Ex-employees testify against Md. lobbyist

Evans is linked to letter signed by state delegate

June 23, 2000|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

State House lobbyist Gerard E. Evans boasted that plans by Del. Tony E. Fulton to introduce lead paint legislation would guarantee lucrative contracts for the lobbying firm, a former employee of the firm testified yesterday.

Fulton outlined plans for such legislation in a letter to then-Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in October 1998 - a letter that alarmed paint company officials when Evans sent them a copy.

Sonya Healy, a young associate in the Evans firm at the time, told jurors that Evans showed her an early draft of the letter from Fulton to Schmoke. "He said ... it was going to insure that our contract was going to be extended with the paint clients for the next [General Assembly] session," Healy testified in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

The testimony came as the prosecution in the mail fraud trial of Evans and Fulton sought to persuade jurors that Evans actually wrote the letter for the West Baltimore delegate as part of a scheme to generate tens of thousands in lobbying fees. The legislation that Fulton proposed - but never introduced - would have made it easier for victims of lead poisoning to sue paint manufacturers.

Evans went so far as to use scissors, tape, glue and White Out to alter a document - an action he called "creative lobbying" - to mislead his paint company clients, another former staff member testified.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale Kelberman has asserted that Evans wrote the letter to Schmoke, then sent it to Fulton's office to have it retyped on the legislator's stationery. Defense lawyers deny the claim.

Healy, in testimony that appeared to support Kelberman's assertion, said Evans gave her a draft of the letter on plain paper in early October 1998 and had her fax it without a cover sheet to Fulton's office.

But she conceded under cross-examination by Evans' lawyer, Robert C. Bonsib, that she did not know who wrote the draft that Evans gave her.

James Davis III, a former legislative aide in Evans' firm, and Ann Clark, Evans' secretary and office manager, testified that some handwritten notes on drafts of the letter were in Evans' handwriting. The letter was typed in all capital letters, a style Clark said Evans sometimes used.

Prosecutors see the letter as a key piece of evidence linking Evans and Fulton in an alleged scheme that involved scaring companies into paying the lobbyist's firm to fight the threatened lead paint legislation.

Evans and Fulton are each charged with 11 counts of mail and wire fraud. Both pleaded not guilty.

Davis, the legislative aide, said Healy showed him a draft of the letter in early October 1998, and he recalled it being faxed to Fulton.

Later, he said, Evans called him into his office and showed him a copy of the letter - this time on Fulton's stationery and with the delegate's name signed to it. The copy had been faxed to Evans by Fulton's office a day earlier.

Asked why Evans summoned him, Davis said, "The essence of it was he wanted to show me some ... creative lobbying techniques."

He said they assembled office materials - "scissors, tape, glue, White Out" - and set about making it look like the letter had been faxed to Evans by Schmoke's office, not Fulton's. They did that by super-imposing onto the letter the fax line from unrelated material that Evans had received that day from Schmoke's office, Davis said.

"I did ask at one point if he was sure he wanted to do this," Davis said. "I never got any answer."

Davis said Evans told him to send the altered letter to paint companies that were clients of the firm. The letter was faxed to the paint companies along with the cover sheet from the fax Evans had received from an official with the Schmoke administration, Davis said, making it further appear the lobbyist had received his copy from city officials.

By altering the fax line, Evans sought to conceal his close relationship with Fulton from his clients, Kelberman suggested.

In her testimony, Healy, 28, said she again dealt with the letter from Fulton to Schmoke in December 1998. She said Evans asked her to note the letter in material she was helping to prepare for the firm's paint company clients as they got ready for a legislative strategy meeting.

In the material, Evans talked about the prospects for lead paint legislation during the upcoming General Assembly session. Evans also asked her to attach a copy of the letter, she said.

"I told him that we shouldn't send that to the paint clients," Healy testified. "He said they had it already, and what difference did it make."

Asked why she didn't think the letter should be sent to the companies, Healy replied it was because "of things that had gone on in the office ... I told him it was misrepresentation."

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