Former prosecutor defending Housing Authority

May 13, 1994|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Sun Staff Writer

With years of experience investigating and prosecuting corruption in government, attorney Gerald D. Glass now has a job on the other side of the legal fence -- defending the Baltimore Housing Authority in a federal corruption probe.

As a prosecutor, Mr. Glass won criminal convictions of a city sheriff, a councilman and a former gubernatorial aide. But in recent times, as a defense lawyer, Mr. Glass has numbered among his clients murderers, drug dealers and white collar criminals.

Mr. Glass, who has been a lawyer for 24 of his 51 years, declined to talk with a reporter yesterday, but colleagues -- who were not so reticent -- described him as an organized, conscientious lawyer who likes tough, complicated cases.

"He's a lawyer who's able to strategize and see the big picture," said Judge Joseph F. Murphy of the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, who has known Mr. Glass since the early 1970s when they were city prosecutors together.

In more recent years, when he was on the Baltimore County Circuit bench, Judge Murphy watched his former colleague come into his courtroom to defend a man who was tried and convicted of murder.

"As a thoughtful hard-working professional, he has matured, but he's always been well prepared. He knows the facts of the case; he knows the law that applies. He has a strategy that he is prepared to use," Judge Murphy said.

Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Jason League, who won a murder conviction against a client represented by Mr. Glass, said, "He's very aggressive in a courtroom and certainly within the bounds of the law he'll do what it takes to benefit his client."

Mr. Glass' strategy in that case included blaming the Dundalk victim's husband for the murder, to raise doubts about the guilt ++ of his client.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Glass headed the major fraud division of the city state's attorney's office -- and in 1974 won the conviction of a former city sheriff, Frank J. Pelz, for accepting bribes from an auction became the state's first independent special prosecutor -- appointed in 1977 and serving nearly seven years -- pursuing white collar crimes in Maryland government, including violations of election laws, conflicts of interest, bribery and malfeasance.

During his tenure, Mr. Glass won convictions of the late City Councilman and District Court Judge Allen Spector; a former assistant attorney general, Donald Noren; and Maurice Wyatt, a former aide to Gov. Marvin Mandel. The three men were convicted in 1980 of a bribery scheme to help land developers build houses during a sewer ban in the Baltimore suburbs.

Thirteen years later, Mr. Glass became an advocate for Mr. Wyatt, writing a letter to the Court of Appeals recommending that he regain his license to practice law.

Mr. Glass lost his job as special prosecutor in 1984, replaced by Stephen Montanarelli who still holds the position.

Prior to his removal, Mr. Glass was accused of lying during the 1979 corruption trial of then-City State's Attorney William A. Swisher about Mr. Glass' difficulty in taking a case to a grand jury when he was a city prosecutor. A later investigation found no evidence of perjury, but raised questions about Mr. Glass' "honesty and integrity under pressure."

Mr. Glass was described as "a fine prosecutor" yesterday by Mr. Montanarelli. "He likes investigatory work. He should do fine in this new appointment."

David Henninger, partner with Mr. Glass in a two-man Towson law firm, described him as "very ethical" and "the kind of guy who, if there's a penny left in a check between the two of us, he makes sure I get the penny."

The city Board of Estimates agreed to pay Mr. Glass a lot of pennies this week to represent the Housing Authority -- a $5,000 retainer, with $150 an hour for his time on the case to be applied against it.

The Housing Authority was served with a federal grand jury subpoena last month to produce documents concerning the renovation of more than 1,000 public housing units with $23 million in no-bid contracts.

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