Lawyers who'll face off in inquiry were once colleagues Finney, Martin worked in U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore in 1970s

December 23, 1997|By Scott Higham | Scott Higham,SUN STAFF Sun staff researcher Andrea Wilson contributed to this article.

When Jervis S. Finney takes his seat in a closed ethics hearing room in Annapolis next month, he will see a familiar face next to state Sen. Larry Young -- defense lawyer Gerard P. Martin, who worked with Finney two decades ago at the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore.

"Jervis is without a doubt the most honest man I ever met in my life," Martin said last night. "He's very smart. If they were looking for someone who is beyond reproach, he's the guy."

Jervis, the ethics committee's independent counsel, is facing a formidable defense team that includes Martin, Martin's partner Gregg L. Bernstein and Nelson R. Stewart, an Annapolis lawyer who is a close adviser to Young. Together, the attorneys bring years of experience to the table, from handling racketeering and murder cases to planning defense strategies for multinational corporations.

Martin, 53, is from Erie, Pa. After graduating from St. Louis Law School in 1970, he went to Washington, where he worked in the racketeering section of the U.S. Justice Department.

Two years later, he joined the U.S. attorney's office in Baltimore. It was an exciting time to be at the office, which had prosecuted a number of public officials on corruption charges, including former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew.

Martin said he was impressed by Finney's courtroom savvy when they teamed up to prosecute several horse jockeys charged with fixing a trifecta bet in Bowie. The jockeys were found guilty.

Like Martin, Bernstein, 42, also brings years of courtroom experience to the defense table. Born in Baltimore, he graduated from University of Maryland Law School and joined the U.S. attorney's office in 1987.

He prosecuted a series of cases, and gained the conviction of Conrail engineer Ricky Gates for lying about smoking marijuana before he crashed into an Amtrak passenger train in Chase in 1987. Sixteen people died; 175 were injured.

"Gregg is thoughtful and aggressive," said one of Bernstein's former colleagues, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning. "He knows when to hold them, and he knows when to fold them." After leaving the U.S. attorney's office, Bernstein became friends with Martin while the two worked in a private Baltimore practice.

In 1993, they formed Martin, Junghans, Snyder & Bernstein, and they've been handling mostly criminal and corporate cases ever since. One of their biggest clients is Honda Motor Co. in Japan, a defendant in a class-action civil bribery case being tried in Baltimore.

The third member of the defense team is Stewart. Also born in Baltimore, Stewart, 49, is a graduate of the University of Baltimore Law School and spends most of his time handling criminal cases.

In 1974, he began his career in the courtroom as an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore. He has also worked for the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau and served on a statewide board to review handgun permits. Stewart works for the law firm of Dalnekoff & Mason in Annapolis.

Pub Date: 12/23/97

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