Court upholds developer's bribery conviction

November 25, 1998|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

A federal appeals court has upheld the bribery conviction of Baltimore housing contractor Larry E. Jennings Sr., saying his boasting about influence with a city manager was "a classic sign of bribery."

In his 27-page opinion, filed last week, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge M. Blane Michael also rejected Jennings' claim that the trial judge gave erroneous instructions to jurors. Michael said the instructions were sufficient.

Jennings was convicted in 1995 of making payments totaling $6,500 in 1993 to Charles Morris, who supervised a Baltimore Housing Authority no-bid program to repair rundown homes.

The trial court ruled that the payments were bribes to help Jennings win $1.18 million in contracts for the much-criticized $25.6 million housing repair program.

During the trial, Jennings denied making any payments to Morris. On his appeal, the contractor argued that he had only paid gratuities to the supervisor.

"We conclude that there was a fair and reliable determination of Jennings' guilt," Michael wrote in the opinion by the three-judge appeals court panel in Richmond, Va. "Jennings did not claim at trial that he paid gratuities to Morris. Jennings took the stand and testified that he did not pay Morris a dime."

U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin in February 1996 sentenced Jennings to a year in prison, the minimum prison term under federal guidelines.

Morris pleaded guilty to bribery charges in early 1994 and was given probation and a $720 fine.

Pub Date: 11/25/98

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