Maryland Del. Dwyer Appealing Sentence

Anti-gay lawmaker appealing 30-day jail sentence after pleading guilty to charges related to 2012 boat crash

A lawyer for Maryland Del. Don Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel Co.), one of the General Assembly’s most vocal opponents of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, has filed an appeal of Anne Arundel District Court Judge Robert Wilcox’s decision today to sentence Dwyer to 30 days in jail, as reported by WBAL TV, for operating a boat under the influence of alcohol, leading to a powerboat crash on the Magothy River in August in which Dwyer, another adult and four children sustained serious injuries.

According to the Associated Press, Dwyer’s lawyer, David Fischer, filed the appeal Tuesday afternoon, meaning the sentence will be blocked from going into effect and Dwyer will not be imprisoned until the case can be heard and reviewed by the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Dwyer and Fischer held a news conference Monday, a day before he was scheduled to go on trial, to announce his plans to plead guilty to the charge of operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol, CBS-affiliate WJZ reported. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop other charges against him, including reckless operation of a vessel, negligent operation of a vessel, failing to register his boat and a rules-of-the-road violation for failing to exercise the proper precautions to avoid an accident.

But Judge Wilcox rejected the plea deal between Dwyer and prosecutors, sentencing the lawmaker to 30 days in jail and requiring him to pay a $1,000 fine.

On Aug. 22, 2012, Dwyer and a friend, John Moran IV, a former candidate for sheriff and County Council in Anne Arundel County, were boating when their 26-foot craft collided with an 18-foot boat containing Mark ”Randy” Harbin, another adult and five children. Dwyer’s boat later sank as a result of the collision, and Dwyer, another adult and four of the children were taken to the hospital.

The day following the accident, Dwyer appeared at a press conference in a wheelchair, neck brace and leg cast and admitted to drinking alcohol prior to the crash. Investigators later revealed Dwyer’s blood-alcohol level was 0.24 percent, three times the legal limit for operating a vehicle.

Harbin was also charged in the incident, though none of his charges were alcohol related.

Dwyer gained notoriety in 2010 for his failed attempt to impeach Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) after Gansler issued a legal opinion saying Maryland would recognize same-sex marriage licenses from other states. Dwyer has several times proposed amendments to ban same-sex marriage, and called for the removal of Baltimore County Circuit Judge Brooke Murdoch after she found Maryland’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

In a January interview with the Maryland Gazette, Dwyer admitted that he had been drinking more heavily, which he attributed to two factors: his November 2011 separation from his wife of 31 years; and what he called a political ”betrayal” by Del. Wade Kach (R-Baltimore Co.), Del. Robert Costa (R-Anne Arundel Co.) and former Del. Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s Co.). The three lawmakers who had opposed same-sex marriage, but later reversed their positions.

Dwyer has not announced any plans to resign or indicated whether he will run for re-election in 2014. But his legal troubles related to the crash prompted House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel Co.) to remove Dwyer from the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees legislation regarding drunken driving and boating, instead reassigning Dwyer to the Ways and Means Committee.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com