GOP spat comes to blows

Friday, Nov. 17, 2006

What began as a gentlemen’s agreement between two Montgomery County Republican candidates may end up in criminal court.

At the center of the dispute is money, claims of racism and an alleged assault.

Onetime County Council candidate Adol T. Owen-Williams charges that school board member Stephen N. Abrams grabbed him by the throat and slammed his head against a wall on Monday night after a meeting of the county’s GOP central committee in Rockville.

Owen-Williams, 42, filed a complaint with a Montgomery County District Court commissioner on Wednesday evening; court records show a summons was issued charging Abrams with second-degree assault and attempt to extort money through an accusation, a misdemeanor. There was no indication that Abrams has been served the summons, which can be sought by anyone whose charges are reviewed by a District Court commissioner.

Abrams did not return numerous phone calls Thursday.

In the Sept. 12 primary, Abrams lost his bid to run for state comptroller and sought a place on the GOP ticket in the County Council at-large race.

On Oct. 2, the last day for a candidate to be replaced on the ballot, Owen-Williams bowed out of the council race, and Abrams filed to enter it.

Owen-Williams said he withdrew to keep county GOP Chairman and at-large council candidate Tom Reinheimer from stepping aside to make room for Abrams.

Abrams, 63, an attorney from Rockville, was a Rockville City Council member from 1980 to 1989, and a county school board member from 1992 to 1996 and from 1998 to 2002 before being elected for his latest term in 2004.

‘‘Clearly, I don’t have to take a backseat to anyone as a champion for education in Montgomery County,” Abrams said in early October after joining the County Council race. ‘‘I also don’t have to take a back seat in the respect I have for the law.”

Abrams and the rest of the GOP council candidates lost last week.

Owen-Williams also said he and Abrams had a ‘‘handshake agreement” that Abrams would reimburse him for the $5,000 campaign expenses he had accrued during the primary campaign.

‘‘I trusted his word and didn’t get a written contract,” Owen-Williams said. ‘‘I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt that he was a decent, honorable human being even though I’d been warned he wasn’t.”

On Monday, Owen-Williams said, he waited until after the central committee meeting to ask Abrams privately about the money.

‘‘I questioned him when I could expect payment,” Owen-Williams said. ‘‘He said, ‘Listen, son, you don’t need to bring that topic up to me.’ I said, ‘I’m not your son,’ and he said, ‘Listen, boy.’ Then he charged up the stairs at me and when he got to the top of the stairs, he squeezed his hands around my neck. I yelled at him, ‘Have you lost your mind?’”

Owen-Williams, who is black, said being called a ‘‘boy” by Abrams, who is white, was offensive.

Owen-Williams said Abrams shoved him back against a wall and he grabbed Abrams’ arms, forcing him to let go.

‘‘I yelled at him, ‘Don’t you ever put your hands around me again,’” Owen-Williams said.

Reinheimer, who was re-elected chairman of the Montgomery County Central Committee earlier in the evening, said he heard Owen-Williams shouting at Abrams to keep his hands off him. Reinheimer went to the stairway to see what was going on.

‘‘I told them to cut it out,” Reinheimer said. ‘‘They separated at that.”

Abrams told Reinheimer ‘‘to call off his boy,” Owen-Williams said.

Reinheimer confirmed that Abrams referred to Owen-Williams as a ‘‘boy” several times.

‘‘I wasn’t used to hearing that, and I’m not sure why he was referring to Adol as my ‘boy,’” Reinheimer said.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Owen-Williams said several people told him that if he forgave Abrams the $5,000 debt, Abrams would not press charges against him.

Owen-Williams, a North Potomac financial adviser who is known within the GOP for his work at the state and local levels, said because he was the one attacked by Abrams, he decided to press charges.

Owen-Williams said several other central committee members witnessed the assault. However, several committee members reached Thursday declined to discuss what happened after the meeting.

‘‘I’ll do what is in my best interest and the best interest in the party,” Owen-Williams said. ‘‘If it’s going to call undue negative attention to the party, I’ll just let it go.”

Staff writer Warren Parish contributed to this report.