Ex-councilman found innocent of campaign theft Huddles had said cash taken was loan

November 27, 1991|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Baltimore County Bureau of the Sun

The Sun reported incorrectly yesterday because of an editing error that former Baltimore County Councilman Gary Huddles never properly disposed of surplus campaign funds. In fact, Mr. Huddles, who was acquitted Tuesday of charges of stealing from his campaign funds and breaching his fiduciary duty, by 1989 had either returned the money to contributors or donated it to charity as state election law requires. Also, the same article gave an incorrect last name for the senior assistant state prosecutor who handled the case. His correct name is Scott E. Nevin.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Former Baltimore County Councilman Gary Huddles was found innocent yesterday of charges that he stole money from his campaign fund before he ever put on a defense.

When prosecutors finished their case, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Barbara Kerr Howe granted a motion for acquittal by defense attorneys Robert B. Schulman and Joshua R. Treem.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Judge Howe ruled that there was no proof that the $50,379 Mr. Huddles took from his campaign fund in 1987 was any more than a loan that was later repaid with interest.

After the verdict, Mr. Huddles said, "I am very grateful to the court for its efforts and its understanding of the election laws."

In her ruling, Judge Howe had complained that Maryland's election laws are vague. "Criminal statutes must be clear and without ambiguity," she said. But in Maryland, "anyone trying to follow the statute does so at his or her peril."

She added, however, that "public opinion . . . will ultimately determine the public's view of Mr. Huddle's conduct in this case. But he clearly is not guilty of either crime."

Mr. Huddles, a four-term Democratic councilman from the 2nd District, had amassed a campaign war chest of $90,000 in 1986, but never ran for office after revelations that he had borrowed $60,000 from former Old Court Savings and Loan president Jeffrey A. Levitt and never repaid the money. He has since repaid the money.

Although he didn't run for office, Mr. Huddles never properly disposed of the contributions by returning the money or donating it to charity.

Instead, he wrote four checks on his campaign fund to cover stock market investments and to pay personal loans, according to agreed-upon evidence in the case.

Mr. Huddles signed campaign treasurer Herbert S. Kasoff's names to the checks and borrowed the money with his consent, testified Mr. Kasoff -- a prosecution witness more helpful to the defense.

But even Scott E. Nevins, a senior assistant state prosecutor, conceded that nothing in the election law forbids a candidate from lending himself money.

"There is no specific provision that says you cannot borrow money," he acknowledged during arguments.

And Judge Howe noted that the law sets no deadline for disposing of the funds. Even if it were more clear, she said, the responsibility would lie with the treasurer, not the candidate.

Mr. Nevins would not comment on the verdict.

But during the trial, witnesses from the county and state election boards testified that they were repeatedly ignored when they asked Mr. Huddles' campaign staff for his financing reports.

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