Officials' testimony reportedly postponed

City Council members probed by U.S. attorney

August 11, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Federal prosecutors examining the Baltimore City Council's financial and political dealings have postponed grand jury testimony from the elected officials that was scheduled for this month and next, according to sources familiar with the probe.

It is unclear whether all 19 council members have been subpoenaed to testify, or whether any of the elected officials have appeared before the grand jury.

U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio subpoenaed the entire council last fall for five years of documents detailing their finances and relations with certain businesses, according to copies of the subpoenas obtained by The Sun.

Since then, council members have been given no indication about what DiBiagio is pursuing.

Councilman Robert W. Curran said having the investigation hanging over their heads has been unfair during an election year. "It creates ammunition for those running against us in City Council," Curran said.

The council's attorneys - Larry Nathans and City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler - told council members in letters or e-mail that scheduled testimony for this month and next had been indefinitely postponed, sources said. Most council members scheduled to testify in June and last month also were postponed, sources said.

Nathans, Tyler and council members would not comment on the investigation.

Byron Warnken, a criminal defense attorney and professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, said there could be many administrative reasons for postponements. A delay in testimony would be warranted if the case were being taken from one assistant U.S. attorney in DiBiagio's office and given to another, Warnken said.

But, Warnken said, "there seems to be a sense that there doesn't really seem to be much behind this case."

He said that DiBiagio may have chosen to "lie a little bit low" after the flap caused by documents he wrote urging prosecutors to pursue more convictions of elected officials and "front page" indictments.

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