Church warmly embraces Young Who hasn't made mistakes? pastor asks

January 19, 1998|By Marego Athans and JoAnna Daemmrich | Marego Athans and JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Two days after he was expelled from the Maryland Senate over findings that he used his public office for private gain, Larry Young was warmly embraced yesterday at New Shiloh Baptist Church -- where he is a deacon -- in a rousing service that brought dozens of worshipers to the altar in a special prayer for the fallen politician.

"I'm glad that the honorable Larry Young admits that some mistakes were made. Who is it among us who has not made some mistakes?" the Rev. Harold A. Carter said, prompting applause and cheers from a packed church of 2,200 worshipers.

Carter criticized the Senate's "rush to summary judgment" of the 24-year veteran of the General Assembly.

"Brother Larry Young, you've been with the Lord a long time," Carter said. "Don't let the devil fool you now. And don't put too much trust in people God has not cut you off. "

Young, in a dark suit, sat next to his mother, Mabel Payne, and frequently rose with fellow members to clap and sway to the gospel rhythms.

He was expelled Friday by a 36-10 Senate vote, marking the first time in 201 years that a Maryland lawmaker has been removed by his colleagues.

The ejection came after the legislature's ethics committee determined that Young broke ethics laws by mixing his state duties with his private businesses. Among its findings: Young had a no-bid consulting arrangement with Coppin State College, which paid him $34,500 in the past two years.

The panel could find little if any work Young did for the money, and Young failed to report the arrangement, as required, to the ethics panel.

The West Baltimore Democrat is under criminal investigation by the state prosecutor's office, and the FBI has launched a probe.

Young said yesterday he wouldn't make any statements until Wednesday. As he greeted worshipers entering the church, he said he planned to be "off the scene" for a few days.

"This is my church, this is my church family, I'm here for my spiritual time," he said.

Young is apparently considering ways to return to office, possibly through an appointment by the 44th District's Democratic State Central Committee, which is charged with filling the Senate seat.

On Friday, Young took to the radio from a phone in the Senate lounge, saying: "I would hope that the state central committee would consider me a candidate."

Young and his lawyers have discussed a court challenge to a clause in the Senate resolution that removes him for "the remainder of the current four-year term," which expires next January.

But speculation is growing in Baltimore and Annapolis that Young might try a quicker route to a State House comeback. Under one scenario, the central committee would appoint one of the district's three members of the House of Delegates to the Senate -- and choose Young to fill the resulting House vacancy.

The name most frequently mentioned for such a trade is Del. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, who stood by Young's side and organized rallies of support during Young's painful fight to stay in the Senate.

Mitchell did not return calls yesterday. On Friday, after Young had been expelled, Mitchell left his office, saying, "I need to pray." Asked about Young's seat, he said softly, "I don't even want to talk about that."

Some political observers suggested yesterday that Young might prefer that his Senate seat be filled by a caretaker -- someone who would step aside in the fall election, when many expect Young to try to reclaim it. Young might be concerned that Mitchell would try to keep the seat once held by his father and uncle.

The other 44th District delegates -- Carmena F. Watson and Ruth M. Kirk -- also have been mentioned as possible replacements.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. has declined to discuss what he would do if the committee sent Young back to Annapolis. But he said he has asked the state attorney general's office for advice about his legal options if Young is appointed to a House seat in coming weeks.

After yesterday's service, a group of church members, political supporters and friends of Young gathered in a room of the church for a fried chicken dinner. One of those attending said that some members of the group were helping Young plan strategy.

Supporters are circulating a petition asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Senate's action, charging it was "a discriminatory and racist act of intimidation that has violated the civil rights and infringed upon the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right of the people of the 44th District to freely elect their own representatives."

In music and in sermon, yesterday's service played to those same themes, remembering slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. As the choir sang "We Shall Overcome," Carter summoned people to the altar to pray for Young. The former senator and dozens of worshipers flocked to the front of the church. Clasping hands, they prayed.

After the service, churchgoers repeated their pastor's sentiments -- everyone makes mistakes. They lauded Young for his service to their community. Most of the church members interviewed held the view that such violations were common among politicians -- Young just got caught. And most said they believed he was targeted because he is black.

Joseph Laney, 46, said Young helped him get a job and then a college education, after Laney left prison, where he spent 30 months for selling drugs. He said he has a master's degree from Coppin State College and is a case manager in a program that helps those recovering from drug problems.

"He didn't shun me," he said. "He made me aware of the funds that were available [for college]. He took the time. A lot of them don't take the time. He helps people. That's what it's all about."

Pub Date: 1/19/98

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