campaign coordinator is Sheriff’s Sgt. Lyle Long, who was indicted for assaulting a 15-year-old boy in Callaway two years ago. After his indictment and arrest, charges were dropped against Long by a special prosecutor following a meeting at which Long was represented by Fritz. Long’s agreement to have the charges Stetted included a requirement that he attend counseling for helping him learn how to control his temper under stressful situations.
Long was accused of overreacting to the smart-aleck attitude of the boy and then manhandling him as the boy was handcuffed, causing him to pass out. The boy’s mother recently said that the boy was choked and complained that Fritz had caused her to lose her attorney, Julian Izydore, who told her that he could not represent her as he was going to take a job as a prosecutor working for Fritz when the Republican won this fall’s election.
A major part of Fritz’s campaign in 1994 and this year as well has been his emphasis on drugs and crime, even though he has spent the last six years making his living from defending drug dealers who profit from the crime committed by those stealing in order to buy drugs.
Fritz’s close relationship with Long has continued since the late 1980’s when the two teamed up on all-night drug busts. A study of drug cases reaching circuit court since Long became commander of the narcotics unit in 1994 after he was appointed by Voorhaar, shows that drug arrests have been down while overtime for narcotics officers has soared.
In an interview after being criticized by ST. MARY’S TODAY for being ineffective and incompetent, Long said it wasn’t true that the only reason he made arrests when he teamed with Fritz was that the prosecutor held his hand and showed him what to do. Long claimed it was he who had shown Fritz the ropes.
On Saturday, Fritz said that both men had learned from each other.
Fritz was asked by ST. MARY’S TODAY why it was that Long was not more effective as the supervisor for the narcotics section.
“The State’s Attorney’s office hasn’t given the narcotics section any money to work with until recently,” said Fritz. When asked why the Sheriff’ didn’t request adequate funding for the narcotics unit in his own budget when the county commissioners have approved virtually all of Voorhaar’s budget requests over the past four years, Fritz said that he could not account for Voorhaar’s actions.
On the subject of the racial disparity involving drug dealer arrests, Fritz admitted that few major white drug dealers have been arrested by the Sheriff’s Department under either the last term of Sheriff Wayne Pettit or the present term of Richard Voorhaar. Fritz said that any drug dealer, regardless of color, would not be free from prosecution if he was elected.
Fritz’s relationship with Long is important in the election, as Long reportedly will retire from the Sheriff’s Department if Fritz is elected, begin drawing a retirement check, and then go to work on the county payroll as Fritz’s full-time investigator conducting drug investigations.
During the entire time of Long’s three-year period of supervising the narcotics section, a female detective was allowed to have free reign over the monies in a drug fund. She was charged with stealing $15,000 and convicted. But neither Long nor, Lt. Steven Doolan, another Fritz backer, whose wife is Fritz’s treasurer, were disciplined for failing to maintain proper control and supervision over the drug money.
The issue that Fritz believes is paramount in the campaign is that of comparing the experience of Joe Mattingly to himself.
While Fritz’s supporters call Mattingly derogatory names, Fritz himself avoids actual direct mudslinging but questioned Mattingly’s ability to have passed the bar exam. Fritz prefers to focus on citing his opponent’s record of working in less serious aspects of the state’s attorney’s office.
While Assistant State’s Attorney Anne Emery worked at the Fritz booth at the fair, Fritz criticized the ability of another prosecutor in the office, Alan Cecil, who was not given time to handle a murder case before having to take it to trial.
Emery and Fritz have been longtime friends. Fritz initially recommended Emery for her job in 1986.
A few months prior to being hired, Emery posted her home as bail for Dwayne “The Hook” Day, who was charged with selling drugs out of the drive-in window of the Hole in the Wall bar when he owned the tavern.
Emery has also continued a long-standing social relationship with local drug figure Bobby Page despite admonitions from her boss, Walter Dorsey, to refrain from having contact with him.
Emery contends that she had no knowledge of any illegal activities on the part of Page and that her family and Page were merely associated through being motorcycle racers who attend national events together. Emery’s son stars on the national circuit and Page operates a motorcycle shop. Page does have a significant and serious criminal record which involves violent attacks on others, one of which he used a club on a man in Lexington Park.
Fritz was asked Saturday to name any white drug dealers of any significance in terms of the quantities and networks that they controlled that he was responsible for sending to prison during his tenure as the county’s chief drug prosecutor from 1987 to 1992. He could not name a single one but was invited to supply the names of those who came to mind prior to press time, for this interview, but as of deadline, he did not respond.
In 1984 and 1985, Sheriff Pettit and Dorsey conducted an undercover probe of area drug trafficking using a newly hired but experienced deputy, William Bell, to infiltrate the local white drug culture. Bell’s investigation was extremely successful, nabbing Dr. Patrick Pierce, a prominent local dentist, as well as dozens of others, most all of whom were convicted, with Dorsey personally prosecuting the cases.
The 1995 arrest of Michael Simmons, owner of the Crabknockers Seafood Carryout for selling cocaine after he was caught red-handed with nearly a pound of the substance, marks the only time a significant white drug dealer has been nabbed since Long was appointed by Voorhaar to be in charge of drug investigations. The case against Simmons was initiated after information was developed by Dorsey’s office.
Will Fritz be effective against white drug dealers or can blacks expect to be hounded by a shotgun-wielding state’s attorney who runs around the county late at night, hiding behind trees as deputies bust down the doors of their mobile homes while affluent white drug dealers and users party hard behind the doors of their $200,000+ homes in the nicest neighborhoods in the county?
Richard Fritz presents a sincere image as that of a middle-aged man with young children, indeed he has two youngsters from his third marriage, as well as teenage children and a grown daughter from his previous marriages. Fritz has attempted to make an impression of being a man who is adamantly opposed to drugs.
But area blacks feel that while young black men who participate in narcotics trafficking should go to jail, that whites who do so should also be prosecuted. Black leaders are wary of Fritz being the state’s attorney and continuing the discriminatory practices of the St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Department when it comes to enforcing the law.
Fritz contends that by electing Mattingly the county will continue “good old boy” politics and law enforcement and it is only through his own election to the post of state’s attorney that a clean sweep can be made.
The sudden announcement on July 7th in ST. MARY’S TODAY that Walter Dorsey had decided against filing for reelection just minutes before the filing deadline and Mattingly had filed to run in his place as the Democratic nominee, sent Fritz’s campaign into orbit and caused all of his backers to pronounce Fritz the hands-down winner. For the last two months, Fritz and his beehive of supporters have buzzed around various county functions telling everyone that the election is in the bag and even naming Fritz’s appointments as prosecutors.
At a recent fund-raiser held at the Seafarer’s International Union facility at Piney Point, Fritz attracted a small crowd of about 200 persons which showed that his coronation as the county’s chief prosecutor may not be in the bag. In the last election, Fritz drew a large crowd of at least 400 people to the Mechanicsville firehouse in an impressive show of strength when he ran and lost to Dorsey.
Fritz claims that this newspaper’s editorial policy has been “purchased” by Dorsey and that only lies and distortions are printed about his campaign. Fritz has repeatedly failed to return calls seeking comment on the race or Dorsey’s charges and only talked on Saturday after being contacted at his fair booth.
Fritz acknowledges that he not only had the full support and endorsement of ST. MARY’S TODAY in the last election but also never received a bill for full-page ads which ran several months prior to the primary election contest he lost to Dorsey at the same time that Dorsey paid over $2,000 for campaign ads.
This newspaper has not yet made an endorsement to readers in the State’s Attorney race.
Will Rick Fritz be able to utilize his campaign network of dedicated volunteers and true believers to claim the prize that he now feels is his birthright?
Even though the race is between Joe Mattingly and Rick Fritz, all Fritz could talk about on Saturday was Walter Dorsey. He is clearly obsessed with Dorsey. Fritz claimed that Dorsey is simply orchestrating Mattingly’s campaign in a personal effort against him to deny him the post of state’s attorney.
“I haven’t done anything against Dorsey,” said Fritz. “All I did was represent Mary Jo (Willenborg) against him.”
Fritz was the attorney for Willenborg, his sister-in-law, in an employment action against the county after Dorsey fired her for insubordination from the state’s attorney’s office. The court decided that Dorsey had cause to do so and decided in his favor. Judge Vincent Femia, who presided in the case, also reprimanded Fritz for representing a family member, calling such action unethical and pointing out that his removal from the case might spare him later action by the Attorney Grievance Commission which could lead to disbarment.
When the case was appealed, by another attorney, to the Court of Appeals, the court upheld the lower court ruling and stated “no employer should have to tolerate such insubordination as Mary Jo Willenborg committed” against Dorsey. Fritz’s wife Betsy is a long-term employee of Dorsey, having worked in the office since being hired by him following his election as State’s Attorney in 1982. Betsy Fritz still works in the office.
Fritz is confident of prevailing this time over his nemesis.
“I will make a better state’s attorney,” said Fritz.
“I am going to win the election,” he predicted when asked what he thought the outcome would be.