Witness says he was offered Chapman deal

Henson alleges that FBI sought him as informer

Glendening ties also probed

Prosecutor says agent's comments misconstrued

July 22, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

Local political strategist Julius C. Henson testified yesterday that the FBI came to him during its investigation of businessman Nathan A. Chapman Jr., offering money and "help" with his clients if he acted as an informant.

Henson, who said he rejected the FBI's offer, also testified that an agent questioned him in detail about Chapman's ties and contributions to former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, to the extent that Henson said he wasn't sure which man was the investigation's target.

"I didn't realize if it were Chapman he was going after, or Glendening," Henson said.

In cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jefferson M. Gray suggested that Henson was confused about what sort of deal was offered by FBI Special Agent Steven Quisenberry. He also suggested that it was reasonable for authorities to investigate Chapman's political contributions since they were trying to track half a million dollars in business checks they say Chapman cashed for his own use.

Barry Maddox, spokesman for the FBI's Baltimore field office, said he could not comment on the case or what was said at trial. Glendening could not be reached for comment.

Henson's statements came in the fifth week of Chapman's federal fraud trial, and two days after prosecutors filed a motion asking the judge to bar "irrelevant" defense questioning about the political nature of the investigation, and the motive behind Chapman's indictment.

U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. rejected that request -- a move that allowed Henson to take the stand -- but agreed to block any reference to Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio's recently reported remarks urging his staff to make public corruption cases.

The defense had argued that those statements, obtained and published by The Sun, help prove that Chapman's prosecution was intended to be a public corruption case.

Chapman is accused of defrauding the state pension system, lying on his tax returns and stealing from his own publicly traded companies.

Political connections

Throughout the trial, defense attorneys have sprinkled in questions about whether the FBI had first asked witnesses about Chapman's political connections rather than his business practices. Yesterday, they had their chance to delve into those political undertones full force.

Henson testified that Chapman had been one of Glendening's first supporters in Baltimore, holding a fund-raiser for the then-gubernatorial hopeful at Camden Yards. Glendening never forgot it, Henson said, and asked Chapman to let him know whether there was ever a way he could be of help.

That's how Chapman became chairman of the state university system's Board of Regents, Henson testified.

Shortly before federal authorities started investigating Chapman, the investment manager had gone to Henson for advice on running for political office -- perhaps the U.S. Senate, Henson said.

The FBI agent interviewed Henson in January last year, Henson said. They sat in Henson's car, and Quisenberry asked about Chapman.

"I said, `He's a great guy,'" Henson testified. "And Mr. Quisenberry said, `No, he's not.'"

There was little discussion about Chapman's business practices, Henson said.

Instead, the agent asked about Chapman's connections to Glendening, and about Baltimore politicians who were close to him, Henson testified.

Henson said the agent also asked about what could be seen as political favors, such as Chapman's decision to employ Major F. Riddick Jr., Glendening's former chief of staff, while Riddick was running for county executive in Prince George's County.

`That's our system'

Henson said he tried to explain that it was just business as usual.

"All these relationships are based on friendships, who you know, who will raise money for you, and who will be helpful," Henson testified. "It's not illegal or untoward. Most of the time in this business, if you have access, if you have contacts, you have a leg up. That's our system."

At the end of the interview, Henson said, the agent told him that Chapman was "going down."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.