Odell's president admits bribe attempt

February 09, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

The president of Odell's nightclub pleaded guilty yesterday to trying to bribe a member of Baltimore's zoning board in an attempt to keep the city from closing the club.

Milton Tillman, 37, president of 19-21 Inc., which owns Odell's, leaned against the witness table as Senior Judge Alexander Harvey II accepted his plea in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. "Yes, Your Honor," Tillman replied when asked whether he had tried to bribe Municipal Board of Appeals member Giavonna Blatterman.

Gary P. Jordan, the first assistant U.S. attorney, said Ms. Blatterman's prompt report of the attempted bribe helped authorities to prepare a solid case.

Sentencing was set for April 23. City officials revoked Odell's permit to operate as a private nightclub at 21 E. North Ave. in August 1991 and later denied permission for the club to remain open and to expand as an after-hours dance hall. The club closed last year, pending the outcome of three consolidated zoning appeals in Circuit Court.

The following sequence of events was described in a statement of facts read in court:

Marvin Harris, an associate of Tillman's, agreed last Aug. 12 to approach Ms. Blatterman and to offer her money in exchange for a favorable vote on the zoning appeal. Harris has since has pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.

Ms. Blatterman reported the incident to the FBI and agreed to help in its investigation. She told Harris that she would accept the bribe. On Aug. 17, Harris met in a restaurant with an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a friend of Ms. Blatterman's. He gave the agent $10,000 in cash, and said that Tillman would provide another $10,000 the following week.

On Aug. 19, Tillman and Harris met. As FBI agents watched, Tillman told Harris that he was upset because Ms. Blatterman had not appeared cooperative during an Aug. 17 hearing on the club's appeal. Harris met with Ms. Blatterman and the undercover FBI agent Aug. 24. Harris gave the agent $10,000.

The next day, Ms. Blatterman and a majority of the zoning board voted against Odell's appeal of the city effort to shut it down.

Upset, Tillman demanded that Harris get the money back.

After Harris contacted Ms. Blatterman, the FBI agent met Harris and gave him $10,000 in a bag, promising the rest later.

Agents followed Harris and saw him meet with Tillman, who was later seen carrying the bag.

When Harris met the next day with the agent and Ms. Blatterman, the agent disclosed her identity, gained Harris' cooperation and gave him a bag containing $10,000.

Harris gave Tillman the second bag containing the $10,000.

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