Young's lawyer says he didn't receive due process Senate president rejects bid to delay ouster vote

January 15, 1998|By Walter F. Roche Jr. and Scott Higham | Walter F. Roche Jr. and Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

Lawyers for embattled state Sen. Larry Young mounted a last-minute, but apparently futile, appeal yesterday to delay tomorrow's vote on a resolution to expel him from the Senate.

In a letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Young's lawyers charged that the West Baltimore legislator was not given a chance to confront or cross-examine the witnesses who

testified against him, as allowed under the state ethics law.

Instead, said Young's attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, the legislature's ethics committee used an abbreviated process to meet a preimposed deadline.

"We told him [Miller] that we believe Senator Young did not receive due process, that he did not receive a full and fair opportunity to contest the allegations and present evidence on his own behalf," Bernstein said.

The appeal came 48 hours before the Senate was due to convene to vote on expelling Young.

The expulsion vote was recommended after a one-month probe by the ethics panel, which found Young had violated state ethics laws by running private businesses out of his legislative office.

Miller said last night that he had denied Young's request.

"I'm not going to appoint an investigative committee. The vote will take place Friday," Miller said.

"The senator was not only heard, he appeared with his counsel before the joint committee. He and all other members will have the chance to debate the resolution. The time has come to act."

Miller also said that if the committee had followed the more time-consuming process now sought by Young, it would have jeopardized a continuing criminal investigation of Young by the state prosecutor.

"The whole process is designed not to tie the prosecutor's hands. When you give a committee subpoena power and the power to compel witnesses, you run into double jeopardy" issues, Miller said.

Bernstein said he was disappointed by Miller's response.

The appeal is based on the fact that a section of the state ethics law sets out a formal multistep process for the consideration of alleged violations.

Under that process, a separate investigation committee is appointed to review the charges and formal hearings are held.

Instead, the panel acted under another section of the law that allows the Senate president to refer matters directly to the ethics panel. That section does not set out a formal review process.

Warning against "a rush to judgment," Bernstein said, "I just think that any member of the Senate, before they would vote on what is essentially the death penalty for Senator Young, would want there to be that kind of full review of the facts, as they would do on any piece of legislation."

Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr., a Baltimore Democrat who presided over the closed ethics committee proceedings, concurred with Miller.

"Under the Constitution, there doesn't appear to be any requirement for due process," he said. "A member could be determined not to qualify for a seat at any time without an investigation."

Pub Date: 1/15/98

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