By Ken Rossignol
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
ANNAPOLIS, MD. – One member of Gov.-Elect Larry Hogan’s new cabinet members has been there before, in fact, more than one. But Homeland Security designee Thomas E. “Tim” Hutchins is the only one who has served both as a Cabinet member and while in that post, pulling a suspected DUI driver off a Maryland highway.
Col. Thomas “Tim” Hutchins was the Superintendent of the Maryland State Police for about three years in the Ehrlich Administration, replacing Ehrlich’s first pick – Ed Norris. Norris, who went to jail for corruption charges while he was then-Mayor Martin O’Malley’s Police Commissioner left a stain on Ehrlich. Looking around the arena for a nominee who would be able to pass muster in the State Senate for confirmation and yet having a strong background in law enforcement; Ehrlich tapped Charles County Del. Hutchins to lead the State Police.
Hutchins did a credible job in reviving the demoralized State Police, who found the heavy hand of the Governor’s Office running the agency instead of the Superintendent. That scenario remained the case for most of the rest of Hutchins tenure. That is not to say that the long arm of politics hasn’t been reaching over to Pikesville in the past. Governor Parris Glendenning brought in former Prince Georges County Police Chief David Mitchell as his pick to lead the State Police. Instead of putting his background stamp on the agency, Mitchell immersed himself in the State Police, wearing the uniform on a daily basis, and becoming in every way, a trooper. By the time Mitchell left at the end of the Glendenning Administration, which sunk deep into the scandal of the Governor and his mistress – the state’s troopers, were sorry to see him leave.
Hutchins enjoyed popularity not only with the legislature as a fellow member, but as a retired senior commander of the State Police; he had a military bearing and a reputation as a professional law officer.
Now Gov.-Elect Larry Hogan has picked Hutchins to be his Homeland Security Director, eliciting cries of foul from the ACLU. That group is still ticked off that the State Police spied on the efforts of various groups opposing the death penalty who were organizing efforts to put on massive public demonstrations.
Gaining intelligence on groups prior to activities that result in no harm, no arrests, and no trouble amounts to closed files. That’s the theory behind doing detective work to avoid damage to property and persons. There is a bright side when crimes fail to happen. However, it is the mission of the ACLU to make headlines.
The Maryland State Police reported shortly after the incident on Col. Hutchins sideline of the drunk driver:
“The Superintendent of the Maryland State Police stopped a suspected drunk driver Friday afternoon in Prince George’s County after a motorist made a #77 call to report erratic driving.
“A concerned motorist saw the driver of a tan Ford Ranger weaving and dialed #77. The citizen calling the police was connected to the Forestville Barrack, and the duty officer broadcast a lookout to all troopers in the area.
“Colonel Thomas E. “Tim” Hutchins, Secretary of the Maryland Department of State Police heard the call. The Colonel continued to monitor the updated locations and was able to locate the vehicle as it was driving on westbound Accokeek Road west of Maryland Route 5 in Brandywine, Maryland.
“After observing the driver of the Ford Ranger commit a number of traffic violations, Colonel Hutchins conducted a traffic stop as other troopers converged on the area. Following the driver’s inability to perform a series of standardized field sobriety tests, he was arrested and transported to the Forestville Barrack for processing. The driver, identified as Jeremy Michael Plemons, 25, of Nanjemoy, was charged with Driving Under the Influence and other traffic citations.
“Troopers encourage motorists to contact law enforcement immediately by dialling “9-1-1” or “#77” when they observe dangerous driving behavior or suspect a motorist is driving impaired. Since impaired drivers are often involved in motor vehicle collisions, the call made to law enforcement could save a life. And when a call is made to the State Police for a trooper to respond, the responding trooper could very well be the Superintendent himself.”
Maryland Court records on the incident show that the 3:58 pm time of the arrest was on Jan. 5, 2007, which incidentally was in about the last week that Hutchins was still serving as Superintendent. A new Superintendent was appointed by the incoming Governor O’Malley after Ehrlich lost the 2006 election.
Plemons, who had prior convictions for property destruction, theft and burglary was represented by La Plata attorney Patrick Devine. Devine was able to work a deal with the Prince Georges County States Attorney and the charges were dropped.
Plemons was arrested again for DUI, this time on Rt. 235 in California, Md., by a St. Mary’s Sheriff’s Deputy at 12:51 pm on Aug. 15, 2009. In a plea deal arranged by attorney Devine and St. Mary’s States Attorney Richard Fritz, Plemons entered a guilty plea and was fined $807.50 with $400.00 of the fine immediately suspended. He was sentenced to jail for six months with five months and twenty days of the sentence suspended.
For the criminally inclined, Devine appears to be an effective defense attorney as nearly every one of a couple dozen traffic and criminal charges against Plemons, nearly all were either tossed, put on the Stet Docket or plea bargains arranged yielding very little jail time.