Soft on White-Collar Crime

January 05, 1995

Judging from outgoing Gov. William Donald Schaefer's recent pardons, common folks can be forgiven if they jump to the conclusion that politicians and their friends get special treatment.

First it was a posthumous pardon for S&L felon -- and big-time political bankroller -- Jerome Cardin. Then it was a pardon for the sexually exploitative ex-Baltimore County state's attorney, Samuel A. Green. Now it is a pardon for twice-convicted political thief and escaped felon Tony Cicoria, a former councilman from Prince George's County.

Without a doubt, Governor Schaefer is a man with a big heart. His humanity is one of his greatest assets. But in these instances, the governor may have let his emotions overcome the cold, hard truth about these three convicted, white-collar criminals.

Mr. Cardin, despite many philanthropic good deeds, was a major culprit in the state's massive savings and loan scandal. Mr. Green abused the power of his office to win sexual favors. Mr. Cicoria proved an embarrassment to the voters who elected him to office in Prince George's County.

The case for Mr. Cicoria's pre-Christmas parole is weak. The reason given is a "couple of hundred" letters from former constituents about his years of public service, especially on behalf of the elderly.

But what about the $64,000 he stole from campaign funds? What about his 1990 conviction and nine months in jail? What about the $2,200 in phone calls from jail charged to a county credit card? What about his failure to appear in court about this? Or his year on the lam to avoid prison?

And what about his 10-year prison term for these misdeeds and his clear distain -- including loud outbursts in court -- of the judicial system?

A Prince George's prosecutor said Mr. Cicoria "was a guy who thumbed his nose at the court and got what he deserved" at sentencing. As for the Schaefer pardon, the prosecutor aptly summed it up: "White-collar criminals really aren't treated very seriously in Maryland." Especially if they're ex-politicians.

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