Judge rejects Young's plea to move trial to Baltimore

Jurist says former senator has duty to whole state

August 27, 1999|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

Declaring that a legislator owes a duty to the state as a whole, not just the district that elected him, an Anne Arundel circuit judge has firmly rejected former state Sen. Larry Young's plea to have his bribery and extortion trial moved to Baltimore.

In a four-page ruling issued yesterday, Judge Joseph P. Manck also rejected a request by Young's attorneys to have the entire criminal case against the West Baltimore Democrat thrown out.

The decision means Young will go on trial Sept. 13 in Annapolis before an Anne Arundel County jury. Young's lawyers had argued that the former senator should be tried before a jury in Baltimore, which includes the 44th District that elected him. They argued that a Baltimore jury would more accurately reflect the racial composition of Young's former district.

Young was indicted late last year on charges that he extorted $72,000 from a Prince George's County physician who was seeking a state license and a multimillion dollar state contract for a health maintenance organization he founded. Young also was charged with bribery and filing a false tax return.

Before the indictment Young was expelled from the state Senate on a series of ethics charges including his dealings with the HMO PrimeHealth Corp. and its owner, Dr. Christian Chinwuba. It was the first such expulsion from the General Assembly in two centuries.

PrimeHealth, based in Lanham, has been seized by the Maryland Insurance Administration. The state recently put the company up for auction and is soliciting bids for its purchase.

The health care company serves 14,000 Medicaid patients.

In his ruling, Manck adopted the arguments made by State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, who contended that Annapolis was the proper place for the trial because it was from "the seat of government" that a legislator's "legal duties clearly emanate."

"The court does not believe that a legislator owes responsibility only to the people of his district. Rather, his ultimate responsibility is to the people of the state of Maryland," Manck wrote.

The judge concluded that if he were to follow the argument of Young's lawyers to its logical conclusion, the trial would have to be held before a jury impaneled from the 44th District.

"Obviously," Manck wrote, "this cannot be."

The judge said that Montanarelli, as a statewide prosecutor, also has the prerogative of picking a venue of his own choice when more than one venue is proper.

Gregg Bernstein, Young's lead attorney, said, "We respect the judge's decision, and we look forward to presenting our defense in Annapolis."

James Cabezas, the chief investigator in Montanarelli's office, said he was pleased with the decision.

Pub Date: 8/27/99

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