Lawyers argue for leniency in Bereano's sentencing

April 14, 1995|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Sun Staff Writer

Armed with letters from more than 200 supporters of Bruce C. Bereano, lawyers for the convicted lobbyist yesterday asked for leniency when he is sentenced next week.

Prosecutors say Bereano should receive 2 1/2 years in prison and pay a $60,000 fine. But lawyers for the lobbyist argue against a prison term and say that if he is sentenced to serve time, it should be no more than 10 months -- half of the time in home detention.

In court papers filed yesterday, Bereano's lawyers said his income had dropped from $703,000 during the 1994 legislative session to $110,000 during the 1995 session.

"The jury's verdict plus the attendant media characterizations have already inflicted substantial economic harm so that the defendant's income has been reduced drastically," his lawyers wrote.

In a personal letter, Bereano made his own appeal to the judge.

"I have been portrayed by the Government and the media in a particular way," he wrote. "These letters, however, will tell you how others who have come to know me, work with me, socialize with me, and observe me, feel about me. This is a part of me which has not been previously portrayed to Your Honor."

The lobbyist was convicted in November of defrauding clients of more than $16,000. He will be sentenced April 21.

In letters to U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson, attorneys, community leaders, legislators and fellow lobbyists wrote of Bereano's achievements.

Former Gov. William Donald Schaefer described Bereano as "honest and reliable."

"You must determine if the public good would be served if Mr. Bereano served jail time for his conviction," Mr. Schaefer wrote. "In my opinion, Mr. Bereano could serve the public in many charitable and community services."

But in court papers earlier this week, prosecutors said a tough penalty is appropriate for someone who abused a position of trust with his clients and engaged in a complex plan to make illegal campaign contributions.

Prosecutors had not seen late yesterday the papers filed on Bereano's behalf and declined to comment.

Bereano, for years the most successful lobbyist in Maryland, was convicted Nov. 30 on eight counts of mail fraud for fraudulently billing clients for illegal campaign contributions he made through employees of his law firm, family members and the Bereano political action committee.

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