Bromwells appeal ruling to freeze assets before trial

March 29, 2007|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,Sun Reporter

Former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell and his wife are appealing a recent ruling that found prosecutors had the legal right to shut down access to the couple's bank accounts and real estate before their upcoming trial on public corruption charges.

In a petition filed Tuesday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Va., attorneys Joshua R. Treem and Brendan A. Hurson asked the entire court to consider the issue known as the pre-trial asset forfeiture. A three-judge panel of the court issued an initial ruling this month.

In an indictment unsealed in October 2005, federal prosecutors accused Bromwell of accepting bribes from a construction company executive in exchange for help in securing publicly funded contracts. His wife, Mary Patricia Bromwell, is accused of accepting a salary for a no-show job at a subcontractor controlled by the construction company in return for her husband's influence.

Their trial is tentatively scheduled for the fall.

The 4th Circuit is known for the wide latitude given to prosecutors for seizing money and property of a defendant before any conviction. The legal reasoning allows authorities to identify and preserve "substitute" assets in case a criminal may have spent the money gained from a particular crime.

Lawyers for the Bromwells have 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." Seizing assets before trial under this law is out of step with other appeals courts around the country, Treem and Hurson wrote.

A reply from the office of Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein has not yet been filed, prosecutors said.

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