The attorney for Gary Huddles, the former Baltimore County councilman indicted on charges of using about $50,000 from his 1986 campaign funds to cover personal stock investments, says the prosecutor's action "suggests a vindictive, biased and ill-conceived prosecution."
Huddles' lawyer, Robert B. Schulman, took the offensive after the indictment was announced yesterday afternoon. Schulman issued a news release that questioned State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli's motives in bringing
up the case nearly five years after Huddles, whose political career was derailed by a link to the savings and loan scandal, retired from public life.
The indictment was based on an investigation by Montanarelli. Huddles was charged with theft, misappropriation of campaign funds and failing to pass the transactions through his campaign treasurer. He allegedly used the money to cover margin calls on his stock investments when the market crashed in October 1987.
Montanarelli declined to comment yesterday, although a news release issued by his office said a summons will be issued to Huddles with a recommendation that he be released on personal recognizance.
"All we can assume is that it is being done for some reason we don't have a handle on," Schulman said. "Either that, or it's an attempt to raise the visibility of an office that has suffered a lackluster reputation."
In his release, Schulman said that for the state prosecutor to charge Huddles with violations "of admittedly vague and ambiguous laws, knowing that the loan was fully disclosed and repaid with interest, suggests a vindictive, biased and ill-conceived prosecution."
The entire transaction was reported in Huddles' campaign finance report last summer, Schulman said.
The indictment says that between Nov. 6, 1987, and Dec. 21, 1987, Huddles drew four checks on his campaign account and deposited the $50,379 into his personal account with Signet Bank. He eventually repaid the money to the campaign fund.
In early 1989, Huddles returned $30,000 of the $90,000 in his campaign treasury to contributors who requested refunds. The remaining $60,000 was donated to various charities, Schulman said.
Though he stressed that he would not discuss the Huddles case specifically, Jack Schwartz, chief council for opinion in the attorney general's office, said that in general terms, surplus campaign funds must be given back to those who donated them or can be donated to certain charities or schools.
"What is not allowed under the law is for the funds to be used for anyone's personal benefit, including the candidate's," he said.
Huddles, 52, who left office after 16 years on the council in December 1986, said that while he "would love to" comment on the indictment, he is deferring all questions to his attorney.
After an arraignment, Schulman said he plans to file a motion seeking to dismiss the indictment. If denied, any trial probably wouldn't be held for at least several months, he said.
Huddles, who formerly represented the 2nd District covering Pikesville and Randallstown, raised $115,575 in 1986 with an eye toward running for county executive.
But his political career was ended by publicity about an unsecured $60,000 loan personally arranged for him by Jeffrey A. Levitt, the Old Court Savings and Loan president who was at the center of Maryland's savings and loan crisis and who is serving 30 years for stealing millions from depositors.
The June 1985 disclosure, and Huddles' acknowledgment that he had made no payments on the loan since 1982, came at a time when the Old Court scandal was a month old and hundreds of his constituents could not get their own money. Huddles quickly repaid the entire loan, plus $24,900 in interest, within days of the disclosure, but the damage to his political career was irreversible and he decided to retire from public life.
Later, the FBI investigated possible links between the Levitt-arranged loan and favorable apartment density zoning Huddles granted in 1984 on land near Bonnie View Golf Course that was secretly owned by companies Levitt controlled. The investigation produced no formal charges, but compounded the damage to Huddles' reputation.