Judge hears closing arguments in Sauerbrey case CAMPAIGN 1994

January 13, 1995|By Thomas W. Waldron and Michael James | Thomas W. Waldron and Michael James,Sun Staff Writers

Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. heard final arguments today in the trial of Ellen R. Sauerbrey's legal challenge to the November gubernatorial election, which she narrowly lost to Democrat Parris N. Glendenning.

An attorney for Mr. Sauerbrey, Byron Warnken, said examples of fraud and mismanagement are "more than ample to create a substantial probability that [they] might have affected the outcome of this election.

"Your honor . . . should vacate this election and order a new election," he said.

Deputy Attorney General Ralph Tyler said in closing arguments, "The integrity of the process was not compromised and the evidence does not show that it was. This was a fair election."

With Gov.-elect Glendening's inauguration planned for Wednesday, Judge Thieme promised a quick ruling to give the loser time to file an appeal with the Court of Appeals.

An appeal is certain no matter who wins. Mrs. Sauerbrey also is considering an appeal to federal courts, but says she will make that decision after hearing the judge's ruling.

Mrs. Sauerbrey's lawyers rested their case yesterday after once again losing a battle to introduce evidence -- this time, data they said would show that suspiciously large numbers of ballots were cast on some Baltimore voting machines.

Overall, it appeared that Mrs. Sauerbrey's attorneys had managed over four days to call into question only about 3,600 votes, a fraction of the 51,000 cited in her original lawsuit and the 15,000 promised by her attorneys as the trial began Monday.

More important, the number came nowhere close to her real target -- the 5,993 votes by which she lost the November election.

Mrs. Sauerbrey's lawsuit contended that about 11,000 votes were cast improperly or fraudulently in Baltimore City and Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the three jurisdictions carried by Mr. Glendening.

As the trial ended, Mrs. Sauerbrey sounded defiant. "This election was stolen and the ballots were stuffed," she declared after yesterday's session. Even so, she seemed to acknowledge that she had not been able to prove that in court. "Things have not gone well," she said. "The judge obviously has denied a great deal of the critical evidence."

Attorneys for Mr. Glendening and state election officials barely bothered to put on a defense, offering a handful of documents and calling only one witness.

In a side note to the trial, the State Administrative Board of Election Laws announced yesterday that it wants an independent statewide investigation of election procedures, focusing at first on Baltimore, the target of most of Mrs. Sauerbrey's charges.

By yesterday, Mrs. Sauerbrey's case scarcely resembled the one laid out in her Dec. 27 lawsuit, which was filled with provocative charges of voter fraud in the three jurisdictions carried by Mr. Glendening -- Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Baltimore City.

The judge, for example, was never given evidence about people who had supposedly listed abandoned houses as their addresses, a charge included in the original lawsuit and trumpeted by Mrs. Sauerbrey's camp before trial.

Her allegations that 4,700 inmates allegedly had votes cast in their names shrunk to 10. And that number was never introduced as evidence because the judge said it was based on faulty information.

Her largest category of allegedly improper ballots -- more than 40,000 -- were those cast by voters whose names showed up on a postal service data base as filing change of address forms, but who had not changed their voter registrations.

Earlier in the week, Judge Thieme would not allow her lawyers to introduce those numbers because she had no witness to verify the postal list. Yesterday, the judge rejected a Sauerbrey plan to fly in a last-minute witness from California to do that, saying his deadlines in the case had been clear.

Her lawyers never even mentioned an accountant who the lawsuit suggested had found a 1,400-vote error in the Baltimore count.

Perhaps her most publicized claim -- that dead people had votes cast in their names -- fizzled under scrutiny. Her lawyers began the week talking of 89 such votes, but checking by reporters found no ballots were cast in many of those names.

Judge Thieme's last ruling yesterday was to put the whole matter of "dead" voter evidence on hold unless the case is too close to decide without considering it.

"Every time you scrutinized [her evidence] and put it to the test, it showed there was something wrong with it," said Bruce L. Marcus, Mr. Glendening's lead attorney. "There was not one thing put in evidence that held together."

Yesterday, Mrs. Sauerbrey's attorneys tried to introduce evidence about what she termed her "smoking gun and the bullet" -- vote counts recorded on machines in many Baltimore precincts that exceeded the number of voters recorded in binders kept at the polling place.

The alleged discrepancies ranged from a handful of votes to, in one case, 243.

At the urging of attorneys on the other side, Judge Thieme refused to hear the evidence because, he said, a computer tape produced from scanning the binder lists could not be considered a reliable tally of voters.

Deputy Attorney General Ralph S. Tyler III told Judge Thieme that the most reliable vote count is the one taken from the back of the machine at the end of the night, as witnessed by Republican and Democratic election judges.

During the week, Mrs. Sauerbrey's lead attorney, John M. Carbone, did introduce evidence that some votes may have been improper. The largest chunk, 3,130, were Baltimore residents who he claimed should have been purged from voter rolls, either because they had not voted in the last five years.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.