Mayor of Frederick returns `black book' to suspected madam

March 02, 2001|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,SUN STAFF

The political tangle in Frederick over an alleged madam's "black book" has taken another bizarre twist, as the city's mayor ordered the return of possible client lists seized in a police investigation of an alleged prostitution ring.

The return was ordered by Mayor James S. Grimes as a local newspaper pressed its efforts in court to obtain the lists, which have been the focus of speculation that they identify prominent public officials.

Grimes acted a week after the Frederick News-Post filed papers in Frederick County Circuit Court seeking to intervene in a legal proceeding brought by the city to determine ownership of the records.

"I personally have never seen, nor do I want to see, nor have any interest in knowing of it, but I have been informed that there is no elected city, county or state officials in that book," Grimes said Wednesday.

The move, which occurred late Monday, stunned the newspaper and its lawyer, who had been arguing that the client lists are public records under city and state public information laws.

"I don't see how this can end so fast," said Managing Editor Michael Powell.

The newspaper countered by obtaining a court order barring the former owner of Corporate Affair Referral Service from destroying or tampering with any of her property returned by police.

Before that order could be issued late Wednesday, her lawyer had shredded most of the documents in dispute, said Henry Abrams, the newspaper's Baltimore lawyer.

"We are exploring all possible remedies," Abrams said when asked about a legal recourse.

"What happened was wrong," he said later. "I'm so furious I can't see straight."

The return of the documents is the latest development in an issue that has dogged Frederick City Hall for months, prompting rumors and suspicion. It has played out for several weeks in court, as city officials, the newspaper and the alleged madam sparred over whether her documents should be made public.

The "black book" was a printout of files contained in a personal computer seized by police during their investigation of Corporate Affair.

Angelika E. Potter of Walkersville, owner of the escort service and of a pornographic Web site, paid a $100 fine for running a place of "assignation" as part of a plea bargain Nov. 15 in Frederick District Court.

The prosecutor who handled the case agreed to give back all property seized during a July 1999 raid on her home and a city apartment used by the service. Police returned the computer and the originals of confiscated paper documents but kept printouts.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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