Two indicted in investigation of Ehrlich campaign workers

Prince George's grand jury accuses them of promising `walking around' money

January 31, 2003|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

In an expanding probe, two campaign workers for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. were indicted yesterday on charges they conspired to violate a state law barring the payment of Election Day workers for so-called "walking around" services.

Charged in the two-count indictment by a Prince George's County grand jury were Steven P. Martin, 31 of Capitol Heights and Rashida S. Hogg, 23, of Silver Spring. Both were paid workers for Ehrlich's campaign.

In addition to the conspiracy charge, the two were accused of "knowingly and willfully" incurring an obligation to pay persons "known and unknown" for performing Election Day services.

State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli said the indictments were the latest in a continuing investigation and that additional evidence would be presented to the grand jury.

"We're still preparing the evidence," Montanarelli said, adding that he hoped to complete the probe "just as soon as I can."

Yesterday's indictments bring to three the total of those charged in the probe. Late last year the grand jury indicted on similar charges Shirley Brookins, 56, head of the Alternative Resource Cooperative, an employment agency in Washington.

Brookins, Hogg and Martin were all allegedly involved in recruiting people to work the polls on Election Day and hand out campaign literature for Ehrlich and his running mate, Michael S. Steele.

Hogg and Martin could not be reached for comment yesterday. Martin's attorney, Howard L. Cardin, said his client had no knowledge of workers being paid and that Martin had told that to Montanarelli's staff.

Cardin said his client gave what he called "rah-rah speeches" to election workers but had no authority to authorize any payments. He said Martin would plead innocent to the charges.

William H. Murphy, Hogg's attorney, did not respond to several phone calls.

Under state election laws, each violation can bring a prison sentence of up to one year.

While Brookins' charges relate to the recruitment of homeless people from a Washington shelter, the charges against Hogg and Martin stem from the recruitment of college, high school and junior high school students who were allegedly promised payments of up to $125 each to work the polls Nov. 5.

Students and their parents said in interviews that Hogg and Martin were the ones who recruited and instructed them on their Election Day duties. The students, many from Bowie State University, said that they never were paid.

Montanarelli said yesterday that the students -- along with "other private citizens" -- would be witnesses when the two defendants go on trial. The indictment also lists a special agent from Montanarelli's office, John Poliks, as a witness. Many of the Election Day workers said they were interviewed by Poliks.

Campaign finance reports filed by Ehrlich's campaign committee show that on Oct. 17, Hogg was paid $2,300 and Martin was paid $1,700. Hogg and Martin worked out of a campaign office in New Carrollton that served as the Prince George's headquarters for the Democrats for Ehrlich Committee.

Brookins' firm was paid $52,640 by Steele's campaign committee on Nov. 2, three days before the election. Unlike the students, the homeless workers hired by Brookins were eventually paid $150 each, according to the indictment handed up against her.

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