No matter the criticism hurled his way or the public humiliation, Larry Young has always maintained his innocence - and interest in resurrecting his political career.
It seems the time for the latter may be coming.
The 55-year-old former legislator and radio talk show host is strongly considering another run for the state Senate from District 44, which includes many of the city neighborhoods he represented for years, friends and supporters say.
In January 1998, Young was expelled from the Senate for a string of ethics violations, including using his office to enrich his private businesses. He was the first person booted from the body in about 200 years; the last was tossed out in the late 1700s for cheating at cards. Young subsequently faced extortion and bribery charges and was acquitted by a jury.
"He looks at what happened in the court as vindication, and I think the complete vindication would probably be the response of voters in a positive way, which is what he anticipates," said A. Dwight Pettit, a Baltimore attorney and longtime friend of Young's.
Through his niece and his radio producer, Young declined to be interviewed for this article. His producer, who would be identified only by his radio show name, Hurricane, said Young will wait until next spring before he makes a decision about the 2006 race. Tonight, however, Young hosts a profile-raising event at the Bay Cafe that is being billed as a celebration of his 10 years as a talk show host.
If Young chooses to run, he will be forced to confront his past foibles. A charismatic personality who rose to hold prominent committee positions in Annapolis, Young left the Senate in disgrace and denying any wrongdoing. The episode divided the chamber's black and white senators, with the debate about the expulsion of Young, who is African-American, reducing some to tears, others to exhaustion.
Seven years have passed, however, and Young has used his daily radio show to keep a high profile. His allies still believe in him and say he understands his underdog district. Even former naysayers are keeping an open mind.
`I believe in redemption'
"I believe in redemption," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Calvert County Democrat who voted to expel Young. "And I believe whatever price he had to pay, I think he paid it. And as far as I'm concerned, the slate's clear."
A Baltimore native, Young began a 13-year stint in the Maryland House of Delegates in 1975. He entered the state Senate in 1988.
As a delegate, he became the first African-American to chair an Assembly committee and also led the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus and the Senate Executive Nominations Committee, which approves political appointments of the governor.
It was his work on a Senate finance health subcommittee, which had a handle on all of the state's health care legislation, that brought the trouble.
According to a Sun investigation, Young ran several corporations out of his district office. Some of those groups were paid tens of thousands of dollars by health care companies that had dealings with the state. Young did not report the income to the General Assembly's ethics committee.
Additionally, one of Young's companies was awarded a consulting contract worth $38,500 from Coppin State College. Investigating charges first raised by the newspaper, the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics concluded that Young had not performed any services for that money.
After expulsion vote
After the expulsion vote, Young toyed with running again for his seat but balked. At the time, he said on his radio show: "I have no doubt in my mind that not only would I have won, but I would have won overwhelmingly."
Young was charged with nine counts of bribery and extortion in late 1998. He was acquitted of all criminal charges related to his behavior in office, although critics contended the state prosecutor's office did a poor job presenting the case.
Kathryn Rowe, a Maryland assistant attorney general, said there is no state law or rule prohibiting an expelled member from running again.
She also said that, if elected, Young cannot be expelled a second time for the same offense. "He's in unless he does something [wrong]," said Rowe, adding that she is the great, great, great, great-granddaughter of that 1700s card cheater.
There is one rub: the Larry Young Morning Show, a talkfest broadcast from the heart of urban Baltimore. It airs from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday on WOLB 1010 AM.
Mark Berlin, an attorney in the political office of the Federal Communications Commission, said that once Young's candidacy is certified by the state, the radio station must provide any opponents with equal air time.
"Until that point, he is not considered a legally qualified candidate, and he can stay on the air all day long if he wants," Berlin said.
If he is elected, Young could keep his radio program, Berlin said.
Lament from incumbent