Ex-Mandel aide finding friends in high places

May 02, 1993|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Staff Writer

Eleven years after he was disbarred for bribery, well-connected lobbyist has assembled the backing of a powerful array of state political and business leaders in an effort to regain his license to practice law.

Maurice R. "Mo" Wyatt, the one-time patronage boss for then-Gov. Marvin Mandel, is being supported by a group that includes a Republican congresswoman, the presiding officers of the Maryland General Assembly and a host of high-powered businessmen and lawyers.

The move to reinstate Mr. Wyatt to the Maryland bar follows his full pardon by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who quietly granted him executive clemency in September 1991.

"Maurice has re-established himself to be dependable and trustworthy," House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., a Kent County Democrat, wrote in a letter on Mr. Wyatt's behalf.

Mr. Mitchell's son, Clayton A. Mitchell, works for Mr. Wyatt in his real estate firm.

"As a member of the state legislature, I have worked with him on both drafting and amending legislation," Speaker Mitchell wrote

in an Aug. 3, 1992, letter to the Maryland Court of Appeals. "He has a comprehensive understanding of the law and has maintained this knowledge over the years. . . .

"I know he has worked diligently to keep the confidences of his lobbying clients through the years and has been very successful to that end," wrote Speaker Mitchell, who has known Mr. Wyatt "professionally and socially for over 25 years."

Mr. Mitchell was out of town last week and efforts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Mr. Wyatt's relationship with the speaker became an issue last month during the most recent session of the Maryland General Assembly, after Mr. Mitchell testified for a bill that would benefit one of his longtime friends, who is also a lobbying client of Mr. Wyatt's.

Mr. Mitchell's letter is one of 23 that Mr. Wyatt has received supporting his petition for reinstatement.

Typical of the letters -- which speak of the "shame" Mr. Wyatt's conviction brought on him and his family, his contrition and rehabilitation -- is one from Henry J. Knott Sr., the millionaire builder and friend of Mr. Schaefer's.

"When he was convicted . . . of bribery, I was sure there was some mistake," Mr. Knott wrote in a Jan. 8 letter. "He explained to me with sincere remorse the circumstances and the seriousness of the crime. I was encouraged to see that he reacted to this setback with a determination to redeem his name and rebuild his reputation."

Other letter-writers include Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-2nd; state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's; Senate Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore; and Sen. George W. Della Jr., D-Baltimore, a lifelong friend and political ally.

William A. Fogle Jr., state secretary of licensing and regulation, whose agency regulates Mr. Wyatt's real estate business, also wrote a letter.

And Gerald D. Glass, the former state special prosecutor who successfully argued the case against Mr. Wyatt and two co-defendants, asked that he be readmitted to the bar.

George L. Russell Jr., the former Baltimore City solicitor and one-time mayoral aspirant who is now a prominent city lawyer, was among the practicing attorneys who weighed in for Mr. Wyatt.

Among the business leaders are Baltimore bakery king John Paterakis, a friend of Mr. Schaefer's and a perennial rainmaker for political campaigns, particularly the governor's; and Leonard J. Attman, the Glen Burnie builder-developer who at one time employed Mr. Wyatt as a lawyer.

Mr. Wyatt declined to discuss the matter on the advice of his lawyer, Melvin J. Sykes.

"I've said in the petition what he has to say at this point," Mr. Sykes said. "I'm concerned that in a sensitive situation like this, any extra court statement would be inappropriate and possibly misinterpreted.

"I feel the petition should speak for itself," he said. "Anything that is said by him or on his behalf should be said only in the court proceedings."

On Feb. 24, Mr. Wyatt filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for reinstatement to the bar. The state's highest court had two options -- either reject the plea outright or send it to the Attorney Grievance Commission for further investigation. On March 11, the court chose to refer the matter to the commission.

Melvin Hirshman, bar counsel for the commission, said his agency's review process could take up to 18 months before a recommendation is made to the court.

Mr. Wyatt was convicted of three counts of bribery in 1980 for his part in a scheme to aid land developers in the Gwynns Falls watershed who were stymied by a 1974 sewer moratorium imposed by Dr. Neil Solomon, then the state health secretary.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Wyatt participated in a scheme with the late Allen B. Spector, then a private attorney and city councilman who later was a district judge, and Donald H. Noren, then an assistant attorney general assigned to the health department.

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