For Michael Mitchell, a road of ups, downs

Ex-Md. senator was jailed over Wedtech, disbarred

January 23, 2003|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

In the course of his life, former city councilman and state Sen. Michael B. Mitchell, scion of Maryland's politically influential Mitchell family, has alternately seen his name celebrated with distinction and sullied by wrongdoing.

Now he is under scrutiny in a federal racketeering case in which he is not a defendant but has been portrayed in testimony as a close adviser to a pair of convicted drug dealers who authorities say used nightclubs to disguise illegal activities.

Yesterday, a federal judge described him as "uncharged alleged co-conspirator," and a key witness linked him to an alleged attempt at witness tampering.

The son of civil rights leaders Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. and Juanita Jackson Mitchell, Mitchell, 57, was once considered a rising star in city and state politics. He was elected to the City Council in 1975, at age 29. Five years later, he was being touted as a future mayoral candidate.

Heir to his family's proud legacy of fighting racial discrimination on the picket line and in court, Mitchell preceded state Sen. Larry Young in West Baltimore's 44th District. Mitchell served less than a year, losing the seat when he was sent to prison in 1987 after being convicted of attempting to obstruct a federal investigation of Wedtech Corp., a Bronx, N.Y.-based defense contractor.

Mitchell and his elder brother, Clarence M. Mitchell III, collected $50,000 to halt the probe spearheaded by their uncle, former Rep. Parren J. Mitchell., who was unaware of his nephews' involvement.

A year later, Michael Mitchell was convicted in state court of stealing $77,417 in insurance money from a 3-year-old son of a murder victim. As part of his sentence in that case, the University of Maryland law school graduate was disbarred.

Now out of the political spotlight, Mitchell has worked since 1999 for the Maryland Transportation Authority, where he is a coordinator for a program called Managing For Results.

But even on the sidelines, controversy has followed him.

Last May, an investigation by The Sun found that Parren Mitchell's bills - including more than $100,000 owed to Keswick Multi-Care Center in Roland Park where he receives care - have gone unpaid by Michael Mitchell, who has power of attorney for his uncle.

Mitchell used his uncle's assets to help pay expenses related to a Pigtown bar he helped run and to buy a car that his uncle said he knew nothing about.

The Mitchells called the newspaper reports "totally false and totally untrue," and filed a $251 million lawsuit against the paper and two of its reporters, alleging trespassing and invasion of privacy when the reporters interviewed Parren Mitchell at the nursing home.

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