Inspector collected payments, witness says

Cash was given to keep club open, she testifies

January 14, 1999|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

One of the partners in a Frederick Avenue after-hours club testified yesterday that a city liquor inspector began collecting cash payments from her establishment shortly after she became an owner in 1992.

Joy Nickey, part owner of the Twilight Social Club, told a Circuit Court jury that J. Bernard "Bernie" Martin, then an inspector for the Baltimore City Liquor Board, was collecting money "whenever we saw him." She said initially the payments were made every month and a half but became more frequent.

Asked by Assistant State Prosecutor Thomas McDonough why she made the payments to Martin, Nickey said, "So we could keep our club open."

Her testimony came in the trial of William J. Madonna Jr. and Anthony J. Cianferano, who have been charged with bribery and conspiracy to block enforcement of state liquor laws. Madonna is a former state delegate and Cianferano was the liquor board's chief inspector until his indictment last year.

Nickey, whose testimony continues today, said she was told by Martin that to stay in business she would have to buy tickets to political fund-raisers.

"That was our obligation," she said.

The court session ended before Nickey could be questioned about her relationship with other city liquor officials. Martin, who has been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Earlier in the day, Sgt. Steven Burrier of the Baltimore City Police Department told the jurors that Nickey's partner, Michael Swidowich, gave him $50 in cash and a $50 restaurant gift certificate after he told them he would no longer be looking for violations at the club.

Burrier, who said he considered the money and the gift certificate to be a bribe, told the jury he became involved in the investigation of the Twilight Social Club at the request of the state Prosecutor's Office, which was conducting an investigation of the liquor board.

Burrier testified that, at the request of the state prosecutor's staff, he made phone calls to Cianferano asking him to assign a liquor board inspector to assist in raids on the Twilight Social Club.

He said that at one point Swidowich told him that he had talked with Cianferano and they had worked out a plan to make sure that if a liquor inspector tried to instigate a raid of the club, Cianferano would be alerted so that he could order it halted.

Burrier said Nickey suggested to him at one point that if he were late or didn't show up for a scheduled liquor board hearing, a pending complaint against the club would probably be dismissed.

"It can be taken care of, if you just don't show up," Burrier said Nickey told him.

He testified that he told Nickey that if he failed to show up for the hearing, as she suggested, he would be subject to disciplinary action and a possible fine.

Under questioning from Samuel Blibaum, Cianferano's lawyer, Burrier acknowledged that Cianferano always complied with his requests for inspectors. Asked if Cianferano ever asked him to do anything improper, Burrier said, "No, sir, he did not."

Pub Date: 1/14/99

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