Bromwells want 5 counts of indictment dismissed

Lawyers for ex-state senator, wife say prosecutors can't show influence-peddling

April 28, 2006|By MATTHEW DOLAN | MATTHEW DOLAN,SUN REPORTER

After months of silence, the legal team representing former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell Sr. and his wife is now publicly criticizing federal prosecutors, accusing them of failing to show how Bromwell illegally used his influence to secure millions of dollars in contracts for a Baltimore construction company.

Attorneys for the embattled Baltimore County couple have filed court papers asking a federal judge to dismiss five counts of the 30-count indictment lodged against them in October. The counts the attorneys want thrown out include racketeering conspiracy, extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion.

Lawyers for the Bromwells described the racketeering count - which carries up to 20 years in prison - as "a transparent attempt by the Government to turn a `garden variety fraud' into a racketeering conspiracy."

Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein declined to comment on the motion. His office is expected to submit its written reply in the coming months.

The defense's legal strategy targets the nature of the federal prosecution under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a broadly written law originally designed to bring down organized crime and expanded to target drug lords and corrupt politicians.

Experts say RICO cases give prosecutors wide latitude, enabling them to seek severe penalties and seize the assets of defendants before they are convicted.

The author of several books on federal racketeering and forfeiture cases gave the defense team a slim chance of success.

"It's a very confusing area of the law. But generally, the courts don't have a problem with criminal RICO cases as much as they have a problem with civil RICO cases to obtain damages," said David B. Smith, an Alexandria, Va., criminal defense attorney specializing in federal cases.

The defense motion filed late last week before U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz is one of the first salvos in the trial. Scheduled to begin in February, the trial is expected to last up to three months.

Once one of the most powerful Democratic politicians in the state, Bromwell heads the Maryland Injured Workers' Insurance Fund, a quasi-public workers' compensation agency whose board is appointed by the governor.

After a two-year-long investigation, Bromwell and his wife, Mary Patricia, were charged with trading his political influence for a lucrative, no-show job for her and off-the-books construction work on the couple's residence in the 9300 block of Ravenridge Road near Satyr Hill. They have pleaded not guilty.

W. David Stoffregen, the former chief executive officer of Baltimore contracting firm Poole and Kent Co., also pleaded not guilty.

In addition to their criticism of the racketeering law, the Bromwells' attorneys argue prosecutors are attempting to connect meetings attended by Thomas Bromwell to money and free construction work he may have received from Poole and Kent, allegedly in return for his intervention on contracts. But defense attorneys said prosecutors have failed to show the two are linked.

They now question how, without evidence of a quid pro quo, Bromwell's alleged behavior would be any different from the services traditionally - and legally - provided by elected officials.

"If the fact that a Government official provided constituent services and later, for completely different reasons, received a donation or gift from that same constituent constituted a crime, then virtually every politician would be guilty of extortion," the lawyers wrote in a motion filed Friday.

This week, lawyers for the Bromwells declined to comment, saying the motion spoke for itself.

The 80-page indictment alleges that Mary Pat Bromwell was paid a salary for a fake job at a company controlled by Stoffregen. Stoffregen also arranged for some $85,000 worth of discounted work to be done at the Bromwell home, according to the indictment.

Together the Bromwells are charged with racketeering, mail fraud and extortion. The former senator also has been accused of providing a false statement to FBI agents and filing false tax returns. Stoffregen has been charged with one count of obstruction of justice relating to alleged witness tampering.

The government has already amassed a collection of witnesses to back up the indictment.

Michael Forti, a former Poole and Kent executive, admitted in court papers that a subcontractor known as Namco, and run by his wife, Geraldine, was not an independent entity. The woman-owned subcontractor gave Poole and Kent, its parent company, an edge in getting government contracts for minorities and women, prosecutors said.

Mary Pat Bromwell was paid by Namco, but the job was fictitious, according to prosecutors. The Fortis pleaded guilty and are assisting prosecutors in their case against the Bromwells.

A former project manager for Poole and Kent also pleaded guilty, admitting he lied to investigators about discounted work done for the Bromwells.

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.