Readers see no need for leadfoot lobbyist's speed
By Michael Dresser
Last week this column explored the colorful driving record of Bruce C. Bereano, super-lobbyist, mail fraudster and chronic speeder. It recounted how Bereano has amassed 22 traffic tickets over the past 13 years — nine of them for racing along at 80 mph or more.
Readers were not amused. Not at Bereano. Not at the judges who handed him probation before judgment (PBJ) in spite of an abysmal driving record.
“Bruce Bereano has been getting away with antics that the common man or woman would be in jail for,” writes Lois Raimondi Munchel of Forest Hill. “I for one would like to see published the names of the judges who viewed these offenses as not worth protecting the driving public from. ... One day, he, as others who drive with such disregard for the law, will kill a family.”
“Bereano is way off base in opposing speed cameras; now he will be able to just pay his fines without court costs, attorney fees, and lost time. No more worrying about points, PBJ’s, or getting the ‘right’ judge,” Scholl wrote. “I clock a lot of miles around our town, and I see so much dangerous driving that I would like to see the cameras everywhere.”
Irwin E. Weiss, a Baltimore lawyer, expressed astonishment that Bereano is still permitted to drive and is still treated with deference in Annapolis.
“Here is a guy whose craft is to influence the making of and repealing of laws, and his behavior shows what complete disrespect he has for laws,” Weiss wrote. “Here is a guy who was convicted of mail fraud. He was disbarred. Why in God’s name would any self-respecting state legislator listen to what he says on behalf of his clients? Oh, I guess the folks in the legislature are not ‘self-respecting.’”
It was also good to hear from Sen. Brian E. Frosh, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee and a legislator known for his immunity to Bereano’s charms.
“Bereano came [to my committee] to testify against a red light camera bill a couple of years ago,” the Montgomery County Democrat wrote. “He talked about how simple it is to beat the rap if one knows how to do it. I asked him how many tickets he’d received. Answer: dozens.”
While most of the reaction I received was favorable, some thought the column missed the point.
Mark Adams of Fells Point wrote that “everyone knows that Bruce Bereano skirts the rules. But now, the state can skirt the rules with the speed cameras. “Ever since the adoption of the Bill of Rights, citizens have had the right to confront their accusers with cross-examination and they have had the presumption of innocence. This goes out the window with speed cameras, red light cameras, etc. The state does this with a fictitious process that converts a minor criminal penalty into a ‘civil fine.’ By making the fine a civil matter, rather than criminal, the state throws the Bill of Rights out the window.”
Jason Stewart of Baltimore didn’t like my theory that the drive to petition the speed cameras law to referendum failed because enough people said “no” to make the difference.
“I personally collected over 300 signatures and only had 3 people tell me they were for the cameras. I had at least 5 Baltimore County Police Officers sign my petition and all said ... these cameras had nothing to do with safety, just revenue.”
Brian Holmes, president of the Maryland Transportation Builders and Materials Association, found my criticism of the court system unfair.
“The number of speeding (and like) cases would swamp the judicial system if all were heard. Accordingly, the courts use PBJ to clear their calendars, so they can provide criminal defendants with speedy trials as the constitution requires and reasonable timeliness for civil litigants.”
In a subsequent email, however, Holmes stated: “Frequent speeders ought to be singled out for ineligibility for PBJs.”
I concur wholeheartedly, and would hope to see the General Assembly give some guidance to the judiciary on the promiscuous use of PBJs. We could start with curbing such breaks for repeat offenders and those clocked at 80 mph and up.
Let’s call it Bruce’s Bill.