- The Washington Times - Friday, June 3, 2005

A Montgomery County sheriff says securing the courthouse for the expected trial of the Washington-area snipers could cost taxpayers as much as $500,000, an indication that another trial for the men may be more expensive than some officials have said.

Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad are expected to be tried next year in the county on six counts of first-degree murder for the October 2002 killings. Both already have been convicted in separate trials in Virginia, which cost the state about $3 million.

Montgomery County officials do not have an estimate on the cost of the new trial. But county Sheriff Raymond Kight, in charge of courthouse security, expects to spend $90,000 this fiscal year and another $400,000 next year in preparing for them.

The $90,000 would be used to rewire the Montgomery County Circuit Court building in Rockville, a task made more complicated by thick concrete walls. The $400,000 would be used to buy closed-circuit TV cameras, new X-ray machines and magnetometers to scan people as they enter the building, Sheriff Kight said.

The sheriff said he planned to ask County Executive Douglas M. Duncan for supplemental funding after the fiscal year begins July 1. He also challenged statements by other county officials that the new trial would not be costly.

“I don’t believe that,” he said. “I know it is going to cost me.”

Montgomery County State’s Attorney Douglas F. Gansler has said the trial can be held at minimal expense to taxpayers and that the sheriff’s estimates may be based on the assumption the cases will mirror the Virginia trials.

In those cases, the trials were held separately and moved to locations hundreds of miles away from the counties that brought charges against them, he said.

Muhammad and Malvo are set to be tried together in Montgomery County, where six of the killings tied to the sniper were committed.

Mr. Gansler said the cost of preparing for the trial would be no different than preparing for other high-profile cases. The staff has worked on the case since Malvo and Muhammad were arrested in 2002.

He estimated the cost of securing the courthouse would be “vastly” less than Sheriff Kight is envisioning, since media and public interest in the case likely has dissipated.

Malvo and Muhammad are expected to be represented through the Maryland public defender’s office, a publicly funded independent state agency. The office already spent $44,000 for mental-health experts who testified for Malvo during his Virginia trial.

Judge Ann S. Harrington, the administrative judge for the Circuit Court, told the County Council last month that additional expenses would be incurred, but provided no specifics.

David Weaver, a spokesman for Mr. Duncan, said the big issue is winning a conviction against Malvo and Muhammad. Cost should be dealt with later, he said.

“We’re focused on helping the state’s attorney put on an effective case,” Mr . Weaver said. “We will deal with the cost issues later.”


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