Chapman case tactics by DiBiagio questioned

U.S. attorney used false promises, threats, defense lawyers say

July 21, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio wanted a political corruption case when he started investigating investment manager Nathan A. Chapman Jr. and used embarrassing personal information, false promises and the threat of a related criminal investigation to try to reach that goal, Chapman's attorneys said in a court document filed yesterday.

The trial of Chapman - who is accused of defrauding the state pension system and stealing from his own companies - has "lifted a veil of secrecy that had kept the United States Attorney's pattern of questionable behavior hidden from the defendant and the public," the lawyers wrote.

The document was a response to a motion prosecutors filed Monday, which asked U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. to prohibit the defense lawyers from questioning the motive behind Chapman's indictment, in particular from mentioning DiBiagio's recently publicized directives asking prosecutors for convictions of elected officials and "front page" indictments by November.

"The defense's attempts to argue to the jury that the defendant was only prosecuted because the U.S. Attorney's office was unable to make a case against more prominent political targets is irrelevant, without foundation, and improperly attempts to distract the jury's attention from the real issues relating to this defendant's guilt or innocence," federal prosecutors Jefferson M. Gray and Craig M. Wolff wrote in their motion.

During the five-week trial, Chapman's attorneys have repeatedly asked witnesses whether federal investigators seemed most interested in Chapman's political connections, especially those to former Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Yesterday, in their filing, defense attorneys William R. "Billy" Martin, Marc Rothenberg and Allison L. Fennell called the political undertones relevant.

They said the investigation into Chapman was "initiated and driven" by DiBiagio and that he "set out to make a political corruption case."

Tomorrow, the defense is expected to call political strategist Julius Henson to the stand.

Earlier in the trial, Martin asked FBI Special Agent Steven Quisenberry whether he had asked Henson to wear a wire as part of the Chapman investigation. The agent said he did not think he had made such a request, but he did not deny questioning Henson.

In a recent interview, Henson told The Sun that the FBI had contacted him at least three times, asking him whether he knew anything about Chapman's relationship with Glendening. Henson said he knew some of the background - Chapman was an early supporter of Glendening in Baltimore - and that he told the FBI he could not help much.

"I told the FBI that I thought Nate was a good guy," Henson said. He said he never wore a wire.

Defense attorneys wrote about what they described as heavy-handed and improper tactics by prosecutors. They said prosecutors have used unfair leverage against potential defense witnesses, by artificially keeping open a related 2 1/2 -year-old obstruction-of-justice investigation as a threat.

Quisenberry testified last week that the case against Chapman started as an obstruction case when a former employee of the defendant told authorities she had been threatened for reporting bad business practices to the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Surely, by now the FBI and the United States Attorney's Office have had adequate time to decide whether to request that a grand jury return formal charges, or to clear the names of those individuals who are the target of this investigation," the defense team wrote, noting that Chapman is not a suspect in that case.

The defense lawyers criticized as unnecessary prosecutors' investigation into their client's personal life and those of women with whom prosecutors say he had affairs.

They also noted the testimony of Carol Boykin, former chief investment officer for the state pension system, in which she said DiBiagio had promised her job protection if she cooperated as a witness.

Boykin was later fired, and defense lawyers say DiBiagio never had the power to make good on that promise.

The U.S. attorney's office could not be reached for comment after court adjourned yesterday.

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