Back On The Horse

With his fall and imprisonment behind him, lobbyist Gerry Evans is being heard from again in Annapolis.

February 13, 2003|By Patricia Meisol | Patricia Meisol,SUN STAFF

Annapolis lobbyist Gerry Evans is proud of his latest feat, a book on corruption. You gotta hear this, he says, as he turns on the computer in his new Main Street office. Before he starts reading he covers his ears with his hands for a second to warn that it's racy.

"The display of naked bodies ... looked better suited to a peep show on the Block in Baltimore," he reads, "than on the hand-rubbed mahogany desk of one of Maryland's finest senators."

You can imagine what comes next: the senator being handed photo after photo, the blood draining from his face, his heart pounding, as he knows he is cooked - by an enemy, it turns out. When a new senator takes over, the enemy tries to get to her, too.

Evans has written 300 pages about corrupt and amoral people in Annapolis, but don't send him a subpoena, he jokes.

It's fiction.

And, maybe, therapy.

Perhaps he's trying to get his head around his own spectacular fall from one of the most powerful lobbyists in the United States to convicted felon raising his hand at bed check.

The lead character is a guy who is trying to make lead-paint companies pay for poisoning kids in the slums of Baltimore. (Lead-paint bills were at the center of Evans' trial in 2000.) Like Evans, he hates to be late. Like Evans, he immerses himself in his subject so he would feel completely comfortable. His name is Tom Gerard. (As in, Gerard E. Evans?) How the guy fares as he wends his way through the familiar halls of Annapolis - well, you'll have to buy the book.

And with characters like the mighty senator who insists on replaying the whole game before they talk - ring a bell? - the book could be the fallen lobbyist's ticket to another million-dollar year.

That's not why he is doing it.

It's fun. He started writing longhand, in prison, where he served a year-and-a-half on federal mail fraud charges, and sent chapters home to his wife, Kathy. Every free moment now, he rewrites and revises. He's obsessed with it. Not that he has much time, he is quick to add.

He has calls to make, people to see, and one night last week, a major errand: hunt down a television for the private room he had rented at Ruth's Chris Steak House to entertain members of the House of Delegates Health and Government Operations Committee. The dinner was the same night as the Maryland-Virginia game. You admired his ability to think of his clients' every comfort when he confesses that Ruth's Chris is perfect for him; he's on the Atkins diet and it's got the best meat in town.

Despite Evans' felony conviction, seven of the 11 committee members turned out to hear him and one of his clients, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

Despite the conviction, despite everything - being out of prison less than a year, with only a handful of clients, the State Ethics Commission's attempt to revoke his lobbyist's license - Evans is trying to make himself a major player again. The bad vibes he has about slots aren't helped by a newspaper report about the campaign money going to Maryland lawmakers from slots backers. He picks up the phone. Maybe the Senate president should link up with the anti-slots House Speaker and tell the governor to send down a real budget, he argues. There's always next year.

Evans' office is full of promise: a dozen desks waiting to be filled, a few of them sublet by a lobbyist for Ocean Downs, the racetrack. People greet Evans warmly on the street. His name is in big gold letters on a storefront so sleekly appointed that a tourist recently mistook it for an art gallery.

People tell him he's crazy to return to Annapolis.

Crazy to show his face after being placed at the center of a "culture of corruption" by the federal judge in his trial. Crazy to put up with a week like one recently, which began with a Sun editorial condemning him, featured the governor hiring a prominent attorney to try to get rid of Evans, and ended with a columnist excoriating him - all while his clients were going nuts over the slots bill. "You guys are crucifying me," he said.

And there's no end in sight.

"Keep it coming," he says. "I'm ready."

He says that - he knows - in the same breath as he says, "It humbles you."

"There's a difference between being arrogant and very sure of yourself. [Prison] makes you appreciate all the blessings in your life - kids, wife, freedom and a good aftershave."

Yeah, it's hard. He knows people pass by him saying, "There's that crook."

"You know what? Everybody breaks the law. They run stop signs. They cheat on their taxes. They can get only so `holier than thou.' The people who know me and love me still know me and love me," he says. "Those who don't, don't."

But if he felt what he did was wrong, he says, he wouldn't have come back. He would have found another business.

Nor would he have come back, he says, if a new law banning felons from lobbying applied to him. He wouldn't beat his head against a wall. But according to the legal minds he consulted, the law doesn't apply to him, even if he was the cause of it.

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