Judge rules Huddles failed to tell finances

But former Balto. County councilman avoids jail

October 02, 2002|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

A federal judge ruled yesterday that Gary Huddles failed to provide information about his income, loans and climbing debts while on probation for a money-laundering conviction and ordered that the former Baltimore County councilman serve an extra two years on supervised release as punishment.

U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson also ordered Huddles, once a rising star in Baltimore County politics, to spend 30 days on home detention and to perform 200 hours of community service for the probation reporting violations.

Nickerson rejected the government's most serious allegation against Huddles, however, and refused to return him to jail as prosecutors requested. Federal authorities had claimed that he flouted orders to pay more than $500,000 to the government by turning virtually all of his assets over to his ex-wife, including a retirement account that Huddles had been directed at his 1999 sentencing to maintain.

In his ruling, Nickerson said Huddles did not violate the terms of his plea agreement or defraud the government when he turned the account - worth more than $565,000 - over to his wife as part of a 1999 divorce settlement.

Huddles' attorney, Robert B. Schulman, praised the judge's decision. In court, Schulman suggested that the government had unfairly targeted Huddles to prolong his punishment.

"The government is going to be on Mr. Huddles' back for the rest of his life," Schulman said. "It's not something Mr. Huddles is happy about, but it's a fact."

Huddles' thriving legal and political career ended after he was convicted in 1997 of illegally handling $840,000 in suspected drug profits for a former law client. The former Pikesville Democrat, now 63 and living in North Baltimore, served two years in federal prison for the crime and, for the past three years, has been on supervised release.

Huddles was ordered to pay $585,500 to the government while on probation or face forfeiture proceedings. Huddles has paid $3,600, and authorities contended this summer that he had violated probation by purposely transferring his assets and incurring steep credit card debts to make himself "judgment-proof."

"The defendant has lived a lavish lifestyle when he should have been paying this debt," Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa M. Griffin said in court. She said Huddles had spent money on hotels and car rentals, sports tickets and $600 restaurant bills while "blatantly ignoring his obligations" to the government.

Schulman said Huddles had been forthright in his dealings with U.S. probation officers, adding that the government relied on "sheer speculation, sheer conclusion" in charging the probation violations.

After bluntly accusing senior probation officer William C. Tavik Jr. of lying about Huddles' cooperation, Schulman asked Nickerson at the end of yesterday's hearing to recommend that another officer be assigned to supervise Huddles during the next two years.

Nickerson said he would suggest the assignment be reviewed.

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