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Md. State Prosecutor Asks for Witness Immunity Powers

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Maryland General Assembly could help efforts to fight public corruption by passing a measure to allow state prosecutors to grant immunity to witnesses so their testimony could not be used against them, the state prosecutor wrote in a report released Wednesday.

State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt included the comments in a report on his office for the past four fiscal years. Davitt noted that an independent committee chaired by a former Court of Appeals judge recommended the state prosecutor be given the authority to seek court-ordered “use immunity” for witnesses, as county prosecutors currently can for witnesses who appear before a grand jury or at a trial.

“There was no opposition raised by any person, group or organization. Yet, the General Assembly to date has not enacted such a measure,” Davitt wrote.

Davitt also recommended changes to the statute of limitations on campaign finance violations. Davitt pointed out that by the time an election law or campaign finance case is referred by the Maryland State Board of Elections, the statute of limitations is often about to expire.

“As a result, investigations are curtailed and criminal prosecutions are limited,” Davitt wrote.

The Legislature passed a measure to increase the statute of limitations this year on campaign finance law violations. While Davitt described the change as a step in the right direction, he noted that many election laws and campaign finance requirements are defined on the basis of the four-year election cycle.

“A statute of limitations that begins to run only at the end of the election cycle in which the violation occurs would result in far more effective enforcement,” Davitt wrote.

The report also included caseload statistics. In the last fiscal year, which ended July 2, the state prosecutor opened 75 corruption cases and 34 election law cases. The office also closed 78 corruption cases and 81 election law cases.

Davitt’s office has prosecuted a variety of high-profile cases in the past year. Former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold was sentenced to 30 days in jail for misconduct in office for forcing members of his security detail to perform campaign work and another county employee to empty his urinary catheter bag.

Davitt was appointed state prosecutor in December 2010.

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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